You won't believe it but what you're witnessing at this very point in time is a rare occurrence.
No, I don't mean the messy table! Oh No! The rare occurrence is that for once I am indeed speechless!
And as I write, I am experiencing nervous bouts of laughter and moments of shame as I introduce the state of my dining room to a whole bunch of strangers on the Internet, including online friends, recycling officers and academics from all across the world. Revealing this photo feels worse than showing how much rubbish we used to throw away. The only thing I find reassuring is that I might show at least one person that there is a glimmer of hope.
I took the photograph shown above last weekend before we started to declutter, but I have to be honest and say the dining room hasn't always looked like this.
Before Christmas, it looked like this:
Haha, I bet you didn't expect to see that did you?! Talk about an immovable force, but I promise I did at least tidy up before my sister and her family arrived for Christmas.
But my nervous laughter is now reaching decibels of immense proportions, especially as not even my best friend gets to see the house in such a condition. I make sure I shut the dining room door before I open the front door to her and all other visitors. So if she's reading this blog she'll soon get the shock of her life. And she'll now know why I haven't invited her and her husband - or indeed anyone else - to dinner for a long-long time.
People may think I'm being anti-social, but the truth is I've been too embarrassed to admit that since writing this blog I've been far too busy to keep on top of all domestic functions. However, I reckon there are hundreds and thousands of houses just like this across the country, also suffering from too much stuff, too much to do and insufficient space and time to do it all in.
And the problem I've had with our dining room is that is is actually not just a dining room. It's also a hobby room, Little T's craftroom, a homework room, a filing room and a "temporary" storage room. It's also where we permanently store odds and ends like cables and replacement bulbs in various cupboards and drawers.
So it really is a room that has multiple functions and is constantly in use by a very busy multi-tasking but time-poor family, trying to juggle too many balls at once.
If this all sounds similar, you'll recognise the signs of the clutter magnet that takes effect.
For example you'll be going great guns in keeping a clear space. Then momentarily, you'll take your eye off the ball and put something down on a table. And that's your first mistake, because what follows is the law of attraction. Out of nowhere, everybody else adds "their thing" next to "your thing" and before you know it, you're all taking it in turns like a game of buckaroo by stealth as the free space gets taken over by a multitude of clutterbug sins.
And have you noticed that things appear that you've never even seen before, making you wonder whether your neighbours have heard the rumour and have sneaked in with their bits of crap too? Then if you're clearing out another room, like the kitchen for instance and have nowhere else to dump the stuff that you're collecting for a car boot sale, the dining room table is often the easiest place to put it all.
No wonder Mr A despairs and threatens to throw all sorts of stuff in the rubbish bin. A sight like this can easily drive someone to chuck it all away, which used to happen frequently before I started the Zero Waste challenge. But I can assure you that there is no-one who stresses about this more than me and I know I have to become more efficient and organised on the home front to regain more control and therefore greater mental freedom.
So, on my latest decluttering mission, the first thing I did was grab a HUGE box to create a designated spot for all the items that we are going to sell at the car boot sale in the spring. Immediately, this cleared half the amount of stuff off the dining table.
The next job was to simply tidy all the other things away into their proper homes, including the Christmas fabric that I'd bought to replace paper for wrapping family Christmas presents.
That was the easy bit!
However I think the dining room is probably going to need a lot more work than we've had time to dedicate so far, especially when sorting out the drawers full of cables and leads. We just need to work out which items are still needed and take the remainder to the Household Waste Recycling Centre for recycling with all the other Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).
But in the meantime, our box of car booty is growing all the time and has expanded to include a plastic ugly bug, a redundant kitchen towel holder, a fabric bun holder, an over sized vodka bottle and several little ornaments. I've got a feeling that by the time I've finished, there will be a small number of old DVDs too as well as boxes of old beads that I've discovered in a cabinet drawer.
When I showed the photo of my dining room to Clare Baker of the ClutterClearing consultancy, she reassured me that I am nowhere near a clutterholic and that it would be easy to restore order. That was a real relief and it was simply a case of time and following the tips on her website to create categories for the items that we were decluttering.
With this in mind I also took the opportunity to sort the drawers of the Welsh dresser, separating things into stationery and craft items in one drawer, tableware linen in another and I've left the last drawer for personal mementos such as photos. Having done this will also be of benefit when I work on other rooms, as we now have a central storage point for transferring stuff.
I could go on, but I bet you can't wait to see the results of our efforts. I say "our" because it was indeed a team effort by me and Mr A, who is naturally more organised in this area than me. So without further ado, here it is:
Our dining room in all its glory......
And now it's all clear, I can now enjoy some of my favourite things, such as this funky plastic flower that I made at the Aldeburgh Food Festival, accompanied by one of the gorgeous felt flowers from Henry & Jayne.
But my favourite decluttered view of all is of the vintage tea-set that I picked up last summer for just £15.
I have found it's worth taking time out to appreciate these objects while I've got a good view and recognise this moment as one of the key incentives for keeping space clutter-free in future. It's almost impossible to enjoy lovely things when they're surrounded by other distractions such as a multi-pack of chopped tomatoes and a set of ice-lolly moulds that have lost their lids.
So if you want to come around for dinner, we've now got somewhere to eat, drink and be merry.
Now talking of incentives, another useful tip I picked up from Clare Baker this week was to make sure I reward myself for the efforts I've made to free up my space. So seeing as it's a Friday evening, I think it's going to have to be a nice glass of wine.
Yep, it's time to dig out the Chablis. Well, it is a special occasion of course. Not only was it my second blogaversary yesterday, but at last I can now get to the other end of the table to reach the wine glasses to celebrate and properly thank you for all the lovely comments that you sent.
And if you're a blogger sorting out your own clutter and are showing off the results on your own blog, I've added a Mr Linky to this blogpost so you can link up your efforts too.