It probably all started in a very small way - a heap of papers on the sideboard waiting to be sorted, a packet of biscuits that never quite made it into the biscuit tin, just dropping your hat and scarf and gloves on the chair that you never sit in...
|The dining room and the sideboard|
The drawers in the chest of drawers in the bedrooms being too full to get anything else into, nowhere to put those books/magazines, (but why all those bus tickets, and heaps of timetables, and more biscuits and sweets and cakes?)
It is desperately sad for someone's life to reach this state, when you find it is better to go out every day and shut the door on the chaos of your house, and eat sandwiches and soup in cafes, and drink take-away hot chocolates and bottled water, and then at home, just to open another packet of biscuits or have a Kipling cake. She used to travel around on the buses, first to various interesting towns and tourist attractions, latterly to the same place, like a long-distance commuter going to work on a regular timetable.
What could we have done, if we had known, or guessed this was happening? She lives "across the water", a day of driving and a night of ferry travel away. Things had to come to a point, and then burst, to reach the right time for events to take over. Over the years we have suggested, nudged, encouraged her to think of moving "to a nice, comfortable flat", somewhere "easy to heat and look after", but have met with outrage at the very idea. The big, draughty, old-fashioned three-bedroom semi was her home, her nest, her haven.
She is now settled in an excellent care home, clean, cared-for, the desperate, over-whelming worries of food, heating, home maintenance, housework, personal cleanliness, laundry, all taken cake of. What was "eccentricity" and "dottiness" has tipped over into dementia, and she needs full-time care. We no longer need worry about her health, her well-being, and her safety.
This house will be cleared and eventually sold. We have rescued the things that she asked for - some pictures, some clothes, a lot of her photographs (there were thousands upon thousands, stuffed into drawers and cupboards). We have salvaged some family possessions - more pictures, family documents, "treasures" remembered from childhood for our own memories.
It has all been a fierce warning to me - regular readers will know of my own battle with clutter and tidiness, the "state of the dining room table", and the New Year's Resolution to take two bags to the charity shop every month. De-cluttering, and tidying, and clearing-up have all taken on a new priority in the face of what can happen if it gets totally out of control. Starting with our own dining-room table... (which isn't looking too bad at the moment, I'm pleased to say).