Spring-cleaning in Winter

We’ve embarked on a massive spring-cleaning campaign, even though it’s still winter. The weather has been, and continues to be, particularly miserable with endless rain and strong winds. The farm is soggy, boggy and waterlogged. The opportunities for getting things done outside are few and far between, and both Chris and I are far happier when out in fresh air.

Soggy Ground

So we’ve begun cleaning and decluttering with a vengeance. During the autumn we’d already thinned out the stuff in the barn, a lot of it things we brought with us from Ireland but never even unpacked! In our early days here with our very limited budget we were forced to opt for cheap furniture, which didn’t last in a lot of cases. Being of a ‘waste not’ mentality, we stored any elements of the furniture that were possibly reusable in the barn. Some did get a second chance at life as chicken houses or pig shelters, but a lot didn’t. Having the barn available to us meant we’d quickly got into the habit of shoving things in there when we weren’t sure what else to do with them. So over eleven years it got quite full.

We have the barn well under control now, although there are still a couple of washing machines that met early death at the hands of gîte guests that need disposing of. Every now and again, on a very erratic basis, the local mairie organises an encombrance removal scheme. You can put out various encumbering items, such as broken household white goods, furniture, scrap metal, batteries etc and they’ll be collected for free from you gateway. Next time there’s one of those we’ll get rid of the machines. Or we’ll just take them to the déchetterie, the dump, if we get fed of waiting.

Our local déchetterie is on the other side of Boussac, so not too inconveniently far. What is inconvenient is that it’s rarely open. It condescends to welcome the public only three afternoons a week for a few hours, and Saturday mornings. It takes everything and anything off your hands, though, and for free, provided you have your official ‘macaron’ on the windscreen of your vehicle. These little round stickers came in a few years ago. Prior to that you had to take proof of your address with you. The déchetterie will only accept locally-generated déchets. Can’t put your muck in our dustbin, like the old song says.

We’ve thrown away a lot of books. And I mean a lot. It’s been hard to do as Chris and I are both book lovers and book hoarders, but well, they’ve had their day. Many predate our marriage and so are well past their best, with cracking spines and yellowing paper. Not to mention the tiny, eye-straining type! That’s something that’s really changed over the years. With some resistance from Caiti and Rors, we’re now all Kindle users in our household and firm believers in ebooks. They are so much more environmentally friendly than dead-tree books, and take up so much less space.

Stuff in car

I’ve also been through old paperwork dating back to Ireland, such as my business accounts and our bank statements and so on. It was fun to be reminded of those times through the receipts, and an eye-opener too when I saw the medical bills. We were paying €60 for a doctor’s visit back in 2005. Here it costs €25, and the sécu (social security) refunds 70% and your top-up health insurance (which most people have) the rest. It’s been a reminder of how expensive Ireland had become. It was nice to revisit my business, Virtually Perfect Editing Services (‘virtually’ as in the computer software sense of ‘virtual’, since I worked principally on computer and did very little marking up on hard copies). I found a receipt from 1998 for my first desktop computer set up – it came to nearly £3,000! However, it was a very worthwhile investment at the time but I’m glad the hardware is much cheaper these days.

But out with the old, even though it makes you feel a little wistful. Books and paperwork mark points in your life, as do vinyl records (remember those?), cassettes, CDs and knick-knacks. They reflect your tastes, goals and experiences as well as the technology at the time. All of those change over time and so they must go, with just a very few treasures being kept for sentimental reasons, such as, in my case, a gardening book Dad gave me, a jumper Mum knitted, old family photos, a few things the children made when they were little, and a teeny tiny premature baby vest.

We have the two houses to spring clean from top to bottom, and yesterday’s efforts in the lounge left us on our knees, so it’s going to be a very busy, exhausting time. However, I’ve no doubt it will be worth all the work as it will make us streamlined and clutter-free to face whatever the future brings us.