If we all followed the wise words of textile designer William Morris, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”, then we would have no need for the annual new year-inspired de-clutter.
Even if body and mind are not wrecked from indulgent celebrations, I don’t recommend embarking on this particular path of consumer remorse on the first few days of the year. We’re all filled with this hope that the turning of the calendar will somehow banish our unhealthy behaviour, and to aid it along we strip the cupboards of evidence of our bad choices – biscuits, booze, knick knacks, and that neon shirt some starlet looked fabulous in but made you look jaundice.
In my experience, after the initial satisfaction of these purges, all the pious intentions slip away as the dreariness of January settles in, and the space created filled once more with the tokens of modern life that bring momentary cheer.
Having recently relocated from London to the coast, I’ve been spared this ritual. We’d already deposited half the contents of our small one bedroom flat into local charity shops or recycling centres prior to the move, including a 1970s wardrobe that had not survived its dismantling.
When it comes to closets, as Americans call them, it is impossible to marry the words useful and beautiful without hitching on a rather large price tag if you’re buying brand new. On a budget, it requires effort if you want an item that does not resemble a cheap coffin. This is how I came to fall in love with a piece of furniture.
Since the move we’ve been trawling the second-hand and house clearance shops that have colonised an area of our new hometown, and last week we had delivered the prize for our perseverance.
To get the equivalent storage space of this 19th Century wardrobe in Ikea would cost three times more than we paid, with nowhere near the level of detail and design. Kirstie Allsop, the television presenter turned self-styled Queen of Thrift, would approve.
However, I’m not sure how much of her recycle/upcycle message is getting through to the masses as Furniture Village still exists. There are a lot of trees being sacrificed in the name of expensive bad taste. Although it’s hard to take austerity advice from someone who could tip the contents of a John Lewis store into her country residence.
Apart from the lovely feel and smell of the wood, and the delight at having shelves that slide out like a drapper’s shop, the wardrobe has had a positive impact on my spending. I’ve barely cast a glance over the sale rails, as I don’t want to spoil the aesthetics of the wardrobe by forcing items in. I understand now what the character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex & the City meant when she told a shop assistant she’d been “cheating on fashion with furniture.”
Potentially this could be the antidote to all that impulse buying? Wardrobes in particular need careful monitoring. They slowly expand over time as they’re fed a skirt for Saturday night, another pair of work trousers or, most insidious of all, a bargain. Clearly when the first versions of wardrobes started appearing in the 17th Century no one could have predicted the addiction to 50 per cent off.
The challenge now is to apply Morris’ advice to other areas of the flat, especially when it comes to glassware, which appears to have a hypnotic effect on me. I purchase glasses almost without realising, until I’m home, and drinking cordial out of a new tumbler.