It’s Council pick-up time out our way right now. You know, that precious once-a-year opportunity to have a REALLY good declutter of the garage, the shed, the pool house, the Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs, and all those other dark and scary spaces where only the brave dare go.
As I walk our faithful pooch around the leafy streets of my neighbourhood at this time of year I marvel at the piles which crown the nature strips outside every home. It gladdens my decluttering heart to see so many households take advantage of the opportunity to get rid of stuff that no longer serves them. And I muse, as I wander, on the pick-up patterns which seem to emerge year after year. Last year, every other home had at least one CRT television sprawled ungainly on its verge. You know, the pre-digital, pre-flatscreen models that now seem so clunky and old-fashioned? And this year (I wonder why?) there were nests of suitcases discarded in street upon street. Is it the falling Aussie dollar that’s making people stay at home and shed their trusty swivel-wheeled travel companions? Or have they just, in their mid-life luggage crises, cast off their long-suffering but chunky and travel-scarred Paklite partners, and upgraded to a set of sleek, sexy flexi-shell models? And, oh the mattresses! Those most personal and intimate of discarded items loom uncertainly above everything else on their grassy pile; some so stained and misshapen that I have to avert my eyes from the evidence of a stranger’s private life now displayed so publicly and unforgivingly.
Where do people keep it all, this stuff that ends up on the streets? Do they suffer it in their homes until they can afford something sexier, more comfortable, more functional? Do they sacrifice their precious storage space to these unloved and unused pariahs? Or do they banish it to the musty, dusty dark reaches under their houses, there to moulder away unwanted and unremembered until the Council sends its annual reminder?
It’s a poignant time too, Council pick-up time. There’s always children’s toys and outgrown bikes, once so treasured but now, like Woody and Buzz, discarded in the headlong rush to adolescence. I rejoice when the little bikes and pink plastic Princess castles are there one day and gone the next. Some other, younger, more innocent and accepting eyes have spied a treasure-in-the-making and picked them up or wheeled them home, beaming at their cleverness and luck at being in the right place at the right time.
The pile outside our home this year was modest. After many years practising my decluttering philosophy, most everything in our home is both well-loved and frequently-used. My old old bike, bought with love but little money for my husband on our first wedding anniversary 24 years ago, now so rusted that the pedals no longer turn. And the car booster seat, used by our first and then our second son long after he needed it. The view, he maintained, was so much better from on high, and he was reluctant to let it go. Both, I was thrilled to see, were swiftly rescued from their roadside fate by new owners with an eye for an opportunity and a finely developed sense of possibility.