Saturday, May 2, 2015


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I am a clutter collector from way back. I figure why throw anything out; you never know when you might need it. I inherited the hoarder gene.

“Waste not, want not” was my mother’s motto and she lived by it the whole of her life. Maybe it was because she lived through the great depression of the 1930’s and World War 2, that she would use and re-use, save and squirrel away stuff. Our house was never untidy, because most of the hoarded items were well out of sight. 

I should have learned my lesson after my dear mother died about 20 years ago and my sister and I had to clear out her house. To say it was a nightmare was an understatement. It took weeks. My mother had kept receipts from the 1940’s, even her World War 2 ration book. And speaking of books, she had hundreds of them. Then there were the ornaments, pretty little knick-knacks that reposed on every shelf or level surface in the house. Boxes of china. Well, you get the idea.

Now you would think that after all this trauma and angst, I would have dashed home and gone through my own cupboards.  I didn’t, but I did take a lot of my mother’s stuff with me.  Well, how could I let it go?  All those little treasures.

My mother-in-law passed away, same story, I kept a lot of her things too. I was a hoarder.  It came as naturally as breathing or eating.

Well friends, retribution did come. The youngest of our sons finally left home, so hubby and I decided it was time to downsize. We bought a smaller house, and put our larger house on the market. “We’ve got a lot of stuff here, we’ll have to get rid of it,” hubby says.

Over my dead body. “No, we won’t do anything rash,” I said. “There’s plenty of time to work out what we want to keep.”

A week before the auction of our house, my husband had to have heart by-pass surgery, so I had to go on with the sale alone. After the auction and hubby’s successful operation, I had to start packing, because when he came home he couldn’t do anything for eight weeks. I really hit the panic button because we had a short settlement. Forty days to clear out all our stuff, that of my mother and mother-in-law (things I had kept, and shouldn’t have). Well, it was a nightmare. I did most of it on my own.  I don’t know how many trips I made to donate all these “treasures” to the second hand thrift shop   And I did help the less fortunate - big time.  The thrift shop manager must have thought I was Mother Teresa re-incarnated.

It was terrible. I cried because I had to give away my ‘treasures, mum’s treasures and my mother in-law’s treasures’. Worse still, was the time it took to pack them and deliver them to the thrift shop. 

With the clock ticking, I had to be ruthless – and I was.

If you are even contemplating moving house, start to get rid of your surplus stuff early.  In fact, don’t collect it in the first place.  A lady once told me that if she didn’t wear a dress for a year, she was probably never going to wear it again, and she got rid of it. Smart lady. Wish I had such courage.  I still cling to my favourite dresses, hey I might lose weight and they will fit me again???

The moral of this story is -  don’t hoard. De-clutter as much as possible, because one day you will have to sort it out, or your children will have to sort it out.  

The same goes for your writing.  Be ruthless. If the manuscript you have expended blood, sweat and tears over isn’t working, discard it.  Temporarily cast it into your bottom drawer is what I mean. Don’t destroy it, because you might be able to resurrect it at a later date.  Start on something fresh and new. Once you get your writing tastebuds tingling again with a new premise, a feisty heroine and a spunky hero, the words will start flowing until they become a torrent.

Never give up. It is a steep climb to the top of the publishing mountain, but oh what a view once you get there.

Margaret Tanner writes spicy historical romance set in Australia.

1820’s England. Robbed of his birthright and falsely accused of murder, American Jake Smith, is exiled to the penal colony of Australia.