5. Opening the curtains

The night before, Stella called and left a message on my machine saying:

‘I don’t want to cancel, but I had a difficult meeting today and I’m feeling even more fragile than usual. I just wanted to call and warn you’.

I called back and left a message on her machine:

‘No problem, if you like we can work a shorter day, only three hours or so.’


Stella showed me two large empty boxes, which were waiting for us in the front room where there were stacks of video tapes.
Our first task was to move the last of the Christmas decorations from the dining room to the spare bedroom, leaving space for some treasured mementos to take their place. Next, we moved some linen and bedding which had been gathered onto the sitting room sofa. Some was put into it’s final home the airing cupboard and some into the spare bedroom from where, Stella thinks, it will at some point be tossed. In preparation, Stella had pulled up the coverlet on the spare room bed so there would be a place to put the pillows and duvets.

I’m usually early for my appointments and often spend 10 minutes reading in bus shelters, so I don’t arrive before the client is ready. This time, I ran into Stella who was running an errand as I came out of the tube station. We walked back to her place together.

Despite the phone call she was prepared and knew what she wanted us to do. But first she gave me an A.A. Milne poem “The Old Sailor” which she had printed out for me. It’s about a shipwrecked sailor who can’t decide what to do first as his situation gets worse and worse. Here’s the last verse:

‘And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved -
He did nothing but basking until he was saved!’

Stella said: ‘I think it was Cluttergone coming which stopped everything going round and round in my head.’


‘Those clothes in the hallway don’t live there.’ said Stella, ‘I just wanted you to see that I did send them to the dry-cleaner as we discussed.
‘Stella had moved boxes from the sitting room by herself. She had also set up her new TV and DVD player and was now enjoying the room.

While it sounds minor, in fact, as Stella said, she was taking on board the process that requires ‘preliminary/temporary sorting” and that putting like things together helps. Further, clearing the sofa meant that the sitting room now looks like a proper room with just a few boxes.

Finally, we did some preliminary paper sorting in the living room. This is the paper which in the first visit Stella had said ‘Ignore those piles, I know what’s in them’. On the second visit, she let me put several piles into boxes, leaving the boxes where the piles had been. Today we ended up with two bin liners of rubbish and three bags of recycling!

The crowning moment of the day came when Stella opened the curtains and said.

‘I could imagine having someone around for a drink, now!’

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