There are some things I will never understand

I’ve just read an article in The Guardian from 6 February 2020 about a collection of coins that sold at auction for £80,000. The coins were owned by a man (his identity has been kept secret) who died in 2019. The coins were stashed away all over his house which the article describes as a “remote, damp, rat-infested bolthole” and was near Stroud in Gloucestershire. So clearly the owner did not spend money on improving his physical living circumstances. The coins seem to have been mostly commemorative special editions. They were all auctioned and sold for a total of £80,000. Now here’s the thing that gets me. That person spent sums of money amassing those coins. And for what? To have them sitting in drawers and cupboards – one coin was described as having been found in a sugar bowl – until the day he died? So what enjoyment, if any, could he possibly have gotten out of them? And now other people have spent various sums – the report mentions that a set of gold coins minted to mark the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 sold for £5000 – on what are essentially useless pieces of metal to have them sitting in other buildings?

Either I am missing something or the world has gone even madder than I thought. If these coins were very old – and I mean hundreds of years – or extremely rare, then I could understand the interest in them. I could understand the desire to preserve them as part of our heritage. But the way this story reads to me is that a person spent money – possibly a fair bit of money – collecting these and got nothing for them, well maybe he got some pleasure from looking at them. Then he died and his family have sold them. So the family gets money for them. And other people have bought them and what will they get out of them? Is it just being able to say or think “I own that”? If that’s the case then in a lot of ways this sums up so much of what has gone wrong with our world. Spending thousands of pounds on useless bits of metal so you can look at them and say “That’s mine”?? What will happen to those coins in the future? Someone else will spend money on them thirty years down the line and so it will continue, with people passing on money to purchase money to then sit and look at? If that’s capitalism or consumerism or whatever else you want to call it, I’m not interested.

I’m aware that I’m writing this on March 16, 2020 when the world is in the grip of panic about the spread of COVID-19. Here in the Republic of Ireland schools were closed last week, pubs closed yesterday and most churches are not holding public Mass. Those who wish to can watch Mass online. I don’t practice any religion so that doesn’t impact on me. The reality of climate breakdown is evident all around the world and I see very few political leaders who inspire any kind of confidence. I see many who inspire absolute fear. Its possible then that I’m maybe being a little more cynical than usual, that I’ve even less tolerance for stupidity and bullshit than before. Nonetheless, I still cannot see any sense in spending money on something that can never be of any use when the world is going to hell in a handcart.


Did you hear who’s dead?

Edited to add: events overtook me this morning and I was still writing this post when the death of Brendan Grace was officially announced, but I’m going to leave this post as it was.

A little while after I woke up this morning (6.15) I was looking at Twitter checking the morning’s news. I saw that Brendan Grace was trending in Ireland and my first thought was “ah no,he’s dead.” Brendan Grace for those of you who might not have heard of him is an extremely well-known Irish comedian and actor who is currently ill. It transpired that someone had announced his death and social media being what it is, an awful lot of people posted tributes and commented how sad they were to hear of his death.

Next thing I saw was a different load of people giving out about those who had commented on or shared posts about Brendan Grace without having checked that he had died. And before anyone jumps on me here, its very easy to check – any Irish news outlet (RTE, Irish Times, Irish Examiner etc) would have major coverage on their sites and social media platforms if Brendan Grace had died, so it would have only taken another click or two to verify things.

Over my first cuppa I carried on reading Twitter and saw that Noel Whelan, political commentator, columnist with the Irish Times, barrister, founder of the Kenendy Summer School, died yesterday after a short illness. And before anyone jumps on me again for repeating that, it was announced by the Irish Times. I generally found his column interesting even if I didn’t always agree with it and felt slightly sad to hear of his death. Online reaction to these two stories got me thinking about how we learn of the news of a death in the era of social media saturation.

Whenever I hear via social media of a death of a famous person, I’m always reminded of when Richard Burton’s death was announced. It was August 1984, so I was 13. The evening news came on the telly (probably the BBC) and over the opening music, was just a photo of Richard Burton. I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday my Dad saying “Bloody hell, Richard Burton has died.” At this point the newsreader hadn’t said anything so I asked Dad how he knew and he replied that when the news starts with a picture of a famous person that meant they had died. At 13 I wasn’t really aware of Burton’s fame and work but that always stayed with me. I don’t know how long after Burton died that the news broke, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t almost instantly like it seems to be now. When Amy Winehouse died in 2011, it was being discussed – or in some instances gossiped about – all over social media before it was officially announced.

Reading about Brendan Grace and Noel Whelan this morning got me thinking about how we learn about a death. The writer Kevin Barry had a short story in the Irish Times last week that made me smile. Entitled ‘Who’s Dead McCarthy‘, it reminded me of a number of people I know who seem to almost delight in sharing the news of a death. It doesn’t matter to them if the death was sudden, tragic, or expected after a long illness. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few “Did you hear who’s dead?” type conversations (and in some instances phone calls), and I’d be willing to bet most Irish people of my age and probably younger have been. I was born in England and lived there until I was 31 but I don’t recall this happening. Its not really gleeful (although with SOME people you would wonder) but it doesn’t come across as exactly sad either.

Social media makes it too easy to spread news of a death, whether erroneous or not. I’d be amazed if social media (and in this example I’m thinking especially of Facebook) hasn’t been used to incorrectly share the news of the death of a non-famous person in their local area. I cannot imagine what that would feel like for family members and close friends – possibly even the person themselves – to read. If you’ve bothered to read this far, then the next time you read on social media of a death, maybe take a few seconds to verify its true before you share it. Or go one further – do you need to share it? Do we need to hear straight away that someone has died? If you were close to them, you’ll hear quickly enough and through the appropriate channels. If not, you’ll find out in due course.

This morning in Ireland, we’ve all heard who’s dead. RIP Brendan Grace – Bottler, Fr Fintan Stack in that unforgettable cameo in Father Ted. RIP Noel Whelan – our politics would have been different but his work on the marriage equality campaign helped Ireland move towards being more inclusive.


Christmas memories

Little Christmas Tree


Sixteen years ago my now husband and I spent our first Christmas together.  We were living in a mobile home while we hunted around Leinster for our forever home.  Obviously a Christmas tree of any size whether real or fake was not an option for us but I really wanted us to have some class of a tree.  Shopping in Dublin one day, himself found this wee tree in a shop.  I loved it. and it just suited our slightly crazy living arrangements perfectly.

By the following Christmas we were living in our little new to us but old to the world home.  We bought a real tree for the living room, but I couldn’t part with this one, I put it up in the window of the spare bedroom and when that later became our daughter’s room, it became her Christmas tree.

Sixteen years after its first outing, our little Christmas tree is showing its age.  Every year it loses a few more fronds.  Every year another light or two stops working.  Every year the star is a bit wonkier.  But I’ll never be able to part with it because when I look at that tree, I remember our first Christmas living together, when we cooked a full Christmas dinner for hours on the little cooker and turned our mobile home into a sauna.  That was the year we made soup for starters and it was so filling we could hardly eat the dinner.  That was the year the winter was so cold in the mobile that condensation caused by our breath dripped onto our heads from the bedroom ceiling as we slept.  That was the bedroom that was so teeny that to get any of our clothes from the cupboards we had to climb on the bed.  That was the first home we owned.  It was cramped, it could be cold.  It was ours and it was fun.

Its the little things that bring back memories.  Every Christmas we make new memories and as we get older, reminiscing becomes more and more pleasurable, even if it can be bittersweet at times.

After a very hard 18 months or so, I’m looking forward to spending this Christmas with the two people I love the most, curling up in front of a warm fire with a glass of red, watching classic movies and discovering new favourites, cooking and eating great food,  playing with our daughter, having quality downtime together.  And every evening as the sun goes down, I’ll switch on our little Christmas tree and remember.




































nd is put up in her bedroom every year.

Sixteen years on from its first outing


Living the Good Life

Buried in my garden….. a quarter of a century ago!

One positive side to the prolonged dry spell we are having – for gardeners anyway – is that a lot of weeds are dying off. The temperature was a little cooler earlier today so I took the opportunity to do some clearing on an area I am going to make into a flower bed. As the weeds are so dry and largely dead there wasn’t any digging involved, just a bit of pulling. As I merrily pulled up handfuls of dead ground elder (the bane of my gardening life) and was delighted to see roots coming up along with it, I spied something red in the soil.

Brylcreem plastic rubbish
Part of a jar of Brylcreem

It was part of a jar of Brylcreem. We are living in this house for 15 years and none of us use Brylcreem. Apologies if I’m wrong in what I’m about to say but I’ve always thought of Brylcreem as a product for men. As far as I know, the last man to live in this house before my husband died about 25 years ago. So assuming that Brylcreem jar was his (and it might well not have been), that has probably been buried for at least 25 years. Yet with no cleaning I was able to identify it straight away, its a little faded but still very obvious what it is.

Apart from the idea of burying your household rubbish in your garden, this really illustrates how plastics do not biodegrade. They do not break down. I’ve no idea where the rest of that jar is, maybe I’ll find it in another ten years. I do wonder as well what having plastics buried in our garden is doing to the soil. I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic we buy and use in this house. When I find something like this, it underlines why I’m doing that.

Parenting · Politics

Not just wrong, illegal

In 2001, when I was 30, I learnt that my mother had had three babies born in Ireland in the 1960’s who had all been adopted. I’m not ready to publicly examine and discuss all of the emotional fallout from that. My mother – who died last year – was not willing to talk about any of that with me other than in two conversations after I learnt about those three babies – three siblings I never knew existed. The fact that I know of their very existence is due to the persistence of the oldest child, my sister, who tracked me down and made contact with me.

One of those babies – a boy born in 1968 – has never been traced. From what I have been able to piece together from various members of my extended family and from the little bit my mother was prepared to share with me, his adoption was not conducted through any formal agency and it is likely he was illegally adopted.

That baby is now a 50 year old man. He may well have children, possibly grandchildren as well. Imagine for a minute that everything you thought you knew about your background turns out to be wrong – your name, your ancestry, your extended family…… all wrong.

His case is unfortunately not unusual. News broke here in Ireland yesterday that the births of 126 people were illegally registered as shown by records of the St. Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. This wasn’t news to anyone involved in organisations such as the Adoption Rights Alliance who have been talking about illegal adoptions for years.

I’ve been watching the RTÉ evening news while writing this and the language used is very telling: this was described as births having been “wrongly” registered. No, these births were ILLEGALLY registered. ‘Wrongly’ makes it sound like an administrative error rather than deliberate and illegal falsification of legal documents which it was.

I don’t know if my brother is still alive. I don’t know if he knows he was adopted. His case – if indeed it was (as I suspect) an illegal adoption – is one of probably thousands. Ireland needs to start talking about this openly and correctly and not keep on covering all of this up hoping it will never resurface. Trust me, that doesn’t work and all it does is create greater damage when it finally comes to light.


The ton of bricks has finally landed

Its been a very hard year. Not 2018, but the year (& a month) since Easter 2017 when a succession of bad things happened to my little family. Our gorgeous daughter developed C Diff (clostridium difficile) which is a vile infection in the bowel. She was hospitalised three times with it and it really set her back a lot. That’s on top of her severe disabilities. Just a couple of weeks after she began to pick up, my husband got bitten by something and got cellulitis in his leg which, apart from needing hospitalisation and lots of antibiotics, meant he was off work for a few months as his job is very physical. That took us from April to September, by which time he was improving. He finally got the all clear to return to work on October 2. On October 7 he was in collision with a car while cycling and received serious injuries. I can’t say more about that here as there is a court case pending.

Five weeks after his accident (he was home by that stage but needed a lot of care), I received a phone call on a Saturday night from a hospital in England (I live in Ireland), telling me that my mother was critically ill and I should get there asap. With the help of two amazing women I am lucky to call friends and with the support of family and neighbours I managed to get there on the Sunday morning and was able to be with her until she died on the Monday, less than 48 hours after I got the initial phone call. I haven’t even begun to process all of that yet.

The next month was taken up with organising her funeral, packing up her home and trying – increasingly desperately – to keep on top of things at home. We somehow managed to make it to 2018 and all I could think was that things had to get better. Don’t panic, nothing else really bad happened. We continued to muddle on through, our daughter’s epilepsy deteriorated and she had lots of tests done in February and we are working with her neurology team looking at the various options. That is all stressful but by this stage I felt I had come through so much relatively unscathed that I’d be ok. My husband has continued to improve and our daughter’s seizures are manageable at present. Over the last couple of months I have felt increasingly in need of some time alone. I’m the kind of person who needs a certain amount of solitude. I love being with my family and people generally but I need alone time too and that had been in very short supply since April last year.

Now it is May, and my husband returned to work this week, albeit on light duties. Our daughter is able to go to school each day and I have had a few hours each day that are just mine. Great, I thought, I can catch up on various things that need to be done, and carry on with an exercise program (I started the C25K 3 weeks ago), take some time for hobbies and things that make me feel good. I am fond of lists – shopping lists, lists of recipes I want to try, lists of books I want to read, and the damn TO-DO list. Today is Thursday and each day this week I’ve made myself a little to-do list of things I need or want to get done that day. At 47 you’d think I’d have twigged by now that this probably wasn’t a very good idea. I haven’t crossed everything off the list any day this week so far. That results in me carrying items forward on to the next day’s list and subconsciously (until this morning) carrying forward a niggling feeling of failure.

This morning after my husband and daughter had left for work and school, I was getting ready to go for the next day of the C25K program (hoping that the lower back pain I have had since getting up would ease off and that my knee wouldn’t be sore afterwards), and writing my to-do list while pondering why I have been so bloody exhausted all week. (I know, I know, I can never switch my head off)

WALLOP. Its all starting to hit me now. Now that things have calmed down and are getting back to normality, the stress and strain of this last year is hitting me. And there was me thinking I’d escaped it. Now that might not sound terribly profound but it was (apologies for the cliche) a Eureka moment for me. I’m not Superwoman (she doesn’t exist). I have been through an awful year and my mind and body are now saying to me “STOP. Listen to us, its ok to rest, its ok to not have a to-do list every day. Its ok to not keep pushing yourself so hard.”

All I have to do now is actually listen to that message and act on it. There are times when I wonder how I’ve kept going the last few months. I’m running on empty and I need to allow myself to rest and heal. I’m parking the C25K for now and I’m going to try not to write a to-do list every day. That’s enough for now.


Showing self kindness.

This very thought provoking piece could so easily be about me. As a carer taking time for myself is very hard but I’m increasingly aware I simply have to or everything else will collapse. I’m hoping that becoming conscious of this is the first step.

Everything is coming up Rosie

Many people, including myself have been brought up to put others first. My Mother was the typical Martyr, working herself into the ground, not expecting consideration or praise. Even when unwell she would keep going, no-one could run the home as she did, she made herself indespensible, but at what cost?  She was constantly drained, irritable, sleep deprived & extremely low in mood. When it was suggested that she took a break, she’d be horrified. When sitting she’d perch on the edge of the chair, just waiting to jump up & continue her work. I don’t remember ever seeing her truly relax. I can only imagine how unworthy she felt. Why else would she abuse herself in this way?

For most of my life I followed my Mothers’ ethos, although illness forced me to take a slower approach to life than I wanted. Even when really unwell, as soon as…

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food · Ritual food

Christmas puddings and memories

Today is the last Sunday in November, which is the day I traditionally (after 15 years I think I can call it a tradition) make my Christmas puddings. The number I make varies year on year but its never less than three. The recipe never varies. Its one that my mother wrote down for me fifteen years ago after I asked her for her Christmas pudding recipe to which she replied, “I don’t really have one, I just made mine based on what I remember Mam making”. But I nagged and cajoled and eventually she wrote it down. She always maintained it wasn’t as good as her Mam’s.

Fourteen years ago my husband and I were celebrating our first Christmas in our forever home and Mum spent it with us. I’d made a pudding but we didn’t eat it on Christmas Day, as I wanted to wait until the 27th Dec when my Granny – her Mam – and the originator of the recipe I had used – would be visiting our home. After dinner that day I proudly and also rather nervously served up the pudding. Our family always eats it cold with a cuppa and some have brandy butter on it too. I insisted no one was to taste it until my 91 year old Granny had. This amused her immensely as she took a bite and gave it her imprimatur. Albeit with the observation that if I’d grated fresh nutmeg rather than using already ground it would have been even nicer. (No I don’t know how she knew either)

Less than four years later my Granny died while I was pregnant with my daughter. One of my enduring sadnesses is that she never got to meet our precious little girl who I’m certain would have wrapped her Great Granny round her little finger. I have made puddings every year since and – like all cooks I think – have slightly tweaked the recipe that was handed down to me. I still don’t use fresh nutmeg though.

Two weeks ago my Mum died suddenly. I know it hasn’t really hit me yet and won’t for some time. Maybe once her funeral is over I will start to absorb the impact of it all. Mum didn’t have the easiest or happiest of lives at times but I firmly believe she is at peace now and reunited with my Dad who she missed so desperately for nearly seventeen years.

Today is pudding making day. I wasn’t sure if I would make any this year and I only decided for certain this afternoon that I will. Mum loved the pudding I made and so did my Granny. Both my parents and all my grandparents are dead now and while I have aunts and uncles still very much alive and kicking, I’m now the oldest generation in my direct line of ancestry. It feels very strange. I’ve long believed all we can do for the dead is remember them. By making my puddings this evening I’m remembering Granny, Mum and all the others who have gone before.

Rest in peace Mum, and thanks for giving me the recipe x

Parenting · Politics · Special Needs

Is this early enough for you Taoiseach?

Good morning Taoiseach, its a few minutes after 9 am and its an average week day in our house which means that I’ve been up since 6.30 am.  I’m not sure if I’m the kind of person you had in mind when you said during your campaign to become leader of Fine Gael that you wanted to lead a party for people who get up early in the morning but here’s what I did this morning after I got up early.  (Well, 6.30 am is early as far as I’m concerned)

So the alarm went off and up I got, gathered my clothes and crept downstairs clutching the video monitor that sits by our bed.  We have a video monitor because our 10 year daughter has epilepsy and sometimes – thankfully not often – has seizures during the night.  You’re a medical doctor, so you should have some idea of how scary epilepsy can be.

You see Dr Varadkar, that little person is why I get up at 6.30 am on weekdays.  She has significant physical and intellectual disabilities and she attends special school.  We live in the north of the constituency of Meath West and our daughter has to travel to Navan in the middle of that constituency to go to school.  I’m talking in terms of constituency rather than counties or towns because I get the feeling that like most politicians you are more interested in votes than voters.  Her school bus collects her here at home at 7.45 am and then travels around collecting other pupils for the two special schools in Navan before she gets to school a little after 9 am – about the same time I started writing this post to you.  The journey door to door is 26 miles which should only take around 35 minutes but because we choose to send her on the bus it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.  She’s only 10 and she’s been doing this since she was 5.  You might wonder why don’t I drive her in?  Yes, I could.  But Navan is already choked with traffic in the mornings and if I and the approximately 70 other parents whose children attend her school and travel in by bus all drove our children to school, can you imagine the chaos?  Never mind the extra traffic pollution.

But I digress, sorry for that Mr Varadkar but like every other carer my mind is constantly running trying to keep on top of everything.  Appointments, therapy sessions, equipment, etc etc etc.  Where was I?  Oh yes, what I did after I got up at 6.30 am.  Well I came downstairs, took a load of washing out of the machine and put another one on so it would be finished before the cheaper night rate electricity finished.  Every cent counts.  Stuck the first one in the dryer because it was raining here.  Then prepared some food for my daughter to take to school because she was quite ill earlier this year and her appetite is still not great so sometimes she won’t eat the dinner she gets at school.    Got her breakfast ready and swallowed down a quick bowl of cereal myself before heading back upstairs to waken her at 7 am.  She’s only 10 and she needs her sleep so that’s why I don’t get her up earlier.

I was tired last night so I had forgotten to leave her school uniform ready on the chair in her bedroom.  It only takes a minute to get it out of the chest of drawers but every second counts here in the mornings.  So grab the clean (at least I managed that bit!) uniform and wake her up.  She’s very wobbly first thing in the morning because her neurological condition (apart from the epilepsy) affects her balance and its especially bad when she wakes.  So while she’s waking up and starting to chat to me I leave her lying on the bed, take off her pyjamas, change her nappy and put on her trousers, socks, DAFO’s (splints for her feet) and shoes.  Then I help her sit up and change her vest then put her polo shirt and sweatshirt on.  Yay, she’s dressed and its only 7.15 am.  Then lift her from the bed and carry her downstairs.  She can get downstairs on her bum with help but she’s too wobbly first thing to do this, so I carry her.  By the way I’m only 5ft 2.

Into the kitchen and put her into the special chair we bought for her so she can sit comfortably at the table and eat with us.  Her breakfast is ready but first she has to have the two epilepsy medications she has in the morning.  She doesn’t really like taking them but she is a good kid and she swallows them without complaint.  She tucks into her breakfast.  While she’s eating I write a note to her teacher in her communication book because she only has about 70 words and a few phrases, none of which are expressive language, so this is how the teacher and I let each other know anything that’s going on with her and what she did at school each day.  She can’t tell me herself you see.

Its now about 7.30 and while she’s still eating – she’s a slow eater – I gather hair band, brush, hairslides, toothpaste, toothbrush, flannel and get ready to spruce her up.  She’s not able to do anything of this for herself but it all has to be done.  Like most 10 year olds she’s not keen on face and hand washing but we get through it with minimal grumbling.  All the while I’m chatting to her using repetitive phrases and words about school and the people she will see there as this is a big part of how she learns.  So there’s a bit of speech and language therapy thrown in early for good measure.

7.43 and the bus isn’t here yet – phew I’m ahead – help her walk to her wheelchair and climb into it.  Put her coat on, make sure she has everything in her schoolbag for the day and then the bus pulls up.  Grab a marker pen and a piece of paper that she likes to hold in her little hands while travelling for 1 hour 15 minutes to school.  Wheel her out to the  bus, have a quick word with the bus escort so they know what kind of form she’s in today.  Kiss my most precious girl goodbye and wave her off.  Its 7.48 and I’ve been up for over an hour.

Back in the house grab my phone, headphones, rain jacket, hi-vis vest and key and head out the door for a 5km walk.  I don’t especially enjoy it so I listen to podcasts on my way round to alleviate the monotony.  I need to take regular exercise because I’m overweight (many carers tend to be, we comfort eat you see) and my back isn’t great from lifting my daughter over the years.  I can’t afford to join a gym and walking is free.  Maybe one day I’ll get fit enough to join you for a 5km jog in the Park?

While I’m pounding the paths around Oldcastle I’m thinking about a tweet you posted a couple of days ago.  You see, that comment about people who get up early annoyed me. Actually more than that, it felt insulting to people like me who have to get up early to do the unpaid, unappreciated, unvalued work of being a carer.  I’ve tweeted about it a few times but when you put something like this up it really feels like you are just taking the piss not to put too fine a point on it.

People who get up early



Special thanks to @kloczbyjos in Glanmire for this thoughtful gift. New small craft business supported by Local Enterprise Office pic.twitter.com/JcDE2eALXj

I’m not sure if you were being facetious or if the people in Glanmire were but its clear to me and other carers like me that this State, of which you are Taoiseach, that our WORK (and it is work) is not taken seriously.

I’m up since 6.30 am Leo.  I’m tired already and its only 10.15.  Its a mental tiredness that comes from being a carer, from the never ending round of appointments, therapies, from wondering if she’s ok at school today, if she’s had any absence seizures.  It comes from fighting for equipment, for school transport, for better services generally, from trying to help other parents who aren’t as far into this life as we are.  It comes from knowing that this will not stop.  It comes from knowing that the Irish State of which I am a proud citizen does not care about carers. And that’s a very hard place to be.

What time did you get up today Taoiseach?

Bits and Bobs · Living the Good Life

Too much stuff!!

I find myself exclaiming this rather a lot lately.  It feels like we are drowning in a sea of stuff.  Junk, crap,  stuff we bought or were given and have either never or rarely used, never liked or which has now been superseded by yet more STUFF.    On those (rare) occasions when I’m in housework mode, I sometimes end up with piles of stuff in my arms trying to find a place to put it.  (What I really should do is sort it all out but y’know, time and always something more interesting to do!)

In all seriousness though, it does seem to me like we as a community, a society, certainly some of the planet, are in real danger of having so much unneeded stuff (there must a better word!) that it will bury us one day.  Why do we keep buying this crap?  I’m not a fan of shopping as a pastime and my husband and I really do try to minimise the amount of new items we buy, not always successfully.  I LOATHE Black Friday and the consumerist binge that seems to get worse every year from, oh about this time onwards, as people get all worked up over what to buy other people for Christmas.  A lot of which ends up being unwanted clutter and junk and either ends up in a charity shop, or worse, in landfill.

On that note, I was recently browsing in a second-hand shop (part of my #dontbuynew aspiration).  The amount of duplicated items was unreal – ten or fifteen copies of the same book, countless plastic toys, and ornaments.  Oh the ornaments.  Mementoes from long-forgotten holidays, commemorative plates from various royal (yes, even here in Ireland) and national events, and quite a few ornaments/plates/plaques to mark various wedding anniversaries.  I’m not talking about personalised ones with names, dates etc, just the generic ones like this –

25th wedding stuff

Why?? Why do we buy this stuff?  All that will happen is it will sit on a dresser or shelf somewhere and some poor sod will have to take it down and dust it.  Life’s too short!

Anyway, later that same day I found myself in a branch of TK Maxx, not a shop I’d ever spent much time in as I thought they only sold clothes but I had 20 minutes to kill and discovered they sell housewares, kitchen stuff, nice stationery and best of all a small selection of books.  (If I have to spend time browsing in a shop those things suit me far better.)  Then I came across this –

stuff boxes clutter
Houston, we have a problem

Yes, a box marked Stuff in which to put stuff. Seriously, if we are now using up valuable natural resources and energy to make empty boxes just to hold more stuff, then we really have lost the run of ourselves completely.   I’m not opposed to storage boxes completely, more to the mindset whereby we’d sooner buy boxes to put ‘stuff’ in, rather than reducing the amount of stuff we have.  I’m not going all KonMari here, the day anyone catches me thanking my possessions for helping me through another day, they can have me committed.   For me, its a sign that its time to declutter more thoroughly.  I thought I was fairly good at decluttering until I found six operating manuals yesterday, three of which were for items we don’t even own anymore….

Its the volume of unnecessary, unneeded and frequently unwanted STUFF we seem determined to inflict on each other that baffles me the most.  Its like people feel obliged just to buy you something – anything – because its Christmas.  And Christmas does seem to bring out the worst elements of this.  Who really wants the gadgets that you’ll use maybe twice, the gift sets of toiletries with all that useless (and often non recyclable) packaging, and innumerable other items of tacky, poorly made TAT and CRAP  (now called novelty gifts) that will be appearing in a shop near you in the next few months weeks.  And that’s without mentioning the Christmas themed cushions, bed linen, aprons, teatowels etc that people rush out to buy, never mind the fact they have perfectly good equivalents already at home and the Christmas ones will be stored away for 11 months of the year (adding to the clutter!)

How about we all stopped mindlessly buying stuff and spent a little more time thinking about what we need and what we might really like to give as a gift?  If there is someone you feel you should buy a gift for, then what about a bottle of wine?  Or some delicious nibbles and treats?  A plant for the garden (if they are gardeners), or a gift voucher for a pampering session?  Ask yourself before you pay for that useless ornament, novelty gift or gift sets of toiletries – would I want to be given this?

Before you ask, no I’m not the Grinch, I happen to love Christmas.  But I like a simple Christmas, a simple life in fact where we are not surrounded by so much stuff we feel like we can hardly breathe.  Just stop and think before you buy more stuff.  The planet and your sanity might well thank you for it.  Not to mention your wallet.