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Out with the Old

I thoroughly recommend enlisting the assistance of a teenager when trying to declutter. They are ruthless, unsentimental and cut through the nonsense. I have one but mine comes with added positivity and motivation. I didn't pay extra for these. I was just lucky to get them as part of the package. She is the angel on my shoulder who whispers, “you can do it, be brave”. This applies to all sorts of situations – jumping into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean on holidays, climbing to the top of a steep hill, getting out of bed on a miserable day to walk the dog but, in this instance, decluttering and tidying the kitchen.

She is a born organiser, obsessive list-maker, colour-coder, sticker-placer, timetable-writer and the only person I know who skips down the stairs, beaming from ear to ear, if I suggest she might like to help me sorting and organising. No job is too big or too small. She attacks each with the same gusto. I say “if I suggest she might like to help me” but, in reality, she is generally the one who suggests any form of organisation in our house. I am a procrastinator extraordinaire. Put it this way, yesterday, when she suggested that our kitchen cupboards were in dire need of a cull, I hid in my bedroom in my pjs, looking busy on my laptop, until she sternly issued me with a 10-minute warning. I was in the shower in jig time and presented myself in the kitchen just marginally late. She was already there, kneeling on the floor, peering in dismay into my cake tin cupboard. She is terrifying when she decides that she wants something done and, above all, done properly.

Three hours later (you’ve no idea!), we had removed duplicate items, rusty tins, frying pans that the non-stick coating had long since worn off, a lot of plastic containers without lids, broken blender cups, endless stuff that I don’t think I’ve ever used or will ever use. Mind you, I just know that once I’ve discarded it all, I’ll be looking for precisely the one item I’ve thrown out.

Next, we switched stuff around. The pots and pans had been piled up in a deep drawer, higgledy-piggledy. We put them in a cupboard beside the cooker where they are both more accessible and easier to remove. The cake tins etc went into the drawer in organised piles. Then we tackled the drawer that has housed Tupperware, mixing bowls, hand-blender, electric mixer, measuring jugs. This one really frustrated her because it contained so many bits and small items that refused to stay in place. She found an old biscuit tin and put them in there. Then she sat down at the table. I was relieved. I filled the kettle and retrieved a mug from the cupboard. We were finished. Eh, no, we weren’t.

She had my laptop open and was busily sourcing all manner of drawer and cupboard organisers – lid holders to stick on the inside of cupboard doors, extendable tiered risers for the cupboards so you can see the jars at the back, new cake tins to replace the rusty ones. She is Joseph Joseph’s dream! She sits gazing in admiration at the clever solutions. I foresee her harassing senior management in years to come begging for a job there. And, honestly, they’d be mad not to hire her. She’s a committed servant of good organisation. She is the Marie Kondo of teens.

I’m sitting at the kitchen table writing this while I wait for her to descend from her room. Today we move on to the really messy drawers, the ones that have no rhyme nor reason, where you’ll find everything from birthday candles to striped shoelaces (When? Why? No idea), batteries to sushi mats and all sorts of small implements whose purpose I genuinely do not know. All I can guarantee is that by the time she’s finished, nothing without a known purpose or function will remain in that drawer. I’ll hum and haw and she’ll gently remove each item from my hand saying “let it go”. And I’ll be embarrassed into submission.

She’d be available for consultancy except that she's too busy keeping me on the straight and narrow. If you can get one of these in your life, I cannot recommend it highly enough.