20 Apr 2012


I have certain OCD like tendencies which manifest primarily in tidying up and the ordering/reordering of my immediate environment. This does NOT necessarily mean cleaning by the way- because if you tidy a room it will LOOK clean without it having to be so. (Write that one down).

I fully appreciate that not everyone lives with this affliction and I am secretly jealous of the ability some have to be surrounded by mountains of junk and NOT CARE. But I do. I really can’t help it. Actual physical clutter congests my mind and suffocates my thought processes to the extent that even if I have something pressingly urgent to attend to, the presence of more than 4 icons on my desktop, a pile of filing or a single piece of un-opened mail can rudely jump the queue in my head and demand to be dealt with first. Much to the frustration of Keith (who incidentally possesses a normal brain).

I should also point out here that I don’t care if other people are surrounded by junk of their own. In fact, it often won’t even register. If I’m visiting a mate, then I’m there to see them and will almost certainly not see the clutter that they choose to live amongst- unless they invite me to notice, or refer to it in some way.

So take my order-possessed brain and put it in a situation where I am suddenly surrounded by rubbish that is not mine and the culprit (my ex-tenant) is not present. Now imagine that the location is a house that I used to live in and am still legally the owner of. Now suppose that the potential new owner is imminently arriving to this house of junk and may or may not still want to purchase it due to its current condition. In this situation I have an acute and overwhelming awareness of how much clutter there is, along with the urgency to do something about it.

The quantity of rubbish was massive. Perhaps our newly ex-tenant had been subletting to kleptomaniacs or vagrants or a family of badgers? We moved house ourselves 4 months ago with 3 kids, a cat and a business and and we didn’t generate this much stuff. The rubbish had clearly been accumulating for some time. Most of it was bagged up (helpfully) in the front garden, but much of it strewn around the back garden and sneakily hidden in the two-foot wide 'L' shaped gap between the boundary fence and the playhouse, which slowly became visible as said playhouse was dismantled. My personal favourites hidden here included:

A hamster cage (Madi now wants a gerbil for her birthday- I wish I'd kept it now)

The rotting remains of a cot-side

A mouldy Bertini pram (chassis was still in good nick though)

A sodden wet rug (it left the living room a long time ago)

A double duvet (covered in mould and crawling with wood lice)

Ah, but the crème de la crème of crap was actual real crap which I presume originated from from the boxer dog which the tenant owned.

Picture the scene- I have spent the best part of an entire day cleaning and hoovering my soon-to-be-ex-house with the help of some fantastic friends and neighbours and between us we have almost eliminated the smell of incontinent dog (yeah!) and replaced it with the peachy aroma of shake’n’vac.

Between us we have disposed of 2 skips worth of rubbish and an unmarked white vanfull of scrap metal (which conveniently appeared just after the second skip was dropped off -otherwise it would have been 4 skips).

All that remains now is to wheel the green garden-waste wheelie bin from the back garden to the front kerb, scrub the (manky slimey) decking underneath where the bin used to be and voila! Time for a bath then Costas with the lovely Michele.

However, on grasping and pulling the wheelie bin, it does not move. I do. I literally skate right into it, sliding on the thick layer of algae and motor oil which coats the decking. I try to tip the bin to manoeuvre it, but it refuses to budge. I open the bin to inspect the weighty contents- and almost puke right there on the spot.

It contains approximately 2 years worth of fossilised dog crap, a handful of children’s play balls, some carrier bags and a smattering of leaves and twigs on the top - which will maybe fool the recycling people - you never know.

No wonder the neighbours reported never having seen her walk the dog.

It took a whole 20 minutes, strategic planning and 2 of us huffing and puffing and pushing the wheelie bin over the manky slimey decking, around a manky slimey corner, up a slightly less manky slimey step and into the front garden. And then a call to the environmental health agency– who obligingly emptied the whole thing 3 days later. Free of charge. Maybe they forgot to ask for a forwarding address for the invoice. Or maybe the woman just took pity on me because I wasn't responsible for the fossilised dog faeces.


The last memory of our old house is a sad colourless version of the one I had when we left it, over 2 years ago. Even with the rubbish gone there was wear and dog-related tear throughout which couldn’t be fixed in one weekend. There was damage to the front door that suggested (according to the locksmith who fixed it) that the door had been kicked hard at some point - perhaps more than once. And a couple of kitchen cupboards were damaged at head-height. The whole house was soulless to me - tainted with an undercurrent of dog urine and domestic violence that I couldn’t imagine having ever lived there - or even wanting to.

Back at home, and after a few hours of self pity and slight over-reaction to the kids leaving toys around (‘I am NOT here to pick up your things. Put that away NOW otherwise you will grow up to be an overgrown child who thinks their mess is someone else’s problem!’) I thought about what God maybe felt like after it all went pear shaped in Eden.

Just picture the brand new perfect world that he’d made, loved and delighted in. It was absolutely perfect in every way- fresh and clean with no rouge DNA or viruses or anything. Did the whole planet smell of new-born baby and freshly mown grass? Did newly created reds and greens and purples sparkle with vibrancy?

Then when Adam & Eve cocked it up for the rest of us, how did God feel? When sin and the stench of death came to a spotless planet that was hardly - I don’t know, a day, a week, a month - old, what did that do to the heart of its creator?

Was he like ‘You’ve wrecked it now- I can’t live here anymore. I love you but I can’t look at you or have you look at me. You broke my creation.’

Does he look at people today and say the same?

- To one who claims to love another yet lies and manipulates and lashes out: ‘You’ve broken LOVE’

- To the inadequate and insecure parent who constantly yells at their kid, crushing another's spirit and stealing joy: ‘You’ve broken my CHILD’

- To those who put their own selfish needs above others and abuse and rape and assault: ‘You’ve broken SEX’

These thoughts offered perspective. It was only a house. I didn’t build it- with my own hands. Keith and me didn’t even own it outright when it WAS ours. There were lots of things about it that we would have changed had we stayed there longer. But I still grieved for what it once was.

I guess God cries even more.