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Reform Magazine | November 29, 2023

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On the pilgrim way: ‘Clearing out our scullery began to be fun’

Sheila Maxey finds joy in tidying and recycling

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I have been clearing out our scullery after at least 30, if not 40 years. It is a Victorian house and we have lived in it for over 50 years. I am amazed at how rewarding and enjoyable the clearing out process has been.

It did not start out like that. Observing the difficulty that old friends, frail and in their late 80s, were having downsizing from their home of nearly 60 years, I gloomily wondered about our future. Would I still have the energy to sort the scullery out in two years’ time?

Our scullery was a dumping ground: saws and saw blades of various ages, multiple screwdrivers, pots of paint, endless screws, nails, hooks, hinges and fittings (just in case). Also old boots, a children’s paddling pool, and stiff, old paintbrushes. My husband, Kees, is a DIY person. But he no longer has the health and strength for any but the little jobs. He also finds throwing out anything in working order difficult, so we had at least eight power supplies, 12 three-pin plugs, lots and lots of electrical cable, an old camping stove and a gas light with no mantel. I could go on – but you get the picture.

I tackled one shelf per day – and had to pass everything in front of Kees, to see if he would let the item go. I then listed those items, apart from complete rubbish, on the computer and emailed them to our extended family to see if they would like anything.

Then, the process began to be fun. I was in contact with my lovely family who, even if they did not want anything, were entertained by the list. One came and rummaged, others asked if they could forward the list to a DIY friend. One wanted the old, decrepit camping stove to experiment with boiling up lichens to make dyes. There was actually some competition for the half tin of anti-woodworm liquid!

Over the bank holiday weekend, we put two tables out on our forecourt and spread out everything that was left. We put up a notice inviting passersby to help themselves for free, and we waited to see what would happen. People seem to feel guilty about just taking things, so it was important not to watch, but we did sometimes skulk. A man on a scooter drove up, took off his helmet, slowly inspected and then took the old camping light (the one with no mantel). He left £3! As the weather was fine, we left the tables out all night, and by the morning, all the electrical stuff had gone.

Recycling is an important duty – but the wonderful thing about this little episode in our lives is that it, quite unintentionally, became such fun. Jesus seems to describe the experience: ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.’

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform


This article was published in the October 2019 edition of Reform

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