Who cares about being houseproud? All my clutter is full of memories

<span>Photograph: Fuse/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Fuse/Getty Images

Few things trigger my childhood memories like the sizzle of onions hitting a hot pan, the smell of coriander, or the sequence of beeps made by a pay-as-you-go electricity meter. Other things remind me of home, too: stepping barefoot on a painful bit of plastic, and that itchy, embarrassed feeling when someone pops over unannounced and you haven’t cleared up.

I grew up in an untidy house. We just seemed to have a lot of things: souvenirs from places we’d never been (but were funny), charity shop electronics that might have worked (but often didn’t), yellow kitchen utensils that were supposed to do something (but what?). These things were known collectively as The Clutter, an amorphous mass of random objects that would suck up your beloved items and spew out unwanted ones in their place.

When I left home, I vowed to live clutter-free. And I did until last month, when I realised The Clutter was back. Quickly, I threw open the cupboards, ready to purge. But each time I pulled something out from the dusty corners of the flat, and the distant crevices of my memory, I fell in love with it all over again. The forgotten shirt that I hadn’t worn for years? It’s back in the wardrobe. The painting I picked up travelling, stored under the stairs for when I had more space? I made the space. Sure, the wall looks busier but that’s where a painting should be.

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I thought that to be houseproud was to live neatly and tidily, in a space that resembles an interiors catalogue; to conform to someone else’s version of existence. But now my memories are no longer cordoned off in boxes – they are in full display on windowsills and mantelpieces and in postcards Blu-Tacked to the wall. It’s cluttered, but I’ve never been prouder.

So much for tidying up.