Saturday, 19 January 2013

Hiding stuff

I’m a fairly tidy person on the whole. I usually put things away sooner or later, but tidiness it has its problems. My wife and I realised how much junk we’d hidden away when we moved house a few years ago. Not in a hurry to do that again. So much bloody stuff!

The official definition of a tidy house is one where most of the readily portable stuff is in cupboards, garage, shed, attic buried in the garden or otherwise out of sight. Nothing wrong with that, but many of us like to keep stuff out of sight don’t we? Apart from books – we tend to display those.

Out of sight, out of mind, isn’t that how it goes? It’s not always been like this - shoving mountains of stuff into cupboards. Originally a cup board was for displaying your cups and plates, not for hiding them away. From Wikipedia :-

The term cupboard was originally used to describe an open-shelved side table for displaying plates, cups and saucers. These open cupboards typically had between one and three display tiers, and at the time, a drawer or multiple drawers fitted to them. The word cupboard gradually came to mean a closed piece of furniture. 

There were such things as food safes which we would recognise as a type of ventilated cupboard. Basically  a place to keep food away from rodents.

Sometimes I think the fashion for minimalist living is merely a development of all this. Not so much a kind of modern asceticism, but a hiding fetish so extreme that even the cupboards have to go.

A blank face presented to the world.


Scrobs... said...

Interesting piece, Mr H!

My folks owned an old Welsh dresser for years, and it wasn't until long after it was sold, we were told that it was once the only piece of furniture needed for storing, and preparing food!

I wish we'd designed our kitchen with just half a dozen of those maple island units on castors, ( that way we could have altered it every Thursday if we'd wanted to...

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Interesting article AKH. It raises the point about how our language is chaged, often without our being aware it has.

I refer to your use of the word "stuff" which in my days of education was a verb, used for example to describe the act of inserting a mixture of spice(s) and meat into a chicken or turkey.

When did the word "stuff" become a collective noun - and why? Is the cause of changes to our language due to laziness or the lack of correct teaching in schools?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

And apologies for the typo - "chaged" should of course read "changed"

Sam Vega said...

Whatever minimalism once was, I think it is now a rich graduate couple's longing to return to the pristine state that existed before they had children. No toys and bits of puzzle under foot, no bulging cupboards with poster-paint artwork glued to them, no piles of washing. Achieving the minimalist look now means that you are seriously wealthy and well-organised.

Macheath said...

Further to Sam's comment, minimalism is only possible when you know that you can easily afford to replace anything you throw out - in a way, it's the ultimate in conspicuous consumption.

In the same way, hoarding is a by-product of a shortage of cash - you don't let anything go because the lack of it may end up costing you money in the future.

Anonymous said...

'Official definition of a tidy house' - pretty worrying, where did that come from - Cameron's sitting room? All that junk, I keep an old telescope just because a 3 year old niece once went goo goo at Brian Cox.

Allegedly a Cambridge taxonomist had in his desk a box labeled 'useful pieces of string' and a further box labled 'pieces of string of no use'. Sign of a wasted life I reckon - now where did I put that jam butty?

A K Haart said...

Scrobs - and if you look at a typical 1930s kitchen, it's tiny.

Witterings - stuff has been a noun for centuries, but it meant clothing material. Not sure about the collective noun though.

Sam and Mac - wealthy and very mobile is my guess. More than one home.

Roger - I'm a keeper of bits and bobs. I put them away until I've forgotten I had them.