Makeup Must Haves

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 22 November 2009 15:50 3 comments
It occurred to me this week that I am really quite fussy when it comes to makeup, and I also have a set bunch of products that I couldn't live without. I've worn makeup most of my life, from borrowing (read: stealing) my sister's clear mascara when I was ten to deciding that white eyeshadow was quite frankly the only colour to be seen in (for about three years - now it's green). 

So, no promotion, no saying that the same products work for everyone, but here are my top ten makeup must-haves that I just couldn't live without. Let me know if you agree or think I should be replacing it with something you love instead... I can be fickle too :)

  1. Urban Decay Eye Primer Potion - not only is this stuff in a gorgeous, Disney-esque bottle, but it works. Put on before eyeshadow and the colour will not crease or budge, and it intensifies the colour too.
  2. Bourjois Paris Ombre Stretch Eyeshadow in Vert - the ultimate green eyeshadow. I hated Bourjois' other eyeshadows in the small round pots - too hard and silky to actually get any on the brush. This one comes in a neat compact, complete with a brush which helps it glide on smoothly. It lasts all day and is super soft.
  3. L'Oreal Lash Architect Mascara - I think that like men, there's a mascara out there for everybody - you just have to find it. Mine is Lash Architect - it lengthens, it helps curl (buy an eyelash curler though, don't rely on mascara!) and separates. I usually use a separate mascara to add volume, or just line the top lashes with liquid liner to add depth.
  4. L'Oreal Superliner in Black Crystals - my favourite liquid eyeliner ever. For those who don't like the precision needed for a brush applicator but who hates those rubbish felt-tip ends which dry out, this is the answer. It has a softer, more flexible nib which delivers a subtly sparkly liquid black line and has the right shaped tip to be able to vary the thickness of the line easily. The best one I've found by far!
  5. 17 Hide Away Concealer Stick - this product has been a firm makeup bag staple since I entered my teens. The best budget concealer stick I've found, it's soft but not so soft that it melts off within thirty minutes, and provides good coverage for blemishes or redness.
  6. Benefit High Beam Highlighter - I adore Benefit (a sucker for packaging) but prefer not to spend on their pricey products - except this one. High Beam is a liquid highlighter that you brush on anywhere you want a healthy glow - I use on cheekbones, browbones and, after a tip from a friend who models, on collar bones for definition! Weird but true...
  7. New ID I-Smoulder in Charcoal - I got this through work (you can pick up new ID products in Burlingtons hairdressers) and it's my favourite black eyeliner. It twists to open so there's no sharpening needed, and the nib is angled so that varying the thickness of the line is easy. It glides on, stays on all day and last for ages. It also has a sponge applicator containing a cream shadow on the other end, which is great for creating smoky eyes. 
  8. Rimmel Recover Anti Fatigue Concealer - I had to buy this as they seemed to have discontinued my best ever under-eye concealer, the Renew and Lift Smoothing Concealer which was amazing. However, this one is pretty good and I couldn't live without it. There are so many under-eye concealers out there but again,they have hefty price tags. This one is great for a budget, lasts ages and provides fairly good coverage - you need to apply a bit more than usual as it's fairly thin, but it does work.
  9. L'Oreal Color Appeal Chrome Shine Eyeshadow in Dazzling Khaki - my absolute favourite eyeshadow for a night out, this glitzy shadow glides on better with a brush (it comes with a sponge applicator) as it blends very well with other metallics. I always get compliments for the colour when I use it and it has enough sparkle to make you feel glam, but not like a five year old!
  10. Bourjois Complexion Enhancer in Apricot - I discovered this product not too long ago, when looking for a good blusher. Instead of trying to find the right shade of pink for my cheeks, I decided to try this enhancer. It rubs on like a foundation, but is much lighter and gives a healthy, natural looking glow to make you look more radiant and awake. Another must for a night out or for winter days when you feel pale!

Book Review: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Posted by Judy Johnson On Saturday, 7 November 2009 19:47 0 comments

When I first heard there was a new Kinsella book out, I could not contain my excitement. But when I read the basis of the plot, I was disappointed. I was worried the acclaimed author was going in a different direction, away from her chick-lit genius; I also worried I'd hate it. But. In good faith, I pre-ordered a copy and put off all the books on my bedside table so that I could get into Twenties Girl as soon as it came through the door. And that I did.

Twenties Girl tells the brilliantly funny and heartwarming story (as with all Kinsella's books) of Lara, a hopeless romantic with a floundering start up company, an ex boyfriend she just can't let go of, and the spirit of her Great Aunt Sadie following her around demanding she help her find a necklace. 

I'm not a lover of supernatural genres but this kept to a rom-com style throughout and I was instantly hooked. Kinsella's lead characters are always endearing and I can personally always relate to them (shopaholic that I am), but Lara is perhaps the one I have most connected with; convincing herself she can make her ex love her, sticking her head in the sand yet having compassion for others and putting their needs first no matter how ridiculous they may be, all the while struggling with what will happen next. Lara and Sadie take us through hilarious incidents including fooling a room of professionals that Lara can read minds (until Sadie has a strop and leaves Lara in the lurch), plus some questionable '20s outfits and awkward dates. 

The bickering between the two girls is addictive, and yet it creates a page-turner as you hope they will bond and help each other with each of their plights; Sadie opens Lara's eyes to the false idea of love she has while Lara helps Sadie to see the love of her life was just that, and not someone to regret. Sadie's character is so irritatingly lovable, you wish she'd be your best friend, while Lara grows throughout the book to become the best that she can be.

As emotional as Remember Me? and as memorable as the Shopaholic stories, Twenties Girl is quite possibly my favourite Kinsella book so far. Read it.

Book Review: Remember Me? By Sophie Kinsella

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 1 November 2009 13:37 1 comments
In anticipation of the review I am yet to write of my favourite author's latest book, Twenties Girl, here is a review of Remember Me?  which I originally wrote for If you loved the Shopaholic series, give this one a go - it's equally brilliant.

Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me? is another bestseller that will make you laugh unashamedly out loud. ‘Chick-lit' doesn’t do it justice; Kinsella’s books are classics in the eyes of her widespread fan-base, with memorable characters who stay with you long after the book is finished.

In Remember Me? our heroine is Lexi, a twenty-five-year-old with dire career prospects at a carpet company, wonky teeth and a rubbish boyfriend, Loser Dave. But after an accident, Lexi wakes up in hospital to find that actually, it’s not 2004 as she thinks; it is 2007 and she has the life she’s always dreamed of. Perfect teeth, perfect millionaire husband, designer handbags, the lot.

Suffering from amnesia, Lexi has no idea what has happened in the last three years of her life. Her ever-helpful ideal husband draws up a ‘marriage manual’ so that she can learn the ropes of their relationship, but as she begins to find out more about her new self, Lexi realises her dream life is more of a nightmare. Her best friends no longer talk to her, she’s not allowed to eat crisps, her sex life involves something called a Mont Blanc which turned out not to be a cocktail, and an attractive man is causing problems. Lexi’s character is brilliantly crafted as someone we can all empathise with, and the plot has many twists and turns with some fun bumps along the way, making it impossible to put down. From her disastrous attempt at driving her Mercedes (she couldn’t drive in 2004) to knocking out a £300 fish at her husband’s ‘Loft-style Living’ launch, Lexi is adorable and worryingly real.

Filled with some fantastic lines of wit, Remember Me? will make you giggle, cringe and cry, perhaps all at once; a must read for all Sophie Kinsella fans and even more so for Sophie Kinsella virgins- this book will get you hooked.

The Time of Your Life?

Posted by Judy Johnson On 13:28 2 comments

This is an article I wrote for, a student e-zine which has since closed. Having read back through it, I thought that perhaps it was still worth sharing, as it may be relevant to more than just university.

When Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes boldly sang The Time of My Life to their hearts’ content, they may have been singing more about love than university but the title is still very useful. When you’re at school, your parents tell you to enjoy it; when you’re nervous about starting college, everyone tells you it will be great; when you apply for university, you don’t need anyone to tell you: it’s going to be the best few short years of your entire life.

No pressure, then. Wide-eyed and nervous freshers will mix with those ones who prowl about with confidence, although inside they are probably quaking in their little fresher sized boots. But the ‘fresher’s fortnight’ that most uni’s endure, filled with friend-making opportunities, lie-ins and society reps who pester you with their clipboard, does in fact only last the fortnight. After that, it can feel like you’re on your own and it’s down to you to make the fun happen.

Well, it kind of is. The saying of ‘you get what you put in’ to something isn’t a saying for no reason; it’s tried and tested fact. But sometimes, you can put everything you can find into the uni pot of fun and it’s still just not quite…the time of your life. Damn you, Bill and Jen, you set the stakes too high. Newsflash: perfect usually isn’t possible. If you don’t look like you’ve slept with a coat-hanger in your mouth every day, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed and are destined to be miserable for the rest of your life (uni life, that is). Take a look around you; everyone else is probably thinking the same thing as they sit on their single bed in their alien rooms, reminiscing about home life or wanting one of those well-loved home cooked dinners.

Becca, 22 has just graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design. “In my first year, I went home every weekend. I just wanted to get away from halls! From dirty dishes in the kitchen to sharing four toilets between 20 students, male and female, it was horrible. We had four showers to share with plugs which were blocked up with hair, and some doors didn’t even lock so anyone could come in when you’re starkers!”

Halls is the problem for a lot of people; for me it was actually the better part as I must have been a saint in a previous life, living with people who immediately became my best friends. It was the second year that took its toll, as six of us moved in together and slowly things went a little pear shaped. As one housemate left, a stranger moved in and he wasn’t quite ideal housemate material. Might have been good for Big Brother, though. As he left us to pay his rent, clean his mess and listen to his abominable singing, we began to wonder what happened to that saintly previous life and why we were now being punished.

Though it may have seemed all doom and gloom, it really wasn’t. I wasn’t the only one having a hard time, nor was our house the only one to experience problems. Just mention the word ‘house’ to another student, and they will roll their eyes and have a story to tell. Or perhaps it is the workload that gets you down; being homesick; not meeting enough people; having to work because you don’t have enough money; or just not having enough money in general (the student loan only stretches so far).

But this is where hindsight is a valuable tool; think about where you might be in three years and look back on your time at uni- now what do you see? Becca admits that her second and third years were a massive improvement. “At first I felt separated from my friends and like I didn’t gel with the people in my initial groups. But in my second year, I settled in and found that it was quality not quantity; I ended up with a small group of really close friends and just enjoyed it.” As for me, I look back on our bizarre housemate (who we nominated for eviction, so to speak, thankfully at the end of year two) and laugh (although I cringe a lot too).

Rosie, 22 also graduated this year from Goldsmiths in London. “It can be hard because it’s not just university; it is living completely independently for probably the first time in your life so it can feel overwhelming at first.” During whichever ordeal you may be going through, there are always ways to perk yourself up. More importantly, the people around you can help. Being down is commonplace during student-hood; and the best way of getting up again is by surrounding yourself with friends. As Rosie advises, “If something happens, you’re still not in the deep end because you are surrounded by people going through similar things and there is help at hand. What feels awful on Monday is what you’ll be giggling about over drinks on Friday night.”

So go out, cook dinner together, take time out from writing essays; only little things but sitting on your own dreaming of home is not the answer. If things get really bad, there are usually counselling services on campus- but first of all your friends and family are the best counsellors you’ll find, as they know you best and can give you an opinion you trust. Trips home are great for a little bit of medicine for the homesick, but avoid going back too often; you can alienate yourself further and make it that much harder to go back again. It is down to you to make the most of it- the bottom line is if you don’t open up to new things, put some effort in and meet people, then no one else can ultimately do that for you. Just remember that everyone else is in the exact same position and you can’t go far wrong.

Good or bad, each year had something memorable about it, which is something to take away from the experience; it’s experience to take away, full stop. That’s what uni is really about. So really, the new song and saying should be ‘the experience of your life’. Because although rocky in places, it definitely is.


No shuffling, just repeat

Posted by Judy Johnson On Tuesday, 20 October 2009 23:06 1 comments
The amazing, scary, brilliant, gruesome, original, twisting, turning, Sunday-night-stealing series, Harper's Island has sadly now come to an end. I'll be doing a blog post shortly about the true greatness of this series, which I happened to come across on my journey through the Freeview listings, and proceeded to be gripped by it for weeks. 

For now though, here's a song from the series which I have on repeat on You Tube (intermittently interrupted, of course, by Cheryl Cole's debut single and Alexandra's Bad Boys, also on repeat - help!). This song is by Civil Twilight and is called Letters from the Sky

Whatever you do, DO NOT read any comments on the video on YouTube's site - you might spoil the end of Harper's Island for yourself if you haven't seen it yet! 

Here's a YouTube video which has all the lyrics on it - some of the best lyrics I've heard in a while...


Feel free to quote me on that...

Posted by Judy Johnson On Saturday, 22 August 2009 23:20 0 comments

After watching the beautiful, heartbreaking film Hope Floats again the other week, I was reminded of one of my favourite movie quotes. Sandra Bullock often plays quite plain characters with not very much to say, but in this film one of the final lines has always
resonated with me.

The film, despite seeming like a fairly ordinary melodrama on the outside, has a fantastic cast with Gena Rowlands (The Notebook) and Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin. What's more, it's directed by the multi talented Forest Whitaker which would explain why it works so well to make you laugh or cry. If you haven't seen it and you like a good tearjerker, I would highly recommend it for a memorable weepie. And the quote that I always remember so clearly? A comforting thought which can be applied to most situations...

"Beginnings are scary, endings are
usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most.

Try to remember that when you find
yourself at a new beginning.
Just give hope a chance to float up. And it

Personally, I always find beginnings scary, I always find endings too sad to bear, and it's easy to forget how great the middle part was. Make the most of the middle part of whatever you're doing.

Creating creativity...

Posted by Judy Johnson On Thursday, 30 July 2009 22:58 2 comments
A bit of a random one, and a short one, but it's good to share.

I am a ma-hoo-sive fan of this artist: Sabrina Ward Harrison. She got me through Art and Photography, simultaneously, at college (high B's in both, thank ye very much). She helped me realise what kind of art I like, and that photography is art, and that the two merged together makes Judy-style art. From wall hangings to weird little cubes to scanning in Barbie dolls, I loved being creative with as many materials as possible and making it personal along the way.

Spilling Open: The Art of Being Yourself
was my favourite book throughout college and still now; a creative diary full of sensitive, personal, delicate artworks exploring life, love and loss, it became my aspiration to be able to produce something equally in depth and characteristic. I'm not sure I've got there yet, but one day I'd like to...

"I think when I can get to that place of self-acceptance and a sense of calm assurance in who I genuinely am, if I can believe in who I am, what I need, what I deserve, and what I must express, then I can let go of the struggle of self-acceptance based on their approval of my beauty, boobs, thighs or sketchbooks. I will dare to do just what I do. Be just what I am. And dance whenever I want to."

Sabrina Ward Harrison

Images from artist's website


Holiday of a Lifetime

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 19 July 2009 17:50 2 comments
Croatia Garden Festival 2009: Just two hours on a plane, but it's another world...

As my Twitterati friends will know, last week I came back from my week in Croatia. Two friends and I descended into the gorgeous country to go to the Garden Festival in Petrcane, combining the weekend of music and cocktails with a few days of sightseeing and sunbathing for what turned out to be the most relaxing holiday of my life.

Everyone's stre
ssed, so I won't pretend I am any more so than the rest of you. But. The last year (going from this time last year till now, specifically) has probably been the most stressful/eventful/worst/greatest of all my 23 years... the usual stuff, love, loss, work, health, etc. My previous holiday, in July 2008 was Ibiza - and I absolutely loved it. But it was slightly ruined by heartache so as much as I tried, I couldn't shake off thoughts of home. Fast forward a year later, and despite money worries over how much this damn festival (I never ever go to festivals, so I was wondering if I had made a huge mistake) was costing beforehand, as soon as we set eyes on the festival site and drove past the beautiful beach late one Monday evening, a sense of calm hit me for the first time in... I don't know how long. Here's why...


Petrcane is a small village near Zadar, and holds ten weeks of festivals throughout the summer - we just happened to choose the Garden Festival. The beaches are small, but still not crammed; they are not sandy, so get your jelly shoes ready for the sea because all those
pebbles under your feet is like a painful form of reflexology. As we went for the second weekend, with a few spare days before to do our own thing, the festival site was already in full swing so we popped by for cocktails in the Tiki Bar, and danced on the over-the-sea dancefloor on our first few nights.


Food wise, if you like It
alian you're laughing. If not, you better not be vegetarian. Pizza was everywhere - we found our favourite pizza place very quickly and met a lovely waiter who went on to teach us some very important Croatian lingo, including 'nice guy', 'he's a jerk' (my pronunciation of that one was apparently spot on, but I never had to use it!), and of course 'please' and 'thank you' as we're polite girls. Grilled and skewered meat were also on the menus everywhere, as were fish and English breakfasts, so we were pretty happy. Prices are reasonable too (you need to get used to Kuna to understand that though - about 8 Kunas = £1, so prepare to part with hundreds).


On day three of our holiday of a lifetime, we visited the Plitvicka Jezera National Park. Wow and indeed Za. The oldest National Park in
Croatia, there were waterfalls everywhere, small caves to crawl into, and stunning views. It felt a little like Jurassic Park with their small electric 'train' and the vast size of the place, as we were taken around by our Mr Bean-like tour guide, but it was unforgettable. A definite must see for anyone visiting!

Day four and we decided to venture further for our sunbathing - and discovered Nin. Just ten m
inutes away by bus, we walked along the port to eventually find small islands of sand with just a handful of sun seekers on - and you even had to wade through the shallow clear waters to reach them. No shade, no shops and hardly any people around, it was like a private little set of islands in the sea that only a few lucky people knew about. The water was as warm as a bath, and so shallow that you could wander across to other parts, or as we did, take photos of us running through it (as it looks like you're miraculously walking on water).

We were told by a fellow sunbather that if you cross to one of the little islands, there is mud which is good for your skin which people were plastering all over themselves. Why not, we thought. So across we went and in what can only be described as one of the most disgusting feelings I've ever had, I stood in the soggy thick black mud, picked it up and smothered it on... giggling all the way. We looked a little odd, but so did everyone else. It dried, we took it off, and our skin felt smooth, but who knows if it did anything!We got some great pictures out of it with hand prints on our backs and mud wrestling poses...

For the nights out when the festival wasn't on, we went down to the festival site where bars were still open and everyone was hanging out. We played games of dare, danced in the
rain (it rained only one night), and videoed the lightning which was in the next town - stunning. We made friends, took photos and laughed so hard it hurt.


Our experience of the festival began with a boat party, starting at 1.30pm and lasting six hours. Armed with the festival's signature 'Funny Money', ours was called the Noah's Ark boat party, so we attempted to look a little animal-like (I wore a dress with a tropical bird print, one friend wore snakeskin-print, and another wore a feathery top). DJs were on board to entertain, alcohol was flowing (slowly, the queue was huge) and anyone with sea sickness was in trouble.

We had 'cabin crew' drawn on our arms by the Brew Crew, met a lovely group of people from Nottingham, and didn't want to sail home. The rowdy but fun hen party we'd met had dressed, cleverly, as hens, so there were feathers everywhere while people swang from ropes and sang along. We also bumped into someone who i
s from the same town as us back home and apparently used to be in my photography class at college - the world is definitely getting smaller! If you go to the festival, go to at least one boat party - it will be all you talk about for days and you'll make friends instantly. Oh, and take a hat, as I got sunstroke which almost ruined my night out back at the festival... almost :)

With an afterparty the next night, we first danced to the live acts which included Giles Peterson (and we even did some of the lighting for it), then on to Barbarella's Discotheque, where we partied all night with people we'd met, including our lovely neighbours (one of which was enjoying a holiday romance with my friend) and some lovely guys I'd spoken to earlier - Chris from Scotland, and Ben from the Midlands. We then walked back home as the sun rose to mark our penultimate day.

I have never been somewhere where literally everyone is lovely, friendly and it has to be said, good looking. Croatian folk are kind and helpful, while everyone who went to the festival were there for fun and games. The festival was clean (a relief for me, the festival virgin!) and well managed, with plenty to keep everyone entertained.

The only question for everyone was... Would you come again? Everyone said the same thing... they loved it so much that they wanted to, but also didn't want to for fear it wouldn't be as good - because we had a fuddy amazing time.


"I like strawberries and cream... they always make me feel real perky" in a Texas accent, can't remember why
"Fuddy hell"
"I am a special person, with special skills"
"In the house, on the boat, in the bar..."

For apartments in Petrcane, email Gail on Our apartment was small but brand new and perfectly formed.

All things bright and beauty-full

Posted by Judy Johnson On Saturday, 30 May 2009 23:54 2 comments
As a lover of all things beauty without quite the bank balance to keep up, I was very excited to see a piece in thelondonpaper about a new site which allows you to try out brand spanking new beauty products for as little as £1. Sound to good to be true?

It's not. have realised that we're not all convinced by shiny glossy adverts who tell us 'you will have clearer skin, with no wrinkles, just by using this cream!', particularly when they're airbrushed to the point that it's a little insulting and haven't had a wrinkle in their life because they're 20 years old and already using Botox.

So Latest in Beauty have created a fantastic service, teaming up with plenty of beauty brands to keep anyone happy, to offer samples f beauty products. Yes, you can sometimes get samples in the bigger department stores - but not always, and not without listening to the hard sell first. Simply register on the site, then take a look through the categories - Skin care, Make up and fragrances, and Hair and body. Choose one product from each, and for a £1 text you will get your three samples delivered to your door. You can do this once a month, so choose wisely!

So for my first month, I tried:
  • Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimising Skin Refinisher
  • Christina Aguilera fragrance
  • Elemis Vitamin Rich Body Lotion
When I say samples, I mean samples. The Estee Lauder product came in seven sachets - one a day for a week. The Elemis tube was the tiniest thing I've ever seen, but very cute and would be great for travelling! The fragrance was like the small sample tubes you get in department stores, which is actually pretty handy for carrying around in my handbag.

I wasn't keen on the fragrance (too strong, and I adore Vera Wang's Princess too much) and I've tried Elemis products before and knew they were good, so the cream is nearly finished. My favourite was the Estee Lauder Idealist - a gorgeously light, citrus-scented gel like substance which sank into my skin beautifully and felt amazing. The sachets were very generous, so one would be enough for face and neck; my skin has never felt softer and I didn't want to put moisturiser over the top for fear of losing the lovely silkiness. I felt brighter and fresher and after putting the first application on in the evening, I woke up the next day still feeling soft and smooth. A definite must-buy!

Looking forward to next month when I can try another three beauty freebies...

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Posted by Judy Johnson On Saturday, 28 February 2009 17:47 3 comments
Being a massive Becky Bloomwood fan, I went along to see Confessions of a Shopaholic this week. It was already a risky choice as I have given up shopping for lent, so it was kind of like taking an alcoholic to a pub, but I have been waiting for this film for a long long time!

Sophie Kinsella's fantastic and infamous Shopaholic books are hilarious, and every girl I know who's read them is convinced that Becky Bloomwood just 'is' them - including me. Her humour, her romantic side, her got-to-have-it shopping mantra are all things us girls understand. So, the film had a lot to live up to... question is, did it pass the test?

Thankfully, it did. Expecting it to be disappointingly different, with our British Becky Bloomwood being replaced by an American, and the dashing Luke played by a Brit, I was gleefully surprised when actually, it worked really well. Isla Fisher gave a fantastic performance as the gushing, fashionista journalist, whose 'magic cards' (credit cards) were maxed out due to her shopping addiction. She was very much like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, with a butter-wouldn't-melt voice and wide eyes, but with a sweetness that us readers all know and love. Hugh Dancy is the latest dreamboat to hit the screens, playing Luke Brandon with humour and a sensitive side.

The best scene in the film is the dancing between Luke and Becky when they are abroad - there won't be a dry eye in the cinema as Becky freestyles with her fan. Turning books into a film is always risky and there's a strong chance of spoiling what was so great about the story in the first place - but the only way they'll ruin this is if they don't make the sequels.

Just In Case...My Cluttered Life

Posted by Judy Johnson On Monday, 12 January 2009 23:27 0 comments
Here is an article I wrote for my final degree portfolio. It's definitely still relevant so I thought I'd add it as my first post.

I can’t even remember half of the things I own anymore. Having moved twice in the past five years into two rented houses, most of my worldly possessions have remained bubble wrapped and lifeless in battered cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes. With both sisters now living elsewhere, leaving me, my parents and until recently a cat, for once in our lives we have a spare room; yet for us this has the sole function of storage. Behind the forever closed door at the corner of the landing, there no doubt used to be a bedroom, as the owner’s mirrored wardrobe and single bed still take their place. Yet now, if we slowly creak the handle and push our way into our ‘spare room’, we are confronted with a dark, musty, obstacle course of a room which looks like the inside of a removals van, only not so neatly stacked.

Of course I have unpacked those things that I can’t or won’t live without, but everything else has stayed silently stowed away in the dark; this point has been repeated to me at intervals over the last five years by my parents (who are not at all innocent, as a lot of those brown battered boxes are theirs). So often I will shuffle in, black bin-liner in hand and start wrestling with box flaps, sending a sprinkling of dust into my face as I get ready to brutally de-clutter so that we may finally have a spare room. However, on further inspection of these containers of all things useless, something happens. As if rediscovering an old friend, every random piece of rubbish suddenly holds memories or sentiment, and is something that I clearly need and cannot live without. The result: bin liner gets dropped to the floor, I hastily look for some sort of cloth that can clean the poor, neglected object and it is awarded its very own spot in my small, messy bedroom whose current array of bits’n’bobs are already fighting for space.

This process is repeated for many items from many boxes. Some objects don’t quite warrant freedom, as although they trigger endless reminiscing my rational self argues that they are absolutely useless. Like, for example, a clock in the shape of a cat which my parents brought back from a short holiday in Swanage, Dorset, from my favourite shop there that I visited during my childhood holidays. Of course a clock is not useless- except this one, a couple of days after I was given it, was knocked over ironically by my own cat, and the all important cogs and mechanical pieces rather dramatically spilled out over my desk in an unfixable manner. But as I held it, albeit with its vital pieces missing, I could not bring myself to place it in the black sack which I had discarded in the moments of delight as I discovered forgotten objects.

And so it continues; jewellery boxes from old Christmas’s, which are pretty and in perfect condition but not as nice as my new one; cassette tapes from about ten years ago with songs which I love to remember but don’t love to play anymore; candles, from my phase of copying my older sister in covering all mantelpieces, desks and tables in various candles and candle-holders; a tiara from the school prom; a kids games console of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which still works, if only it had batteries; school exercise books, because well what if I need to know how to do standard deviation or trigonometry one day? It could happen.

Proving that not just a select few of us are prone to hoarding all kinds of rubbish is the thriving de-cluttering industry. Any Junk? is a junk removal service working for anyone from domestic clients to big businesses- they even removed the scale model of a Skoda made entirely of cake from the recent advertising campaign. Jason Mohr, founder of the successful company, says of his domestic clients, ‘Most people tend to hang onto anything concerning their children, because of sentimentality and a lack of discipline to get rid of the things they no longer need or want.’ Other companies such as ClutterGone, The Clutter Clinic and The Order Restorers all offer to declutter your home and hence your life- the latter’s caption for their website is ‘We will give you back your sanity’. Well that’s not fair, I might keep useless objects most of which I’d forgotten exist but that doesn’t make me insane. Of course television caught on a long time ago, with Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House? and the brutal BBC’s Life Laundry, where Dawna Walter, aka my worst nightmare, enters her victim’s- sorry, client’s- home and empties it of all things nice and homely and precious, to restore order in their lives and help them to move on.

It seems it’s not just about being disorganised, us clutterers actually believe that these items will be of use some day in the future. Or does ‘just in case’, that great excuse of a phrase, mean something else? Lynda Hudson, a Clinical Hypnotherapist thinks that we usually hang on to objects either for a fear of letting go, difficulty in making decisions, or for security. ‘People are usually collecting security at the unconscious level, such as through items from childhood,’ Lynda suggests.

There is some truth in this for my collection of oddities. I keep my shattered cat clock and its tiny broken pieces in case it can, miraculously, be fixed one day, or in case my parents take offence that I throw it out. I keep candles in case I need them in the event of a power cut, or something just as disastrous, although I’m not sure I’ll know which box to look in, especially in the dark. I keep the cassettes in case they’re worth something one day, or I want to hear the songs again to relive my youth when I’m sixty and covered in wrinkles. I keep the jewellery boxes because they are doing a great job of neatly storing my old pieces of jewellery for me, which I can’t throw out in case I need some plastic rings and bracelets in the distant future. You just never know.

Lynda explains that decluttering has benefits of making you feel in control of your environment, giving you psychological space and allowing you to be free to move on from situations. Lynda recalls a patient of hers, ‘A man came to me once whose wife had died young and unexpectedly. He could no longer throw anything away except food-rubbish and even that was difficult; his house was a mountain of stuff and all he could do was to sit on the settee and look at it.’

The benefits of clearing out our clutter are important in Feng Shui; the concept that the physical space around us has spatial dynamics that affects us at both a design and an energy level. Feng Shui has its own term for this sentimental type of clutter. As Sarah McAllister, Director of The Feng Shui Agency says, ‘The term ‘affection’ relates to items such as toys strewn everywhere, cushions worn with wear, the bottle of wine left open from the night before- these create a sense of affection, of a place being lived in.’ However, as Sarah explains, ‘In Feng Shui the house is like a body, so we don’t want to obstruct the arteries (corridors) with clutter, and we want all the doors to be unimpeded so you can open it fully. Clutter can account for around 33% influence on your life, of whether your home or office are good Feng Shui or not, and clutter is definitely bad for Feng Shui flow.’

In my spare-cum-clutter-room, I don’t think anything is flowing apart from dust. Although I’m sure it’s not good for me to keep a whole room as a storage cupboard, I think throwing out those precious useless items would cause me more distress. So my collection of stamps that my Grandad gave me, my old art sketchbooks, a short story I wrote in Year 6, the odd Barbie doll, a broken disco ball, children’s books such as Mog the Cat and Mrs Pepperpot, and everything else that I’ve acquired through the years gets to stay wrapped up tight in boxes, aptly labelled ‘Stuff’, until the next time I appreciate their existence.
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