Clutter is a symptom of the housing crisis

Clutter is a symptom of the housing crisis

OUR fascination with interiors inspiration (in print, online and of course in the likes of social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram) is not going anywhere any time soon. It’s something that’s grown apace with the love for house makeovers and, most importantly, decluttering —and its flipside, extreme , ahem, collecting.

The latter has spawned a whole category of entertainment where television viewers peer through their fingers at subjects literally buried alive by their possessions.

As someone who has read Marie Kondo’s tidiness touchstone The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (several times) and used the audio-book version as a clean-up soundtrack, as well as tuning into the Japanese guru’s Netflix series, but has yet to adopt the minimalist lifestyle, I can’t really talk.

But I’m comforted after a conversation with architect Róisín Murphy that the fact that more of us are finding it hard to store mountains of items in limited space is not always or not just about consumerism gone mad — it’s actually a symptom of the housing crisis.

I caught up with Róisín as she and builder Peter Finn returned to our television screens this week in episode one of RTÉ One series Home Rescue.

“Years ago, flats were easier to come by and there was more flexibility,” she says.

Nowadays rents are really high and also families are forced to live together, adult children with their parents, for instance.

It’s not always a question also of individuals “hoarding” goods, either. “People have to be really careful, they don’t want to get rid of items, like blenders and so on, that they have accumulated to make a home,” she says.

The first episode of Home Rescue saw the team travel to Borris in Co Carlow. For over a decade Ann’s home had been getting more and more cluttered. In 2007, her twin daughters, Becky and Megan, were born prematurely. “With all of Ann’s time and energy taken up caring for the girls, the house took a back seat,” says Róisín.

The downstairs area was inundated with a tidal wave of books, magazines and paperwork and upstairs, Ann’s bedroom was so crowded with clothes, duvets and bedlinen that the sun itself couldn’t even get a look-in.

It made for interesting viewing as Róisín, Peter and the clutter-busting team faced the massive challenge of turning this home around for Ann and her daughters in three days.

“As the sorting tent fills, it becomes clear to Ann that she has even more stuff then she thought,” says Róisín. “With help from the team, long-forgotten items resurface and memories come to light.”

EMOTIONAL

This emotional aspect of decluttering will be one that is also highlighted in next week’s episode which promises to be just as compelling. “This episode is really in a way about a family who is coming to terms with grief,” adds the architect. “There is a lot of loss and one of the rooms had become a dumping ground.”

Of her return to the small screen after a decade away, Róisín says she is “loving it”. “What I like about this programme is that it offers people what I regard as a wonderful ‘prize’ — you get a very short and sharp declutter and a completely free home makeover. I feel like this programme is like a big prize ,” she adds.

The fact that the show demonstrates how you can be innovative on a smaller budget is one that appeals also, says Róisín, who is no stranger to Irish viewers, having appeared on RTÉ shows like Beyond the Hall Door and House Hunters.

Clutter is a symptom of the housing crisis

She took a carer break while her three children were young and has admitted she did worry about her future career. But during her time away from TV, she also returned to college. Already a holder of first-class honours degree, she found life as a mature student forced her “to compete again”.

“I went back to college to specialise in sculpture and ceramics and returning to education at an older age can be quite difficult. You’re going back competing with people who are much younger than you, but it pushed me and was very good for me,” she says.

Home Rescue is screened on Tuesdays at 8.30pm on RTÉ One

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