I cleared out my shed at last. We were having new doors built for the back gate and our dreaded Shed of Shame. Our friend Joe – a craftsman and carpenter - made them on sight, so his wife Rose came along. “I need to clear that shed,” I said, “but there’s no way I can face it.”
The large concrete shed is where we throw everything that we cannot bear to deal with. It is the denial corner of our home.
The horror is layered. On the top layer are the things we just want kept out of sight because they remind us what we should be doing, but aren’t – never ridden bicycles, leaf-blowers, strimmers, spades, and plastic car covers. Underneath them are the failures – the enormous and expensive marquee that ended up in the top of a tree, broken furniture that will never get fixed, a child’s tractor that simply ran out of batteries then was forgotten about – and beneath that again is the unspeakable carnage of mud, and insects and filth that time and complete lack of responsibility creates. Things that should have been thrown away, and dealt with properly at the time that, over time, have transmogrified into a sludge so unspeakably awful that we would rather not just think about then. We are talking half-used bags of concrete and sand and compost spilling onto a damp floor that had stewed over years of neglect with old gardening gloves and never-planted bulbs and rotting boxes of recyclables that we moved from the house, to the patio, to the shed instead of just taking them to the dump when the box was full. The bottom layer of gruesome sludge has just been too terrifying to face, so for years we have just been opening the door and flinging stuff into it without even looking.
“I’ll wait ‘til the book is finished,” I said. “Then I’ll tackle it.”
As Joe took off the old door, Rose stood on the threshold of my mountain of miscellaneous rubbish.
I went inside to make tea. I was thinking – sausage rolls from the garage, a pot of strong coffee while Rose counselled me over the shed. She’d put her arm around me, pat my back while we stood in joint horror at the enormity of the task ahead. Eventually we’d agree I should wait ‘til the Spring then find a couple of nice Polish men to come and put it all in a skip and take it away.
When I came out with the mugs of tea Rose had half the shed emptied and stuff sorted into recyclable, keep and landfill. “The dump closes at half-twelve,” she shouted, “we have three hours – so start bagging up that pile of rubbish!” I put on my outdoor work clothes (a “distressed” jumper and jeans, christened as such because I am invariably distressed when I wear them) and a pair of work-gloves and got on with it.
Rose is a strong woman, with long, curly red hair and a “can-do” attitude – which is just as well as she can do, and does almost everything she sets her mind to. She was the first female blacksmith to qualify in Ireland, and with her talented husband Joe, virtually built their gorgeous house, and everything in it, from the ground up. She is currently working full time in an accountancy firm and due to qualify in the next couple of years. Oh – and she has a son at Trinity studying medicine and the other son looks set to follow him. In their “spare time” the family run an animal-rescue sanctuary at their home, and come and help friends clean out sheds!
Even if I had wanted to put her off, I couldn’t have and so, in less than three hours we had filled the van to bursting point and Rose and I rushed down to the dump in our work gear, the damp stench of indiscriminate “stuff” for disposal emanating from the back of the van not to mention our mulch-covered jumpers.
Not to embarrass myself in front of Rose, I picked up pieces of wood heavier than myself and hurled them into sunken skips, wiped unidentifiable slippery gunge from my hands onto my jeans before picking up another double-bag of trash and throwing it in for landfill.
Back at the ranch we hosed down the filthy shed floor, and wiped what was left and put it back into place. Joe hung the new doors, and after my heroes left I flopped, soppy with exhaustion into a chair – and I thought to myself; “The shed is cleared.”
My friends had made me a mehil, and there was no way I could have done it without them. The experience reminded me that there is no problem too big to tackle – and we all need a good clearout from time to time. It’s scary, it’s hard work, but boy - it feels so good when it’s done.