Brick by Brick: Bargains abroad, horrors at home

I’m just not quite sure how we’ll pack it as hand luggage,” I venture as my husband shows me a metre-tall, bright blue giraffe made from recycled materials. We are in a flea market in Washington DC doing what we at Brickman Towers do best: accumulating clutter.

Red faces and noses

We are always prone to it, but on holiday we Brickmans move into another league as black belt clutter masters, magnetically drawn to irrelevant souvenirs that haunt us for decades.

The problem is that when you are on holiday certain objects, and clothing, look irresistible. But alas, by the time you reach Copenhagen Airport that same Sami tufted hat or classic Hawaiian shirt just looks … weird.

This time last year I decided it was a form of Stockholm Syndrome – the phenomenon in which hostages begin to sympathise with their captors. Appropriately enough, we were on holiday in Stockholm at the time and trying to resist various forms of ABBA junk: little woolly hats, replica sunglasses and turquoise knee-high boot key rings.

In a major lapse, we had acquired a full reindeer hide a few days before at a market in Lapland. We called it Rudolph.

Reindeer games

Rudolph couldn’t be tightly wrapped in plastic – he had to be loosely fastened with brown paper and string. We carried him, sat on him, ran for trains with him, wearing him like a cloak when his brown paper unraveled.

And when we finally got him home, he lay on the floor looking like decor from a film set in a Viking hunting lodge.

Rudolph has since moulted clumps of big grey-brown reindeer hair onto the socks of all those who tread on him. There’s no need for slippers with Rudolph around.

Grappling with genetics

This year I’m trying to resist and to empower myself … I have a choice. Okay, my mother did take a Korean spice chest as hand luggage on a plane, but this is NOT genetically determined. My resolve has been bolstered by the KonMari method. For those of you ‘not in the know’, the KonMari method stems from the book ‘The Magical Art of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo, which has been taking the world by storm.

Loads of my UK friends are ‘KMing’ and it’s supposed to lead to life-changing results. One friend told me excitedly that she had realised she didn’t need to keep all the love letters her husband wrote her. Having mainly received post-its from my husband with requests for particular pizza toppings, I was fairly dumb-struck by that one. And suffice it to say, they were divorced within the year.

KMing the merciless

But my KMing friends are emptying closets and then throwing them away. Acres of floor space are being liberated. Objects are being asked if they spark joy. If they don’t, then they are ‘thanked’ and dispatched to the clutter afterlife.

In fitful jetlagged sleep, MK appears to me, kneeling by my bed in a kimono. “You have many crutter,” she says. “Too much clutter,” I offer helpfully. Then the world begins to turn into a frenzied collage of blue giraffes, the ABBA museum and Washington DC flea markets.

I awake in a home cluttered by Kremlins in snow storms, the Yosemite ‘I made it to the top’ baseball cap and our reindeer-themed coaster set, and it never looked so good.