I’ve often mentioned the cardboard removal box where I dump my worn-but-not-dirty clothes, craving, I think, the cleansing fire of public shame. Who lives like that? How do other people not end up with a clirty – that’s clean-dirty – floordrobe (apologies for the double portmanteau)?

It felt like a “broken windows” thing – the US policing term for visible minor neglect acting as a gateway to crime or, in my case, shrugging surrender to the march of entropy. At my age, in this empty nest, it’s a slippery slope. Does moisturiser matter? Why bother with a plate for whatever fridge scrapings I’m calling lunch? What’s wrong with some wholesome soil under my nails? Fail to floss once and next thing I know, I’m Stig of the Dump, living in a dump.

A solution finally appeared at a car boot sale last weekend in the form of a wonky but serviceable wooden towel rail. Some light negotiation, £12 and minimal tidying later, I was a new woman, or at least a woman with folded clothes on a presentable piece of furniture, box banished.

Buoyed up by this pathetic step towards functional adulthood, I tried to tackle some other broken windows in my life. I kicked off by washing the lowest sedimentary layers of the laundry basket, clothes I barely remembered owning, roasted the seven near-liquid peppers festering in the fridge, picked up a piece of mystery plastic that had been on the floor since the last monarch, made a hoof-trimming appointment with the farrier – sorry, podiatrist – and bought moisturiser (my face is definitely a broken window).

But then I ran out of steam. The fridge jar graveyard, sea of to-be-recycled flexible plastics and time-critical tax email remain untackled, and so does everything else. I’ve been here before: it’s like the time I bought a decorative filing folder and, for two glorious weeks, put all my receipts in it and didn’t hide the post under a cushion. The borrowed burst of energy from a purchase promising to solve my problems only gets me so far: there are just so many windows and they all seem to be cracked.



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