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Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Going to the Life Laundry

DIY and interior design shows purport to improve your life by improving your environment - but do any of them actually work?

You can get the Homefront team to do your kitchen for you, or call for DIY SOS when you’ve made a hames of things yourself. The Changing Rooms posse will let your neighbours loose in your living room, and The Property Ladder shows you how to turn a profit from getting your hands dirty.

Interior desecrating is everywhere, but when the film crew has left, are you really better off?

You’re going to pile all the same old shite you had before back onto the shelves and carry on regardless - like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. If you’re miserable before, you’ll be miserable afterwards.

Unless you’ve been to The Life Laundry, which takes an innovative look at how people relate to their stuff.

The premise of the programme is simple - arrive at a frighteningly cluttered house, dump all the contents into the back garden, and force the homeowners to shred, sell, or give away almost all of it. Shift the remainder back inside, where the decorators have been busy, and voila, a brighter and less cluttered environment.

Some of the houses visited are so shocking even Carol Smillie would lose her grin. Junk strewn everywhere, baked bean tins from two decades ago in the kitchen cupboards, several years’ worth of unopened mail in a plastic bag halfway up the stairs.

You’d think that making an improvement in cases like this would be straightforward, but it can be very hard to persuade the homeowners they’re better off without this crap.

These houses are clogged with baggage in more ways than one. People seem to surround themselves with stuff as a result of important personal issues - bereavement, loneliness, childhood trauma.

Most episodes have a defining moment in which the chief hoarder in the household is driven to tears by host Dawna Walter’s insistence that a particular item has to go. The detritus is a physical manifestation of some emotional obstacle that they’re often unwilling to face.

It might be just a green scarf to you, but to the hoarder it’s something much more, and through sensitive handling of the situation, the show allows its subjects to do a mental spring cleaning that’s as valuable as the physical one. A new kind of interior decoration.

Most of us aren’t in the extreme positions of the people on the show, but in a small way, The Life Laundry shows how important it is to get our stuff together. And it’s not about rag rolling your walls or putting in a dado rail.

Posted in • Square EyesTelevision