Category Archives: Fathers

Spring Cleaning a Life – Decluttering Mum’s Wardrobe

It was the ant world that pushed me into cleaning out or more precisely ‘decluttering’ my father’s wardrobe. Those pernicious insects propelled me into doing what 18 months ago grief couldn’t. With repulsion, I watched ants scurrying along shelves and up the walls of the walk-in robe that Dad had once shared with our mother. Following their trail, we discovered nests under books, boxes of old mobile phones, in the crevices of Mum’s ski boots and probably a lot of other places we didn’t look. 

These nests were all new since the February, nearly 2 years ago, when we had started to clean out the wardrobe after Mum’s unexpected death. Back then, my sisters were wandering around the house, dealing with their sorrow and needing to be kept occupied so Dad gently suggested they clean out Mum’s side of the wardrobe. It was only a few days after she had died and so, while I wrote a draft Eulogy, they sorted the clothes into three piles: ditch; give away and keep. It was a time to remember our mother and the occasions on which she had worn these clothes. It was also a way of dealing with saying goodbye.

My daughters were slightly disconcerted at the speed with which their aunts made these decisions. They kept dragging clothes from the pile and hiding them in a cedar chest for us to go through later. 

Although she loved fashion, Mum wasn’t a slave to it but her clothes were an integral part of her personality and she bought well. Tall and slim, she wore her clothes with a touch of elegance and style. Mum had an innate sense of what would look good on her and rarely bought something that she later regretted. Growing up, we girls often raided her wardrobe searching for something different to wear. 

Sensibly, my sisters realised that not all the clothes should be removed immediately as this would have left a very empty wardrobe for Dad to look at each time he got changed. Looking around the wardrobe as he and I tracked the ants I realised what a sense of Mum’s presence these clothes still carried. The fabrics have absorbed her smell and her perfumes.

The magic of cloth has the memory of the wearer

Her blouses evoked the shape of her body as they hung from the soft padded coat hangers that she used. It is the magic of cloth that it has a memory and I could still see the creases at the elbow of the shirt that Mum had hung up to wear a second time. If I was considering a memento mori it would be one of my mother’s silk shirts that have started to fray at the edges and seams. I feel like that myself some days. 

Decluttering the wardrobe,

We looked at her shoes, none of which either I or my sisters and our children could fit. Mum had long slim feet and was justly proud of them. Now after a hot humid summer, mildew was forming on some of the shoes that hadn’t been worn for months.

I’ll share this task with you I said to Dad as I climbed a small step ladder to inspect the top shelf. This was where suitcases, carryon bags, satchels, pillows, rugs, etc had been placed. There were three carry-on bags and three large suitcases. I handed the first down to him which was light then reached for the second one, an early Samsonite, well-made but now superseded in design and materials. This needs to go I suggested pulling it off the shelf. Feeling the difference in the weight even he agreed that it might be surplus to requirements. Suitcases also have changed. Mum’s father had given her a crocodile skin suitcase when she first travelled to England in 1955 and she had kept it. It is a beautifully crafted piece of luggage and I cannot throw it out, despite knowing that none of us will use it when travelling. It is now the happy depository of our Christmas decorations.

‘At 94, I think it is ambitious to plan decluttering each year.’

 ‘We should declutter your shelves every couple of years,’ I suggested, looking at the wardrobe.

‘At 94, I think that’s a little ambitious,’ he responded.

The lower shelves were a clutter of half-read books, old and unused out of date diaries, wrapping paper and ribbons, and boxes. Boxes of old mobile phones both Mum’s and Dad’s dating back to their first Nokias. The backing on the old clamshell phone had melted the sides together. ‘I am keeping them just in case,’ Dad protested as I tossed them into the bin.

I gave him a scathing look. ‘Dad, you use a phone on which you can facetime my sisters and our children who are all interstate or overseas.’ Why do you want to go back to the dark age?’  I could feel my Mother whispering in my ear pointing out that she was not the hoarder in the household. ‘Keep going.’ I could hear her urging me. 

We paused for a coffee then I departed with bags of lovely shoes and shirts for our local charity. Later that evening I found Dad distributing his clothes on the now empty racks. ‘I have found shirts I had forgotten I had,’ he said, proudly pointing to his shirts all hanging off quaint padded clothes hangers. ‘You know, I think your mother used to buy me a shirt whenever she bought her herself an expensive outfit as I have shirts I haven’t worn in years.’

Some of us just cannot see a clean empty shelf or space without filling it. Dad was always being accused of covering every horizontal surface in their home and I think Mum was justified as the next day, I caught him tying a rope around a wheeled pot plant stand on which he had precariously balanced a carton of wine. He declined my offer to help as he said it was the last carton from under the couches in the study where they had been stored for the past year. 

‘You can’t have drunk it all so where are the rest of the cartons,’ I asked watching him shuffle down the hallway tugging his wine behind him. 

I should have known. The once empty wardrobe shelves are now crammed with boxes of old files and cartons of wine. There was even a bottle opener. ‘Your mother loved her glass of wine and was happy to have a drink anywhere, anytime,’ Dad chuckled. ‘Do you think she’d approve?’ 

Decluttering the wardrobe?

I have a feeling that it wasn’t thunder I heard overhead, but my mother stamping her feet, cross that she hadn’t thought of having a drink in her walk-in robe before he did.


Organising myself into 2017



A perfect place to knit and read

I looked at my 90-year old father on this New Year’s Eve and mused that he could possibly, although highly unlikely have made 70 New Year Resolutions. What a challenging concept. Why would you want to change yourself that much? So why am I bothering this year? Only because this year’s decision could be fun and thus more likely to succeed. In 2017 I am resolved not to more organised but to be less disorganised in my life.

‘Good luck’, said Andy, ‘that means we will have to get rid of all horizontal surfaces in the house.’

I muttered that he might be my first project, which made him hurry past the cluttered, untidy bookshelves and back into his study. ‘There’s opportunity on them there shelves,’ he hollered from the safety of his ‘cave’.


A quilt project on spare bed

He is right of course, as I work under the philosophy that all flat surfaces, i.e. the tables, couches, benches, floor and beds should be covered because what else is a flat surface for. The only time our house looks remotely like the pages of an interiors magazine is when I go away for a holiday and leave him at home. He probably has a blissful time and able to find everything he needs but within an hour of my returning everything starts to look as it did before I left. knitted-trim-quilt

I do have a history of clutter. I remember my grandmother advising me not to leave my new baby on the floor as I would never find her again and my brother-in-law once asked me whether I had just moved into the house in which I had been living for 2 years.

It isn’t that I am untidy, it is just that I have a lot of projects on the go at any one time: I am making a recycled jumper quilt, knitting a baby rug, knitting some washcloths out of gorgeous brightly coloured cotton, sewing a balloon skirt, altering an Italian cotton skirt as well as reading numerous books and magazines and that is before you open the food cupboard and fridge where I am making ginger beer, sourdough and jams.

However, I do acknowledge that just occasionally, having a system or plan to work with can be of assistance in achieving my goals.


Painting, boring but great effect

To start the momentum of this 2017 New Year Resolution I needed a significant project and what better task than to tidy up the dark area outside my laundry where I store my gardening equipment. Naturally I don’t start small and the easiest most effective way of making it look better is to paint it white. I am full of admiration for all those house painters who finish their jobs so quickly. What a tedious and time consuming job the painting of my slats has been and a very fiddly task particularly when negotiating the copper piping that leads to the hot water system. It wasn’t just a matter of slapping on a coat of white paint because the slats had many coatings of timber oil that had gradually darkened over the years. So I had to wash them, paint them with primer and then 2 coats of white paint on the inside and 2 coats of pale yellow on the outside to match the rest of the house. I was going to just do white but it started to look like a gingerbread house and very tizzy so I went with the yellow that blends with the corrugated iron and timber walls near by.

Andy just looked at me as if I was crazy, ‘Why change what works?’. This man could live in a cardboard box and be happy, as long as it had a wine bar. Interior design really isn’t his thing, nor does he ever feel the need to change the look of his environment. Once it is painted, leave it that colour and then you don’t have to think about other design considerations such as matching up the trim colour.


My projects on ‘Our’ workbench

I really didn’t mind as this area is my space and I am Head Gardener so I get final say in what goes. He has his ‘cave’ where he sits contentedly surrounded by his books, computers, drones, electronic gear, shredder, printer, and I get the rest of the house including his workbench which is usually covered in my current outside project like the ‘weed tea’ being irrigated by the aquarium aerator so that it doesn’t stink the house out and the wreaths made from the wisteria vine, and the baskets made from palm inflorescences. Somewhere underneath all these things sits the hedge trimmer and the tree saw.


First attempt at weaving palm inflorescence

But getting to the back of the house and my garden space, this I could do.  I moved the potting bench away from the walls, threw down an old sheet and up the ladder with paint brush in hand I went. Each day I could see the space lightening up. Even the Master and Commander noticed the increase in light. This is a work in progress and now I have the walls painted I can begin to declutter the workbench and floor. By declutter, I don’t mean throw out, as I never toss anything away until I am totally convinced I won’t use it again in some form or other. To me declutter means being organised.



Storing garden gloves and florist wire

Pride of place is the back of the slatted door. If nothing else is achieved this year, I believe I can meet my resolution just on the back of this door. How good is this solution for garden gloves? So simple but it has taken me years to think of this. Check out my solution for storing all the small bamboo sticks that you collect with orcids and how to store the craft and florist wire. I will have no excuse not to wire the roses I am drying onto one of the wreaths sitting on the bench.


Garden glove storage

This is a good reason not to throw anything out. Three years ago, I had used the plastic piping in the garden to secure stakes over which I had thrown bird netting to protect some fruit trees.


Storing florist wire

I plugged the piping with an old broom handle that I had also refused to discard.  I own up to asking the assistant to cut the broom handle as I felt he should be involved with the project and I sense a reluctant tinge of admiration for my ability to upcycle most things. Not that he would admit it mind you.

In the meantime, I go out each morning with a cup of coffee and just admire my handiwork  and eventually, as I do have all of 2017 to be organised, I will get around to tidying up the pots and bags of compost. You don’t want to rush a genius.

Then I hear a voice from the driveway where my father is practising his golf swing.   ‘Dull women have immaculate houses.’

Version 2

Never too late to improve your swing.

My father is right, I realise.  Go out and enjoy yourself and don’t try to be someone you are not. Rather than making resolutions each year, perhaps it is better to strive to improve on the present while enjoying and liking who you are.






A father comes in many guises

Father’s Day in Australia really isn’t a big deal in our house. Of course I’ll have my father to lunch if he isn’t playing bridge or golf with his mates or lunching with his wife of 61 years. Our children might phone in to say hi, but if they don’t, their father isn’t going to be cast into the doldrums feeling neglected. He knows he is loved.

I, like other women I know, have played father to my children. Whether it was because of long hours at work, divorce, or death there have been many times when I have had to play the traditional role of father as well as mother.

Sailing Days

A competitive father and disgruntled daughter

I have kicked the football, thrown the cricket ball, discussed dating and sex education and offered the ‘don’t drink and drive’ advice often to a withering scowl. I have learnt to communicate in grunts and lived with nocturnal teenagers.

Web-The-Craigs-1My husband was in the reverse situation of playing mother to three boys and a girl. He adores them all and is immensely proud of his brood of 7 children and 10.5 grandchildren.


What do you mean I cannot raise my daughter like the boys? It worked for these three fellows.

He is the first to admit that bring up a girl in a family of boys was a challenge.  He isn’t the most demonstrative of men, (read that as hugging), but he can cook a mean brownie to take to the school rugby and is prepared to defend his daughter’s honour, even when she doesn’t want him to.

Whether you are a father or mother, being a parent is equal parts fun, hard work, lonely, terrifying and exhilarating. It isn’t a role for that can be discarded when you are tired, busy at work or disinterested. It is a job that demands everything of you, it is draining emotionally and physically and you should not expect devotion; that is for the dog. Affection must be earned.

You will never stop being a parent no matter how old you grow as my Grandmother told me when she was 100 and still worrying about her girls. My father at 90, is not above giving me advice, nor is he above competing with his grandchildren when he can.


Showing off

Fatherhood is fun but the competitive nature of the man keeps coming out. He has to climb higher trees, do what his kids do and do it better. For some obscure reason lost in the Neanderthal mists, he continues to compete despite the handicaps that age eventually imposes on his body. I doubt if we women are any less good at accepting age gracefully.Web-Canberr-trip-1998-3-(1)

I trained as a midwife and thought I was prepared for motherhood, but nothing prepares you for that gut wrenchingly complicated feeling when you hold your baby for the first time. As their stepfather says, ‘If you thought too deeply about fatherhood, you mightn’t do it.’Bill with newborn Angus

As a father (and mother) I accept that we are to blame as we started it all. Yes, I realise that you blame me for your separation anxiety dating from when you were forced to leave the home that you and your mother shared but you had to make room for the others. My fatherly advice is ‘Get over it.’

This is our father’s day message to you, our children. You are the most awesome, overwhelmingly frustrating and challenging thing we do in our lives and you changed us and our lives from the moment you arrived. We have adored being a mother and a father however, there are some points that we hadn’t anticipated including:

  • Never having a moment of privacy again and no, you cannot always cross swords with me when I am having a pee!
  • If you want to share my bath you had better stop complaining that Chanel No 5 is too girlie. There is a perfectly good shower over there that you can have on your own,Version 2
  • Our dog appreciates the delicious well-balanced meals I cook every evening even if you don’t so if you don’t like what I’ve cooked, help yourself to cereal and milk,
  • No, I don’t eat cold toast because the butter doesn’t melt; my toast, like all my food is always cold by the time I have cut yours up,
  • Experiencing that feeling of rejection when even at 4 years old you let me know that you prefer the company of your friends to me,

    Bill playing with Angus on Main Beach

    A new take on dermabrasion

  • being prepared to look like a fool in public and being chased around the house wearing a hat made from newspaper shouting Ninja at the top of my voice, but why do I always have to be the baddie,
  • Never catching a fish off the beach again because I am untangling little people’s lines

    Beach fishing for Gus and Jemma

    What do you mean that I never catch a fish?

  • Feeling utterly desperate when you are lying in a hospital bed running a fever,
  • Being appalled at my wish for you to grow up so that we can talk as adults,
  • Knowing where to find a hairdresser when the home dye job turns green,
  • Wishing you hadn’t grown up because you are drinking too much of my whiskey,
  • Being impressed when you turn up with a replacement bottle,

    Andy teaching Sophie to tie a bow tie

    Its easier when I do it on myself

  • Being furious that you don’t share my opinion but delighted that you have an opinion,
  • Being enormously proud of your every achievement,
  • Being asked for advice on your love life, knowing that you probably won’t take it and realising that we are the same – human and fallible.Old memories 6


For our family, father’s day is just another day to talk with each other, toast our strengths and peculiarities and take pleasure in each other’s company.

A Father’s influence

A brand new father

A brand new father

‘The pleasure of your company’ has always been my father’s response to questions about what he would like for father’s day. To him it is just another day to enjoy our company.

I grew up with the understanding that a person’s intellect was far more interesting and of value than what that person owned. Dad has never placed great value on possessions although he is certainly observant and notices any new jewelry my mother’s friends are wearing but he would be far more inclined to give Mum an interesting book that he would then read. Occasionally and probably to keep the peace and because he adores my mother, he succumbs to gentle persuasion and goes with her to the current favourite jeweler.

I didn’t get my sense of fashion from my father. It isn’t that he is disinterested in clothes but they are there for a purpose and there are more interesting things in life to consider. His desk is cluttered with books, journals, and articles that intrigue him with little room for irrelevant toys and his tools have to be functional. Even his choice of cars were chosen for a purpose: the enormous Studebaker that fitted his four girls across the bench seat, the Range Rover that carried us all onto the beach at Stradbroke Island to go fishing, and the Audi that fits his golf clubs.

Despite being a slightly built man, Dad has always kept himself fit. This is possibly one of his few  vanities. He has always run and swum, and passed on his love of exercise to his daughters. In fact I start feeling guilty if I slack off and don’t workout each day.  Now that he is older, he still insists on walking the dogs around the block and if it is raining I hear him on the exercise bike. I think his next challenge is to set up a running track beside the bike for the dogs to use in rainy weather. Dad has always played sport, whether it was rugby whilst at university, squash with his mates, tennis with his girls, sailing around Moreton Bay and of course his golf game. Sport is where he has allowed his highly competitive nature its release. There are still 89-year old men who talk about his prowess on the rugby field. Forget about letting his girls beat him at tennis, and if you surfed he would be delighted to take you out the back and wait for the longest largest wave back to shore. It was not that he expected you to follow his example, it just never occured to him that you wouldn’t. Now his grandsons play golf with him and boast of his ‘Hole in one’ effort. He laughs about this last achievement as he says he is so blind that he hadn’t realized the ball had gone in and he was wandering around on the green looking for it.

Dad is incredibly clever with a very retentive memory and loves nothing better than sitting having a discussion about current affairs through which he sprinkles remembered facts from past read information. You can try to contest his knowledge but rarely do we get the better of him. I love listening to my nephews challenge him on something they have studied and watch his eyes light up at new knowledge.

He has been a moderating influence in my life, gentle and wise. He is a man of few words so when he speaks we listen. When he says, ‘Susan, have you considered….’ I know I had better pause and have a second think. I still treasure the moment when he dropped by one day during a challenging period of my life and said ‘What ever you decide, I will back you.’ He has probably forgotten that moment from 20 years ago, but it has given me enormous strength throughout my life.

So at 89 years of age, the star of my life is still my father and on father’s day we will gather as many of the family around as possible, have a barbecue and toast our good fortune in having each other.Susie & her father