The cat

I am not a cat person. Not really much of an animal person at all. But in the great binary question of dogs versus cats, I suppose I am a dog person. If I had to choose.

With great reluctance back in October, I took in a week-old abandoned stray kitten I found on the property and nursed it toward better health. Having spent years as a nanny of babies, I was kind of awestruck how much tinier and more vulnerable this kitty was, this baby who fit in my hand, with his big eyes looking up at me in total dependence.

Over the next month, I learned everything off YouTube videos in a haphazard crash course in kitten-rearing. The special milk, the toileting, the vet visits, the weaning, the socialising – while routines I could do blindfolded thanks to my career raising children, the cat-shaped version was quite different.

Then one day on a routine vet visit I was blown away by something I had never considered for a moment, and it turned my life upside down. My cat’s changing patchy fur was due to a fungal infection of the hair follicle – ringworm. Not a worm, I was emphatically told. I’d taken in an infested cat? How on earth can a week-old baby have that? Honestly, the thought of the cat’s hygenic health had never crossed my mind. The vet helpfully pointed out that people can catch it from their cats, and that mark on my neck was probably my own infection emerging. EEK! The cure? Anti-fungal creams for me plus medicated baths for the cat and hyper-vigilant cleaning of my house. And a lot of laundry. Argh!

Why do I tell this story, you ask? Well, after reading just about every Google result on the topic of ringworm, I happened across a cat blog who summarised everything in a way that relaxed my freak-out somewhat. Basically, they equated the airborne fungal spores to dust mites or pollen in an allergic person’s home; you can’t get rid of it all but you can take steps to reduce the spores, which piggyback on cat hair and regular dust, ergo reducing the spread.

And the best step to help yourself: Declutter!

After three years of living in my place, I guess a declutter was well due. Not that I hoarded or owned a lot, but the blog suggested to put away all but the most necessary items, so that the cleaning and clearing of dust and cat hair could be significantly reduced. I was already cleaning my house 2-3 times a week in the late-night hours after I was done with work, so the easier I could make my life, the better.

  • Into the recycling went all the boxes and craft-destined cardboard I had been reserving but never seemed to use much of
  • Piles of paperwork on the coffee table got put into empty cupboards and drawers in the living room, so I had instead clutter-free surfaces
  • Every single rug in my tiled house got rolled up, and I took to using slippers and bedsocks for walking around instead to counteract the cold floors
  • My colourful fake flowers by my bed found a home in the wardrobe
  • Toilet rolls and scales and other bathroom accoutrements went in cupboards
  • Laundry on clothes airers got put away as soon as it was dry
  • The cat himself got contained to just the spare room, but I had to accept the spores were already everywhere

When I was done, the change was remarkable. I hadn’t done all that much, but the lack of carpets and extra things strewn about gave a sense of order, tidiness and a minimalist look to my home. Cleaning, incidentally, became even easier. A quick dust or wipe of surfaces and a fast swoop of the broom and mop and I was done. It was the cat who took more effort and energy, dealing with all his hygiene and health needs.

As the new year rolled about, I decided it was a good time to look about and evaluate what else was in my home.

  • What papers and magazines are lying around that I can recycle?
  • What work tasks can be tackled and returned to their rightful place in the family home?
  • What seasonal clothes can be put away out of sight?
  • What toiletries and medicines are running low or unused and can be thrown?
  • What books can I read and donate?
  • What household items am I not using and should sell?
  • What expired or near-expiring foods are in my kitchen?

I got really motivated to sort things out and shift all the extra stuff I have acquired over the years here. I notice it each time we travel as I pack up, because the unnecessary stuff is what gets left behind, things I don’t need in day to day life living out of a suitcase. Just back from a winter break, it was a good time to seize the day and take action.

It’s funny how the cat set me off on this chain of events. Cleaning up yet again today, I felt inspired as I went, noticing things to be actioned and even the time – I was a good couple of hours ahead of how long it normally takes me to clean up, so here I am with an evening free and far less exhausted! This is the benefits of minimalism the experts talk about! Hooray!

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