Life’s Little Things

My car boot seems to epitomise the chaos which pervades family life

Last week my son opened the boot of our car while searching for his school bag and three wellies and a box of cornflakes plopped out into the puddle he was standing in. I considered leaving them all there in the mud but reluctantly decided that cleaning out the family car was no longer something I could put-off.

It had become increasingly difficult to find even the tiniest of spaces among the items that have taken up permanent residence in the boot of our car. I do not have a garage and have come to accept that our car will inevitably be home to an array of paraphernalia more suited to a bric-a-brac sale than a home.

The list of items found on one occasion included three tennis racquets, multiple tennis balls, shopping bags, hiking boots, spare clothes, bottles of bubble mix, buckets and spades, baby’s buggy, doll’s pram, box of recycling, charity shop bags, tow rope, first aid kit and emergency water supply. All perfectly reasonable non-hazardous items, even if it suggests a neurotic and over-prepared owner.

Unfortunately, I have also found a slice of toast, four odd pre-worn socks, some stray blueberries and believe it or not, a half-eaten sausage. The damp picnic blanket to which it was stuck, unused for many months and consigned to the dark recesses of the car was too depressing for words.

I live in fear of ever having to give another human being a lift in the car, how could I possibly explain this Barnum and Bailey collection overflowing from the boot into the seating area? It seems to epitomise the chaos which pervades family life and the vast amounts of ‘stuff’ which accompany everyday living. I realise that it also reflects a rather worrying obsession with being ready for anything. I love guidebooks and videos which explain how to survive an air crash in Antarctica with only an elastic band and a pipe-cleaner in your pocket.

Organising a family car for a trip whether to the local playground or venturing west of the Shannon may seem a paltry task in comparison to surviving a grizzly bear attack but takes skill to organise effectively. I have used my boot full of tricks on so many occasions that I find myself worrying obsessively about parting with any of it.


I have covered an injured cyclist with our car blanket, come to the aid of stranded neighbours with jump leads and tow ropes, used the first aid kit in multiple playground scrapes and called the potty into service for our toddlers at more than one remote location. Is this justification enough to continue hauling all of it around the countryside day after day?

I harbour a fantasy that in spite of my pathological need to be prepared, somewhere inside of me there lurks a free spirit yearning to cast off the weight of these burdens and take flight recklessly into the unknown. I am perilously close to having my car confiscated by well-meaning individuals in rubber gloves who threaten to declare it a biohazard so it was time to act.

A ridiculous number of hours later the car was de-cluttered, clean and vacuumed to within an inch of its life. It looked fantastic. Woe betide the child who brings a sausage anywhere near it.

Freed from the requirement to carry a parachute a raincoat and two dozen shopping bags on every little jaunt, it looked unburdened and I was ready for a carefree spin. I might just bring the wellies. And the band aids. And some spare water.

And the first aid kit – just in case!