hg: The Meaning of Gubbins

I recently got talking to a student from Germany. We avoided controversial topics like football, politics, and the concept of mushy peas, instead focusing on the quirks of our respective languages. I extolled the virtue of hauptbahnhof, for example. She responded with her admiration for kerfuffle. And then out popped one of the more spectacular questions I've been asked of late:

“What is gubbins?” she enquired.

Gubbins! What a wonderfully obscure word, I'd practically forgotten all about it. I suppose it must have been shoved to the back of my brain at some point and left to rot. Fitting, but one shouldn’t neglect such delightful lingo.

When asked for a definition I was stumped. What the hell is a gubbins? Something to do with dirt? Or small useless things? I couldn’t quite lay my finger on it. We turned to the internet for guidance and received a slippery description of miscellaneous items, bits and pieces, odds and ends.

Ahhh, odds and ends. The stuff that’s lurking in junk drawers, closets, garages and glove compartments the world over. Junk nestled at the bottom of hand bags. That Fitbit you gave up on. A rogue paperclip you don’t know what to do with. That, ladies and gentlemen, is gubbins.

And I loathe the stuff.

It’s like dust. A bothersome build-up that accumulates on formerly pristine surfaces and drifts into nooks and crannies. I’ve also seen it compared to Dark Matter, as in the mystical substance that makes up most of the known universe, despite scientists having no idea what it is or what it’s doing here. Like clutter hidden in cupboards, we can’t see Dark Matter for what it is. We can only sense it plugging the gaps of space and time.

Being a minimalist, I have to stay vigilant against any gubbins that might enter the house. It must be banished before it can take up a permanent residence. Key to this is an ‘Outbox’. We have a literal box in the cupboard under the stairs, into which we put anything that won’t be sticking around. Gifts yet to be given, things we’ve borrowed, and, of course, the gubbins. Every now and again I rifle through the Outbox and extract things that need to go.

It’s now deepest December and the Annual Festival of Gubbins is nearly upon us. ‘Tis the season for compulsory shopping. But rather than succumb to the whims of the season, I’ve had a surge in enthusiasm for decluttering. You see, all I really want for Christmas is an empty Outbox, so I’ve been relieving our home of a few things.

Things like worn out clothes and a neglected set of ski gear. Various gadgets too, such as the iPod, an external hard drive, and a bunch of old memory sticks. Also a resistance band, desk lamp, multi plug, and some magazines. The tool box has been downsized, the bread maker was sent to a new home, and some knick-knacks were carted off to charity shops.

All that stuff… GONE. Most of it was sold online, which produced a little stash of money to spend on Christmas presents for the family. Everything else was donated or recycled. Naturally.

Well, that’s that. It’s been a pleasant month, full of purging and selling and weeding out more useless shite to get rid of. Merry Christmas everyone!