“IT’S good to go away – but even better to get back home,” a former contributor to this page once confided in me.

I have to say that I agree with her; I find myself counting the days to my holidays, but I always appreciate the relieved sense of homecoming when putting the key in the lock on the front door.

It’s the same with Christmas decorations. I love getting them out of the box. The same bits of tinsel and bits and pieces adorn the house in the same places they always do (my son insists on it). The obsolete ‘snowmen’ fairy lights, desperately defying a blown bulb to retain their claim to their usual spot; the tree decorations, each one with a story to tell; some inherited, carrying their own secrets from previous generations. The Santa that used to adorn my parents’ tree that I remember from my childhood; the irreplaceable cardboard star that my son made at preschool, looking the worse for wear and tear each year (as we all are!), but essential never the less, jostling for position on the tree alongside recent acquisitions.

My son and I always buy a decoration for the tree from holidays that we go on to remind us, of summer warmth in the depths of winter and when we choose them we know that memories of our holiday go with us throughout the year. This year a model Eiffel Tower joined a previous years’ camel from Dubai and a miniature piano from Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg.

The house exudes a cosy, warm, nostalgic familiarity. Everything is in its place, evoking memories of the past and reassuring us both that God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.

But by January 5 (according to tradition) they all have to come down. The tree goes out in the garden ready for the council to recycle the following week, the decorations are lovingly re-wrapped in tissue paper that’s as old as they are and replaced in the same battered box that’s always been their 11 month resting place to be returned to the loft to be forgotten about till next year.

And the house, freed from glitter, dropping needles, unnecessary trappings and seasonal paraphernalia, breathes a sigh of relief and returns to normality. The dog and the cat can rediscover familiar haunts and resting places, and, to quote, Julia Donaldson’s famous children’s book ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ I rediscover that our home is no longer as cluttered, cramped and untidy as it usually feels. “Just look at my house, it’s enormous now…. There’s no need to grumble, no need to grouse; there’s plenty of room in my house.”

So having got rid of one lot of clutter, I am determined that this year I will keep it that way until next year…