Kitchen Clutter and the Best Things of 2023

Everything that got me through this year.

Kitchen Clutter and the Best Things of 2023

A couple of years ago, I bought a breadmaker. But a problem became quickly apparent: homemade bread is so good that we, you know, eat it. I could spend a fortune on flour and just live on warm bread and jam. And so it sits there, next to the coffee machine, not making bread.

The breadmaker has an annoyingly smooth lid. I say it's annoying because it attracts clutter. All the little objects that don’t have somewhere to live congregate here. At the time of writing, I can see a green plastic tub full of roasted pumpkin seeds, a bag of guinea pig treats, a bottle of Calpol containing a dribble of medicine, about eight candy eyes leftover from Halloween, a packet of ibuprofen, a packet of paracetamol, three AA batteries, a bottle of nail polish remover, a weird sugary syrup spray that my son bought with his pocket money, and a receipt from Aldi (£103.74, argh).

When I was in my early twenties, we visited the house of an older couple we knew. They had a clutter problem: toys and books and hairbrushes and paperwork and baby clothes, just an endless hoard of stuff spilling out everywhere.

At the time, we lived in a flatshare with a friend because that was all we could afford. I wanted a house where I could have clutter unstoppably multiplying on every surface, and I wanted it badly. Only I wouldn’t live like this. I would appreciate our house because I knew what it was like to not have one. When I became a mother, I would simply tidy up!


I’m telling you this because a) it’s funny to look back on yourself and realise what a dick you used to be, and b) I’ve been looking at this clutter every day while cooking dinner, and I have remembered that I am lucky to be here. I am lucky to be alive. Lucky to have a roof over my head. Lucky that my kids come home to a warm, cosy, and slightly untidy house. Lucky that we can sleep at night without worrying that we won’t see each other again. Compared to some parts of the world right now, this security is an unfathomable luxury.

I can’t do the game/book/film of the year thing. Partly because it’s 2023 and it’s basically impossible, but partly because I hate having to pick my ultimate thing.

So instead, here’s a haphazard, clutter-on-top-of-the-breadmaker-style list of the things I loved this year, in no particular order.

I’ll start with the obvious ones: I got to review both Super Mario Bros. Wonder and Pikmin 4 for Ninsight this year, and I feel incredibly grateful. Both games have provided me with the light, joyful, Nintendo-ey escapism that I really needed when I felt down.

I also finally got round to playing Life is Strange: True Colours thanks to Game Pass, and it made me about ten times more determined to write about video games.

And while we’re talking about blockbuster things: The Super Mario Bros. Movie and the Barbie movie proved to me that, for the right film, people will go to the cinema in their droves. The atmosphere for both films on their opening weekends was excellent, and they made me genuinely excited to go to the cinema again.

Bookwise, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin was the best book I read this year. I laughed and cried and deeply appreciated the craft of bringing this story to life. It contains the most realistic depiction of the games industry I’ve ever seen in fiction, and I wish I could read it again for the first time.

Also I read Overstory this year, another sweeping epic but on a grander scale, a story of the planet Earth, in death throes, screaming out to humans using the medium of a vast network of trees. It was incredible, even if it occasionally felt like a slog.

Finally, TV-wise: Ghosts. How the hell did I not know that Ghosts was a thing? I love Horrible Histories almost as much as the kids and now, there’s this full-blown sitcom with my favourite actors, only for grown-ups. We haven’t finished it yet. We’re savouring it, spreading out the episodes like a delicious snack.

‘Is what I said.’

And some less-blockbuster-but-personally-excellent things:

I played some excellent indie games this year, including but not limited to: Citizen Sleeper, Jusant, Eastward, Oxenfree II (do we still count this as indie even though Netflix is involved?), and Dordogne. I plan to write a lot more about indie games next year and I’ve got some cool things lined up so, you know. Watch this space.

I want this still from Dordogne as a print on my wall.

Also, shoutout to Headbangerz. Part Parappa the Rappa, part Fall Guys. It is probably one of the happiest things I’ve played for a while (and it helps me to not go insane). And the Mother/EarthBound series, which I spent a lot of time with this year.

Going back to books, And I Do Not Forgive You is an incredible collection of short stories by Amber Sparks. I read this on holiday, and it genuinely opened my eyes about how much you can push the boundaries with short fiction. It’s dreamlike, strange, sometimes violent, and just gorgeously written.

And also, Tom Lake by Ann Patchett. Loved this book: it’s a slow-burning character-driven kind of thing, and it made me want to grab my children and give them a big squeeze.

I’ve written about this already, but the 1999 movie But I’m a Cheerleader had a surprisingly huge impact on me, a straight British mum. I’ve also enjoyed a lot of spooky things this year but Talk to Me was outstanding. Chris and I actually stood up at one point, hands over our mouths, frozen in genuine terror. Masterful work.

And music. We went to a ton of gigs this year; I feel very lucky to have been able to afford to support our favourite artists in this way, and we’ve made some amazing memories. Live music will continue to be a priority, although maybe we won’t try to cram as many gigs in next year because I feel guilty when my mother-in-law has to babysit. But still:

It’s not been the easiest year in a lot of ways. For many people I know, 2023 was a bit of a shitshow. For us, it’s been up and down. But ultimately, we’re here, we’re healthy, and we had some incredible moments in amongst the harder stuff, and that’s what I’m thinking about today.

Thank you for reading this every week; it means the world to me, to have you here. Here’s to 2024: may it treat us kindly. 🥂