Jayne Dawson: Don't be scared

It's customary to hate January I know, but actually I like it. Though "like" is probably the wrong word, a bit like saying a person likes sharks, when a better word would be "respect".

In fact, if January was a sea-inhabiting creature, and I realise that's a bit of a leap of the imagination but humour me and make it, then it definitely would be a shark.

It would though, wouldn't it? You know what I mean – January feels cruel but it isn't really, it's just doing what it has to do.

It's a killer month all right, but it's nothing personal. January is that way simply because it follows December which – look out here comes another wild leap for your imagination – would be a dolphin, wouldn't it? If it were a sea-inhabiting creature, I mean.

December is friendly and gregarious and up for some fun. It wants to join in, and be friends with everybody. It is the very opposite of the month that follows.

It's a terrible contrast but once you accept that January is circling, fearsome and hungry, then, you know, there can be a grudging respect.

And January is definitely a hungry month, no question about it. This week is the beginning of the famine after the feast, isn't it?

On Monday you will have taken stock of the post-Christmas situation.

You will have toured the house, tracking down all the remaining games of chocolate Scrabble, the solid milk chocolate football boots, the chocolate tree decorations that escaped the Great Tree Decoration Binge of the Thursday before Christmas, in the days when chocolate was still a novelty and not a sickening reminder of gluttony, and you will have bagged them and binned them – and then you will have taken the bag out of the bin and hidden it in a cupboard instead, to bring out at Easter, though you will probably find that Easter happens unaccountably early, probably in about three days' time.

Still, you will also have hunted down the stale mince pies, unopened Christmas cakes and the spare Christmas pudding, the one you bought in case your guests were still hungry enough to demand seconds after eating turkey with ten types of stuffing, chased down by a slice of pudding so heavy it took two hands to pass them their dish.

You will have tracked jars of seafood sauce, bits of pork pie, clementines turned into dried fruit in their dish by the radiator and, depending on your inclination, you will have either thrown it all into the garden to make the birds fat, or slapped it all on the table for a final blow-out before circling January grabs you.

It's not for the fainthearted this first month of the year, and if ever there was a time to stop adding leftover double cream to your breakfast porridge/muesli/Sugar Puffs, this is it. Yet there is a reassuring certainty in its bare bleakness, a certain pleasing contrast with the cluttered, chaotic December.

And there, right there, is the key to filling all those spaces left in your life where eating used to be, and one of the reasons January can be so satisfying, though not in a calorific way, obviously.

Because January is the supreme month for decluttering. Once you have dedicated December to the task of filling your home with fanciful fripperies, then you can spend January ruthlessly bagging and binning them.

You will have satisfied your hunter-gatherer instincts at the sales while life was still happy and full and lived by the warm glow of fairy lights, but now is the time to lay waste to all that.

To some extent it's an ongoing process: the black bags come out on Christmas morning and we women are rarely seen without one somewhere close by in all the days that follow.

But January sees the action intensified. We go way beyond grabbing detritus found on carpets and worktops and start drilling down deep.

Clothes that seem to have shrunk, gadgets that have remained in their original packaging since they were given to us as gifts the Christmas before this one, those ten packets of mini screwdrivers that we have been saving from festive crackers for the past decade in case they came in useful for fixing our specs, they all go in one great, guilt-inducing purge.

But what to do then? How to fill your time, once spent eating and buying, now that all the food and the money has long gone?

Well there is always that annual January sport – watching celebs frolic on far-away, sun-kissed shores.

The women will all look like they have never been within the same room as a turkey with ten types of stuffing – because they haven't – and the men will look like they have eaten the women's share as well as their own.

The women will be wearing teeny, tiny bikinis and smug expressions that say they despise the rest of us, struggling with the consequences of turkey with ten types of stuffing and regretting falling into that pit of temptation known as The Spare Christmas pudding.

The men will be wearing any old pair of shorts and a smug expression that says they are blokes and therefore they know they look great.

Either way, it's fun to watch, it adds spice to the sober days of January and it's a reminder, if one were needed, that though January circles like a shark, you are not Jaws, and you must stop eating everything you see.

Leeds, Sweet street, 28th March 1979'LIGHTING'Mr. Eddie Mullan, a lift engineer at the City of Leeds Public Works Department, Sweet Street, gives a last polish to one of the four old gas lamps that are to be sent to Germany.

Leeds nostalgia: Bits of old Leeds sent to Germany... in 1979