Posted in Personal life

A Study in Tidiness

Entrance to my study
Before: enter at your peril – and yes, that IS a spinning wheel in the corner

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but in the last week or so I’ve been hurtling about the house in a frenzy, clearing out cupboards, rationalising bookshelves, streamlining wardrobes. My home is looking as much like a showhouse as a Victorian cottage is ever likely to be.

On Wednesday, I spent about three hours sorting out my nine-year-old daughter’s bookshelves, alphabetizing the novels by author and sorting the non-fiction into classifications, as if her bedroom was a library.  (You can call me Dewey.)

Today, I’ve spent best part of the afternoon clearing up my study – no mean feat by anybody’s standards, as you can see by the “before” photos here.

My untidy desk

Though hard work at the time, it’s definitely worth the effort. I’ve long been a believer in the basic principles of Feng Shui (well, the lazy person’s version, that is – I don’t go in for all that purist business of deflecting poison arrows and hanging octagonal mirrors). It’s common sense that if you  surround yourself with order rather than chaos, you will feel calmer and more in control of your life.

I’ve also always been fond of rearranging furniture and am constantly in pursuit of the perfect layout. A little bit too fond: I recently googled it to see whether it is a clinically labelled condition. (I didn’t find one – yet.)

Messy corner of my study
Rookie mistake here: that’s a chair, not a bookshelf

I wonder whether my current urge for order stems partly from the new neighbours who are renovating the formerly derelict house adjacent to mine.  They have transformed the place. Its shiny glowing newness puts my house to shabby shame. My previous next door neighbour was a recluse with a profound antipathy to DIY. He had a broken window at the back of the house that another elderly neighbour swore had not been repaired since the Second World War. He elevated procrastination to an art form. And he set a very low bar for any aspirations we might have had to keep up with the Joneses.

That’s more like it: books on shelves- oh, and in a laundry basket. Oops.

But the new neighbour’s renovations had been going on for some months before my latest round of compulsive tidying took hold. So maybe it was more a natural  reaction to Christmas and a coping mechanism for absorbing the influx of Christmas presents into an already overflowing household.

There again, the imminence of my birthday (5 days to go and counting) may be a trigger. Do I need to prove to myself that I must make a difference to my environment before I get another year older?

But there’s another annual occurrence that I suspect is the trump card: the arrival of a certain green printed letter on my doormat. No, it’s not an early birthday card from the Wizard of Oz, nor a John Lewis credit card statement. It’s a reminder from the HMRC that self-assessment tax returns are due by the end of this month.  And I really hate filling in my tax return.

This is no tidying bug – it’s tax evasion, Jim, but not as we know it.

Tidy study
Now all I need to get in order is my tax return.


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

16 thoughts on “A Study in Tidiness

  1. I’m in that boat too, avoidance and finding lots of little jobs to distract is my current plan, which means, the weekend looms and I will have to sort it out too, tax returns brrrr!

    Lovely tidy office by the way! Bet it feels nice to be in. Now in the true feng shui tradition, get some scented candles burning, to clear the air!

    1. Ah, I knew there was something I’d forgotten! My Cath Kidson parcel arrived yesterday with new flowery folders and lamps. 🙂
      And now I’ve come up with another excuse not to do my tax return – it’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m sure HMRC doesn’t really expect me to think about tax on my birthday! Hmmm….

  2. Huh, impressive. I’m still waiting for the morning an impulse will overcome my procrastination. Tax returns in my neck up should be an incentive. Hope I’ve not lost the plot all-together. Happy birthday to you:)

    1. Don’t be too impressed – I did also bribe myself by ordering some new stationery from my favourite supplier that I would only be able to fit onto my desk once it was clear! And it’s just arrived – hurrah! An early birthday present to myself – thank you for your good wishes!

  3. Wow, the before and after pictures are great – I wonder how its looking now though, 2 days on, hmmm?
    I like how you start tidying by putting the books in alphabetical order. That’s about the only tidying thing that I enjoy doing.

    1. Haha! You’ve got me there – after about 8 hours’ hard work yesterday, I realised it was not quite the same as it was in the “after” shot! I guess I should print and frame the “after” photo and hang it over my desk to remind me to keep it that way! And still haven’t done my tax return either!

  4. Hi Debbie – this is hysterical. I just came upstairs having said to my husband – “Right I am not going to tidy up my office so that I can do my tax return!” I’ve been putting it off all weekend and instead find myself browsing blogs / twitter and doing everything but get it sorted! It is in a not dissimilar state of chaos as in your ‘before’ photo! I’m kind of tempted to take a before and after photo too! By the way I like the look of your corner desk – where was it from out of interest?

    1. Haha! I think taking the “before” photos made me realise how awful it was, which was a great incentive. The desk is from IKEA – wasn’t too expensive and they do right-handed and left-handed versions, depending on which way you want it to face. It definitely transformed the way I work – loads of space to clutter up, er, I mean to work in an orderly way! Still haven’t done the tax return though…

      1. Of course I meant above ‘I am *now* going to tidy my office’ etc… (there’s a typo in the post!) But it’s still not done – nor the tax return…. but I’m working up to it!

  5. I am so glad I am not the only one with an obsession for moving furniture around my house – one of my constant phrases after a quick re-organisation is: ‘it looks so much better like this.’ But I’m convinced you notice objects/pictures/items of furniture more when they change position every now and again……at least that’s my theory!

    1. Yes, it is reassuring to know I’m not the only one too! My husband’s comment after every time I do this is “So does that mean you got it wrong last time then?”
      I just found somewhere on the internet where it said that moving furniture is a sign of creativity and the ability to view things from fresh angles – let’s go with that one, shall we?!
      Far more disturbing to be the type who couldn’t bear to move things around, ever!

  6. Lovely tidy study! I’ve actually been on a tidying and cleaning frenzy recently too, I spent the best part of Thursday evening cleaninig all the hard to reach parts of the kitchen with a toothbrush! I must be mad.
    You have inspired me to tackle my 9 yesr old’s bedroom today!

    1. Ha! 9 year old’s bedroom! Been there, done that – and still recovering!
      Don’t think I’m quite at the toothbrush-wielding stage in the kitchen yet, though – that sounds more like a punishment!
      Good luck with your mission and I hope your 9 year old is as grateful as mine was (amazingly thanked me not once but twice!) Glad to have set you on your way there!

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