Posted in Writing

The Perfect Tidying Storm

Order out of chaos in the utility room

This week my house hasn’t known what’s hit it. Never one to do today whatever housework can be put off till tomorrow, I’ve been decluttering like a demon, filling bags and boxes with stuff to eject, and turning out drawers with the exactitude and application of someone training for an Olympic medal in tidiness.
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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.
Posted in Writing

Moving On

Mary Pickford writing at a desk
Mary Pickford at her writing desk (Image via Wikipedia)

Though I’ve lived in this house for 21 years, every so often I feel an irresistible urge to rearrange the furniture. While new neighbours and their furniture vans have come and gone all around me – never more so than just now – I’m acting as if I’m still settling in.

This weekend, the acquisition of a new bookcase was the trigger. Once that was in place, I felt compelled to move the sofa to a different spot. Next an armchair, then a rug and a table – and before I knew it, I was upstairs rotating my bed 90 degrees. Realising this new layout provides a much better view on waking, I wonder why didn’t I use it before. Then I remember that I did, at least once, about ten years ago. I repositioned it during a subsequent feng shui phase when I discovered it was unfavourable not to be able to see the door from your pillow.

But no matter how much I move things about, I still never arrive at the perfect layout. It drives my husband mad. It’s bad enough when he can’t find his car keys: not being able to find his armchair is far worse.

A psychologist would have a field day with my restlessness. Is it all just displacement activity to avoid the things I know I really ought to be doing? That unfinished manuscript calls….

One thing’s for certain: I could never be one of those people who moves house every couple of years. I’d be in a constant state of exhaustion.

Fortunately, relocation is not on my agenda. Which means I’ve still got time to get the house straight before I die. In fact, that could be the title of my autobiography: “I’ll get it right before I die”. (On my gravestone will be “At last! An uninterrupted lie-in!”) That’s if I can ever decide on the best place to put my writing desk…

(This post was originally written for the Hawkesbury Parish News, November 2011)