Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A tale of tidying, turfing and transformation

Tidiness is a  very flexible concept, closely related to the ability to be organised, and to keep track of life. It also depends on the personalities, habits and priorities of those we live with.

Some friends are extraordinarily tidy. It would not matter at what hour you visited: there would never be a thing out of place. One friend never keeps a book. She reads it and then dispenses with it. She does not even own a bookcase. There are never newspapers or magazines around either. Everything is organised and put away. She attends to her business promptly and efficiently. It all makes me wonder how she manages it. Other friends have nooks and studies where any 'mess' is confined, and the living areas are immaculate and uncluttered. Such people and places bemuse me. For I am not really like that, myself.

I grew up in a small house, with seven children, and not very much storage place. True, the lounge room was kept tidy and impeccable, but it was for visitors, not for everyday living. We had a family room, where we all gathered in the evening, around the fire, and where we did our homework, with help from our parents. My mother would fall asleep in the armchair, and my father, who was a barrister, worked every night until midnight. He had a separate study, where he used to work on those nights when junior counsel came over to prepare for the current case before the courts. Generally we were all in together, in the family room.

We ate in the kitchen, which was very cluttered, and had insufficient storage space. My parents extended the house, enclosing the verandah, and transforming part of it into a sleep-out, and the study and family room were added. We all shared bedrooms, and the baby of the day slept in the lounge room until it outgrew the cot. As a child, I thought it was quite a large house, but when I revisited it years later, it was actually quite small and rather poky. Most houses were. McMansions were a thing of the future.

After my marriage, when we built a house, I insisted that it have a family room. I had grown up without television, but my husband's family had TV, and the lights were switched off every night while they all watched TV. I hated this, and wanted a separate space where I could read and listen to music.  So we had a family room as well as a lounge.  There was not much storage space but our possessions were few.  

As my husband was incredibly disinclined to do anything or to make any decisions, especially if it concerned something I wanted, the toys were all kept in cardboard cartons in the laundry, the books were inside wardrobes, and, as we never had fences built, the children could not play outside without supervision.

But let me fast-forward. Eventually, once I lived alone, I had shelves made, and was able to accommodate the growing book collection. But the years of having nowhere to put things apparently had a permanent effect. I did not attend to organising the paperwork. Instead of being tidy and organised all the time, it persisted in happening in fits and starts.

Since then, I have been accumulating possessions: household goods, books, CDs, ornaments, clothes, fabrics, yarns. From time to time, everything needs to be re-organised and tidied up. I keep buying books, and do not have enough space for them. They sit three deep on the shelves, and finding any book can present a challenge. The CDs need sorting and rearranging from time to time. My documents need to be sorted and put into files. Once a year the tax returns must be done. The newspapers are strewn around. Paperwork floats menacingly around our tables and living spaces. It does not seem to matter how often I tidy - frequently during the day is the pattern - a  certain level of chaos persists.

Dr P has his own stuff, of course, but as he is now less inclined to sort out things, this responsibility is passing on to me. This week, with the purchase of the new iMac, I have been galvanised into action. My sitting room, where I listen to music, use the computer, and sprawl on the couch reading, has been tidied. The paperwork has been sorted. It has been very hard work. As one thing inevitably leads to another, Dr P's study was cleaned, tidied, and some of his books are about to find new homes. Vinnies, here we come! Then the cupboard in the hall beckoned, and that too has suffered the depredations of the tidying angel. If something has not been touched or used in the ten years we have lived here, it can go!

It has all been good and productive labour. But very tiring. The new computer is still sitting on the floor, and I am expecting friends to come and lend a hand, and their expertise to get me up and running. All this activity has not done my sore hip much good, but the physiotherapist tells me that I really must do the exercises, and ensure that the muscles do not tighten up too much.

The Internet connection still drops out persistently, which is not at all amusing. Next week I may gather sufficient strength to ring India again. Not this week. I have stopped laying baits for the rats and this morning could not see any droppings. The rat trap has not caught anything. Not even once. Evidently rats know not to go anywhere near traps. I hope they have told their friends that there is absolutely nothing to eat around here any more, and that there is no point visiting, but I live in fear rather than hope.

A postcard arrived from Oxford today. How lovely.

It is now time to curl up on the couch with the books I bought at the book fair last weekend.


Anna said...

Was that my postcard? I only sent it on Friday! How marvellous.

I am one of those people who is organised in theory but often not in practice. I have a place for everything, but things are not always in their place. I admit to having a true love of filing, to the point where I type out labels for my files. This is a sickness.

Have you ever been in a Howard's Storage World shop? They present such wonderful (and expensive!) storage options, and offer a lovely dream of how organised your life could be in a perfect world.

molly said...

My rule is: If I acquire a new book, I have to pass one on to a friend,or donate at least one to the library. That way the numbers stay at a manageable level, or if I'm really good, drop! Rules, of course, are made to be broken, and I'm not always very good! I try to so the same with clothes....if something new goes into my closet, something old has to come out! But it's a constant struggle.....

Pam said...

Goodness, Molly - a ruthless streak that you've been keeping hidden!

(My ring, by the way, was a complete surprise, but Daughter 2 advised her dad. It's a bit big, though, and I'll get it altered.)

Tania said...

I need a book rule. I need a filing rule. I probably need to visit Ikea. Or not. I need a moment of sudden clarity when I see an organised future. So you reckon a new Imac could do that for me too? (says she, typing on her old Imac)...