Tag Archives: organising

Tidy house, tidy mind?

I’ve been on something of a mission the past few weeks: a mission to finally bring order to the chaos that we live in. Or at least to tidy up the house a bit and make sure everything has a home…

It’s a job that’s been a long time coming. We first moved into this house just over four years ago. Then we had the builders in to renovate from top to bottom which took about a year and a half, with most of our stuff still in boxes and us shifting from room to room as our plans took shape around us.

During that time I was heading up an English department at a school in Plymouth, where Leigh was also based for the first two years of his med school training. Days were long and life was fast, and then I got pregnant: Arthur arrived approximately ten days after the builders finally left, bringing with him all the joy and craziness that accompanies a newborn.

The upshot of which is that, coming up for three years later, there were still boxes of stuff which had not actually been unpacked since we left London. And on top of those were more boxes delivered by my parents when they sold the family home. And one of the reasons none of them had been unpacked was that too many cupboards and drawers were full of I knew not what stuffed haphazardly in on the days when I snatched ten minutes to attempt to tidy up a bit.

And suddenly, having been saying for months that I needed to get on top if it all, I decided enough was enough: as soon as my feet touched the ground after our summer of adventures I was struck by an overwhelming desire to get organised.

And so I have.

I’m not quite there yet, but things are looking so much better: I’ve sorted Arthur’s toys and clothes and found homes for the many he’s grown out of, I’ve unpacked box after box of artefacts from my past, I’ve moved furniture around to make better use of space, I’ve sourced frames for all the pictures that needed them and have finally created the picture walls I’ve been visualising for years.


It’s all been a bit manic, and as much as I’ve been feeling a real sense of achievement I’ve been wondering why – why on earth have I decided now to get my house in order, just at the point when I have possibly the most challenging edit yet of my novel to get my head around?

But I think that’s precisely it.

I’ve never been the tidiest of people (don’t laugh, mum), and it’s never especially bothered me before: I’ve always been pretty good at zoning out the detritus surrounding me to focus on the task in hand. But this time feels different. Maybe it’s the new level of clarity I feel I need to achieve in order to do this draft justice, maybe I’m feeling the pressure of trying to simultaneously be a full-time mum and a successful novelist. Whatever the cause, I’m pretty sure this manuscript is going to turn out a whole lot more polished if it – and I – have space to think and breathe.

I’m trying not to use the tidying thing as a procrastination tool – I am already well underway with this fourth draft, and have been fitting in an hour or two of editing every day at nap time. But yesterday I finished working through the notes I’ve been given by other readers, so this final push now needs to come from me alone.

There’s still a way to go on the mission for a truly tidy house, but my writing room is very nearly sorted. And once it is, there will be no more excuses not to get in the zone and get this novel ship shape too.


Muddled Manuscript

Word of the Week: Organised

I’ve been getting organised on so many levels this week, sorting out a whole bunch of things I’ve been meaning to do for ages – it’s been properly exhausting! I’d built up an epic to do list (mainly in my head) over the past few months of novel-writing, and with that in a bit of a natural lull and Christmas and Arthur’s birthday fast approaching it was time to tackle it.

It started last Saturday with an afternoon in Totnes for Christmas shopping and a long-overdue haircut. I don’t actually think I’d been to the hairdresser since Arthur was born – and my hair went from this:


To this:


Not bad huh? And infinitely more manageable…

The Christmas shopping was pretty successful, though generally rather than getting gifts I was looking for materials… I decided a while ago that I really wanted to try to make most of my presents this year, and though it seems like a bit of a crazy idea I haven’t been able to shake it. So we were trawling charity shops and craft shops and haberdashers for bits and pieces I thought I might be able to use. We did come across one thing we absolutely had to have – I’m making Arthur a doll for Christmas and we came across this gorgeous vintage pram in Oxfam:


You may remember that he rather likes prams, and I imagine this one will be used to push all sorts of things around!

By Monday I had a list of present ideas, a bunch of crafty bits and bobs, and various other things I still had to get online. With the help of Ebay and Etsy (and a little bit of Amazon) that proved to be fairly easy to solve, but there was a bigger issue looming, one which I just couldn’t ignore any longer: the mess.

When we moved into our house it needed top to toe renovation, and the work was finally finished (well, almost) about a week before Arthur was born. We did a reasonable job of getting ourselves sorted, but there were still bags and boxes I hadn’t really touched since the move and Arthur’s arrival obviously added a whole other layer of stuff. Two rooms were really suffering: our bedroom, which the three of us have basically shared since Arthur was born and which was full of piles of his clothes despite him having a perfectly good room of his own, and my study – this is where all the untouched piles had ended up, because after all I only need my desk and computer to write, right?

But suddenly I had a whole host of fairly ambitious craft projects to tackle. I needed somewhere to put my materials where they weren’t going to get sucked into the mess, and I am going to have to set my sewing machine up somewhere.

So I’ve blitzed this room. I’ve thrown out and filed and rehomed and I now actually feel like there’s room to breathe in here. In the process I’ve come across all sorts of interesting things. A whole stack of notebooks for example, from diaries full of teenage angst to teaching planning to gloriously empty pages waiting to be filled. I’d thought I’d lost them all somewhere along the way, so I was very pleased to see them.


There were other things too, piles of papers that I’m very glad I hadn’t just thrown away as hiding in between what looked like rubbish were letters and cards from old friends that I’d forgotten even existed (the letters, not the friends). All safely stashed away now, but not before I reread them all. There have been some very late nights this week…

And of course then there was Arthur’s room. This wasn’t so essential on a practical level, but there were too many things niggling away at me that really needed tackling at some point that I figured I’d just get it done whilst I was feeling efficient.

So I’ve been through all the piles of clothes that I haven’t streamlined since before Easter, putting away two big bags that don’t fit him any more and tidying the rest into his room. I moved some of his toys up that had spilled into the lounge too – in particular his Ikea circus tent which is now a gorgeous little reading nook with cushions and bears and lots of stories. As I was doing all this, the unfinished family trees on the walls were taunting me, so I finally got round to finding some photos to put in them.


Arthur loves them, especially at night when he says goodnight to everyone as part of his bedtime routine. He’s definitely very ready to be spending a bit more time in his room. I’m sure he’ll still come in with us for part of the night, and his play will of course continue to spill out to wherever I am, but there’s something very lovely about him having his own special place too.

And in the midst of all of this I somehow managed to snatch some time to start organising my ideas for my next novel too. It involved coffee, and a beautiful notebook. Bliss.


So all in all an extremely productive and organised week! Now I’d best get on with making those presents…


The Reading Residence