I’m delighted to turn today’s post over to new guest writer Julie Broadfoot. With a New Year approaching Julie contemplated an old problem..
“One day I’ll live in a beautiful big house with a garden. I’ll have wealth. And a cleaner. I’ll maintain a minimalist presence, my camera kit will automagically put itself away after a shoot, I’ll want to do the dishes and won’t leave the juicer’s dregs to decay overnight. But until then I must live in the real world. The world of a freelance writer and photographer, living, working and procrastinating in a one bedroom tenement flat in Glasgow. One flat, one woman, one business, two guinea pigs.
And one unexpected transformation.
I started a decluttering project. I don’t take up much space but my stuff does. My last attempt to declutter resulted in storing a few boxes and bags in the hallway as an interim measure. Then they started breeding.There’s always a task more important than tidying; I either don’t want to stop work, I have to watch Grey’s Anatomy (purely to clear the Sky+ box), or it’s time to collapse into a bath and bed.
Here’s how I usually tidy up:
I grab a mug from my desk and head to the kitchen. Before I reach the dishwasher (which needs emptied), I fancy a snack. I open the fridge and, right on cue, the pigs wheek their demands so I stop to take them some veg. Then I forget why I left the room in the first place. I finally sit down to eat and lose myself in Facebook and Twitter for five minutes. I’m cold so I stand against the radiator and potter further on my phone. I realise it’s 12 minutes since I last checked my email. Where was I? Oh yes, tidying.
A few weeks ago, long after I should’ve been thinking about my tax return and shortly before I opened the mince pies, a friend offered me some wisdom. Perhaps my struggle to concentrate (see tidying evidence above, m’lud) would be helped if I moved decluttering to the top of my daunting To Do list. With his offer to help (translation: boss me around) and, more importantly, do the heavy lifting, the answer was obvious. Do it now.
This fresh pair of eyes pointed me in the direction of things that had become invisible. What did I want to do with that bundle of stuff? Erm, keep it. No. Pick a place or get rid. So cruel.
He didn’t understand my love of bags. He put bags in the bin, I took them out when he wasn’t looking.
The alcove I call my office was cramped so we moved my desk and squeezed a narrow bookcase into an impossible space. Channelling MacGyver, this involved a wooden box, a print from an old exhibition, some screws and a saw. It’s safer than it sounds, I promise. And I didn’t actually do the DIY. So don’t panic.
Incidentally, if you somehow manage to bend a long fingernail back when picking up a full rubbish bag, try not to yelp too loudly. Men don’t understand this pain and will think you’ve been stabbed.
Big hall cupboards were invented for clutter. “One day,” the Victorian architects decreed, “this will be a valuable place to store empty boxes, ye olde computer cables, a cowboy hat and bags of unidentifiable gubbins that possibly came with the washing machine.” But apparently this space could be useful for storing tripods, prints, huge white backdrops and boxes of hay. I’m loath to admit it but it didn’t take too long, it put my Tetris skills to good use and it’s like I’ve added a new room. I can walk right in. I can reach things. I can see the floor. Yay! Space for new clutter!
Out went the shredder that couldn’t cope with more than three sheets of paper, and out went several cathartic sacks of confidential waste. Left with instructions to do some filing, I took CD racks off the wall and sold them. Told to throw out some clothes, I half-sorted through the boxes of junk under my bed.
I also learned a valuable lesson: when lifting a large heavy toolbox, make sure it’s closed. Otherwise you may spend 15 minutes picking up screws from your lovely clean floor. And you may continue to find them for days to come. Hypothetically, of course.
The experiment worked. The flat kept its shape throughout Christmas and everything feels easier. The manual work was a refreshing change from my usual brain slump at the computer. Pulling together scraps of paper for my tax return was a fraction less painful and I’ve had headspace to focus on revamping my business. While my clients hibernated, I had a productivity boost.
Now that the world has woken up it’s a bit harder to keep on top of things. There’s a reason this blog features close-up photos that don’t give away the bigger picture 😉 Yes, there may be a bundle of junk in the corner of the kitchen. Pretend it’s a new art installation. The filing still isn’t done. And obviously when I put away my Christmas decorations, I just plonked them behind the cupboard door to deal with later. But that’s just between you and me.
As soon as I get the bulk cleared, my three year old niece is coming for a sleepover. I suspect that means I’ll soon have to start all over again… ”
Does a tidy house = a tidy mind and headspace for you? I know it does for me and Julie is inspiring me to take the plunge and chuck out a few of those “I’ll sort that later piles” that have gathered in the office recently!
Images and words Julie Broadfoot at Juliebee
Juliebee is a freelance writer and photographer in Glasgow. She conjures up features and blogs, writes website content, brochures and biographies for businesses, and attempts wit within the confines of 140 characters. With a camera the size of her head, she focuses on natural, creative photography of people, events, live music, weddings, animals and the corporate world. She’s an ex-BBC Producer, a pedant, an Auntie and a wannabe health freak.