Stuck for words? Try Tidying up!



Do you feel like your house is never tidy enough?

While a lot of women wistfully aspire to the domestic goddess status they bestow on their mothers, I've given it up.

I’m not adverse to tidying up and getting stuck into chores. I actually find it quite cathartic, especially when it comes to having a good clear out. But the day-to-day cycle of food prep, cleaning and clearing the kitchen as-you-go as well as general tidying, is a lot to keep on top of especially when you’re working and herding children at the same time.

Like most people, I catch up on jobs at the weekends, tackling the mess that builds up during the week. These messes usually come in piles in my house, and no space is off-limits. Counter tops, bathroom corners, landings and bedroom floors (I call my children’s ‘floordrobes’) are all susceptible to piles.

It’s Friday and I’m looking at one now. It’s at my feet on my office floor as I write this. It didn’t start that way. It started on Monday on a clear counter top with ‘Mum can you look at this’, and my daughter dropping down a university information booklet. Later, I brought in the post and put three envelopes on top with the thought, ‘might as well look at all of them together later.’ Then I added a birthday card for my Dad so I wouldn’t forget to send it in two weeks’ time. I plonked a random paint chart on top in passing just to keep everything in one place, and a receipt I needed to keep....

By Wednesday, this innocuous collection had morphed into a suspicious-looking pile of something resembling work. So I scooped it up and dumped it in a work-associated place....on my desk, in my office.

My son went in to play on the computer, and I came down the next morning to find the pile sprawling on the floor. And there it has lain since. Looking down at it now, I can see two badges, several receipts and the corner of a picture of our old dog who died four years ago. Oh, and there’s a book in there I started reading as well.

I used to remonstrate myself for not being tidier and keeping up appearances more, but I’ve relented a lot. Thank god. It’s frankly exhausting, I’m doing my best and I know I’ll get to it eventually. I quite like how Covid and working from home has exposed our personal lives to the professional world. If you’re working from your bedroom, everyone on that zoom call can see if you didn’t make your bed and it’s like, ‘WHAAAT? The Head of Global didn’t make their BED?’ I think it’s funny and makes everyone just a little bit more human.

Anyway if you’re like me, it would be counter-productive to be tidy all the time. The messiness doesn’t really matter when the tidying UP is what’s important. The trinket, a holiday receipt, the picture of your dog, another one of your gran, a birthday card and a pen? This is brilliant! It’s manna from heaven for writers.

What does any single one of those items evoke? That flash of silver, the light behind Gran’s smile, the memory of your best birthday ever, those beautiful Autumn walks you took with your canine BF...all of this is material for writing.

So if you’re looking for a way into story, or you feel stuck or need a new setting or want to give a character some flaws, live your beautiful domestic life and don’t worry about the mess...

Just keep it in piles and have creative fun tidying up.

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