Re-visiting the Clutter

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the last time I posted here soon after my retirement, although in some ways my daily life just trundles on as usual. I have more time for writing and also for other things. I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks every day after lunch while doing tapestry. This started as a strategy aimed at preventing me from dropping off to sleep at that time of day and wasting more than half the afternoon. I think I will continue with this – not necessarily with the tapestry, but with some sort of craft activity, such as knitting, which I actually prefer. The only reason for starting with tapestry is that I found a half-finished tapestry of sunflowers when I was half-heartedly tidying up one day (see below) and decided it would be satisfying to finish it. Now that I’ve almost finished it, I realise I’m going to run out of at least two colours of wool before it’s complete, which is quite annoying. As the thing has been sitting in a bag since about 2005 or maybe even longer, I am not entirely confident about sourcing extra wool that matches, but I suppose I’d better try.

The clutter situation in the house has become dramatically worse over the past few months. I noticed during the first lockdown, which in some ways seems like yesterday and in other ways might as well have been in a different century, that working from home made my immediate surroundings very much more cluttered than before. This was particularly evident when one of the cats got into the way of interrupting whatever I was doing – Teams meetings were of special interest and I often found myself surrounded by cats during these – in order to send piles of paperwork flying. If I was lucky, I noticed this immediately and had some chance of retrieving them, but otherwise I would find things under the chair weeks later, or sometimes not at all. The real problem was that I already had stacks of papers on the chair next to my computer, one stack for writing and one for things to do with my local committee, and to add a stack of work stuff seemed to be the final straw that broke the system. There is more writing stuff than anything else, what with research material and notebooks and trial paperback copies and so on. Some of it now occupies part of a second chair, from which one of the cats delights in knocking it under my computer chair, perhaps never to be seen again.But this is just the start of the clutter problem, and I have invested in a new shelf unit which I’m hoping will take care of it.

Between my retirement date and Christmas, my husband, who had been an invalid for some time, developed a fatal illness and died quite suddenly. The immediate result of that, apart from the family having to do all the usual things to be done when someone dies, was that all the carers and cleaners and people from the local medical practice who had been coming in and out of the house stopped coming. In many ways this was a huge relief as we had often found them intrusive and sometimes very annoying, and in fact I had already written a murder mystery involving carers. I must add that the last two carers, who alternated during the pandemic, were very nice people and I would never even have been tempted to use them as characters in a murder mystery.

After a while someone took away his special bed and a few other things and we began to fill up his room with some things we wanted to get rid of, but no sooner had we done that than the next lockdown started and no-one was allowed into the house to take them away, so instead of the empty room I had envisaged, we now have a completely cluttered store-room and can’t get on with making it into the lovely guest-room/den of my imagination. Contrary to the laws of physics, this concentration of redundant odds and ends in one place doesn’t appear to have resulted in extra space in any of the other rooms. But I must admit Christmas hasn’t helped with that – because of not being able to go to actual shops, we had to order people’s Christmas presents online, and most of them were delivered in boxes that were far too large for the contents. At about the same time we were getting Hello Fresh deliveries, also in boxes, and now many of the boxes have turned into clutter as they are too big to fit in the recycling bin. There is no way of taking them to the local tip (‘recycling centre’) because the car failed its MOT test between Christmas and New Year, an event that was immediately followed by snow, ice, lockdown, more snow and ice, indecision on my part, having nowhere to go anyway etc etc.

Two more stacks of paperwork have now mingled with the first three on the chair next to me as I write this. There are papers to do with my retirement, although these are mostly contained in a big cardboard envelope, and papers to do with death and funerals and lawyers. I’m hoping to be able to file both these away somewhere more sensible before long.

In case all this sounds like bad news, which some of it really is, I realised, when I reviewed what I’d been writing since the start of the first lockdown last March, that I’ve completed 7 books since then, and published 6 – I’ve told myself not to publish the 7th until March at the earliest. They include a non-fiction family history memoir, two novels in my 21 book Pitkirtly Mystery series, one new mystery novel that isn’t yet in a series and three historical novels, two of which are in my short Brighton Heirs series and one which is intended to be the first in a new series. Much to my surprise, not only can I not stop myself writing even during the worst times, but it has a calming effect on me that nothing else does.

One response to “Re-visiting the Clutter

  1. Oh Sheila, how familiar this all sounds. Am half way through the wonderful memoir and recognised so much of your nineteen-fifties childhood. I, too, get Hellofresh but I can re-use the bigger boxes for a particular project and the smaller ones go in the green wheelie. Modern living has its peculiarities. Anne

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