Well, it’s that time again, the time when I finally have to bite the bullet and tidy my study/goddess room. Things have been piling up due to a very busy schedule, which included a four day weekend away and a really heavy teaching and admin load, and there has been no time to ‘sort’ things, but the growing sense of unease and a realisation that I have been avoiding working in my work room brought me to the point of cleaning and tidying the room. The usual mess includes letters and envelopes, postage materials, books, papers, writing materials, journals and magazines, pens, pencils, rubbish and detritus from my various bags, bags, more books, stuff in bags, file boxes, odd bits of abandoned clothing, leads and chargers, CDs, DVDs . . . you can imagine. So in order to get my head in order, and create the head space to let my writing flow, all of my writing, I have to tidy up.
So it’s taken an hour and a half to get through it all, tidying up the books, filing things away, ordering my piles of research files, stacking up the books and journals I want to read, stacking up the books I am using to prepare a postgraduate teaching session, picking up rubbish, emptying bags and distributing the contents to various places. The pens and pencils go in the cat mug on the desk. I bought that mug with the last money my mother ever gave me. The year that she died, she did all her Christmas preparations early, as if she knew something we didn’t. So after she died, my father found that she had done her usual trick of putting aside £100 of supermarket vouchers for each of her four children, and this was her last gift to me. I spent most of it on making that Christmas a good one for myself and my family, but I bought two cat mugs as well, something to keep to remind me of her. I love having that mug on my desk. It’s overfull now, but it makes me smile.
I stack books and CDs on the overstuffed bookshelves, and put official letters in a metal lockbox. I stack the books I need to read on top of the storage boxes at the back of the large oak desk, after putting the leads and chargers into one of the boxes, and some stationary into the other. I stack the magazines and journals on one of the boxes under the desk, and tidy up file boxes and other boxes underneath, picking up rubbish and random ink cartridges and stuff from the floor. As I go along, I’m putting everything into a large recycling bag, which gets fuller and fuller. I sort through work papers and make a neat pile to go into my briefcase, and arrange my writing folders and rearrange my desk surface. At the back of the desk is my photo of Pen y Bryn, my favourite house, and an ipod speaker dock. I move the standard lamp to the corner by the desk as well, and then discard my broken desk chair and replace it with a wooden chair. I tidy my couch, straighten the cushions, sort out some notebooks and put them away, empty more bags, and fill even more of the space in the recycling bags. I pick up my rag rug, and finally hoover the floor, knocking over my folding desk in the process, then crushing my fingers very painfully when I pick it up. I rearrange the rug, and presto, pronto, there it is. My room. My work is stacked up and waiting, my desk is clear and tidy, the room is calmer and clearer and I can feel that my head as cleared.
During this whole process, my mind has been ordering itself along similar lines. Tidying my research helps me think about the next stage in that process, and what work I need to do next. Sorting my writing folders helps me to consider how much time I need to devote to my current creative writing – finishing typing up my next novel and then editing it. Sorting my work bag helps me to consider what my work priorities are. Putting letters away makes me smile, as I see my title as Dr on my correspondence. It reminds me how far I have come, how hard I have worked, and the value of my commitment, hard work and drive.
I like this tidying up thing when I am in the mood. It’s a two-sided process, a physical and mental ordering which helps me to reconnect with myself. It reminds me of how good it is to have all these facets to myself and my identity, and drastically reduces the stress that seems to build when I feel overtaxed. It’s a reflective process, bringing about an almost zen-like state of awareness and calm. I’m not fond of housework, but when I get to enter into this kind of mood, it’s not so bad. It helps me get into the state of mind to write.