Life Laundry

Julie Lawford Aug 18I’ve been having a bit of a sort-out and a clear-out lately; physical, emotional, psychological – and digital too. It’s come about through a combination of reasons. Dealing with the clear-out of my mother’s life, possessions and paperwork over the last 18 months has shown me, quite brutally, that just like her, I’ve been holding on to much more stuff (of every kind) than I should be.  It’s made me question what I’ve been keeping, and why, and look afresh at everything, challenging it to show me its value or its beauty.  Then the whole naughty gallbladder business over the last several months has made me feel, well… vulnerable… in a way I haven’t felt for a very long time. With this (hopefully) behind me, the need to reassert control over my life and environment has been compelling.  And for the first time in several years, some old stress symptoms were making a most unwelcome return.  Last time they’d proved difficult to shift and I didn’t want to make the same mistake again – ignoring the early warning signs, failing to deal with the stressors.

Time to think

Over the summer I had a lot of time to think, as I spent a few weeks doing little else whilst my insides settled down and my physical scars mended. This pause for reflection  helped me decide to use the remaining months of 2018 to consolidate, reassess and, personally speaking, regroup.

So as soon as I felt my energy levels pick up again, I got on to it.

Out with the old

I’ve been ruthless with the stuff that needed to go. I’ve been back and forth to my local tip with general and recyclable waste, garage, attic and cupboard clearance. I’ve been shredding… and shredding… and shredding more.  Old financial paperwork and old client work formed the bulk, but my philosophy has always been ‘if in doubt, don’t bin it, shred it’.  My local council very kindly told me it was ok to break the rules just this once  and put six bags of shredding out for the recycle collection in one go. My alternative was living with the six bags blocking my kitchen door, whilst I carefully filtered it out a little each week for, oh, I don’t know how many weeks, but certainly until long after Christmas. I’ve been clearing out my wardrobe and bagged-up stock of old clothes too (multiple sizes, remember my constant yo-yo weight battle?) so local charity shops and Ebay have benefitted. Horror of horrors, I’ve even been thinning out my bookshelves.

I’ve dusted top shelves, reorganised cupboards, glued and sewed loose bits of stuff, consolidated a giant bag of travel-size toiletries and sprayed some noxious pink treatment all over my lichen-stained patio and decking. (I’m not at all convinced it will deliver the results the marketing blurb promises, but time will tell.)

Emotionally and psychologically speaking, I’ve been tackling issues which have lingered in my life for longer than they should have done. In one instance this involved a difficult conversation, but once the talk was talked, the weight that lifted was palpable. Another, a resignation from a thankless voluntary position I’ve been holding because nobody else wanted to do it. After too many years, I’ve decided it’s someone else’s turn, and that’s that. I’m giving plenty of notice, but I’m not intending to make succession planning my problem.

Other changes are taking place, enthralling and unexpected. In recent months one or two friendships have reappeared, repaired or strengthened in ways I could never have anticipated, whilst I’m consciously letting other less enriching connections fall away.

To the administratively mundane… There was the bundle of more onerous desk-based jobs which have clung to my task list for far too long. You know the kind of jobs I mean; the ones which you stare at on your list every day, knowing they’re on there because they need to be done; but you can’t face actually doing them because they’re too complex, or boring, or tricky, so you move on to do something easier instead. Three down, two more to go, and already I feel so  much more in control.

Digitally speaking, I’ve been busy on the keyboard too. I’ve reorganised my data files, culled my contacts list, sliced away at my slew of email folders, sent thousands of pointless photographs to the trash-can and checked my back-ups are working. Phew!

Somehow, I’ve made the time to have major electrical works done at my house too, the list of little things that needed doing having finally grown so large that it involved three precious weeks of my electrician’s time.  Next stop – finding a painter for the top-to-toe domestic redecorating project – and I’m on it!

To blog, or not to blog

One last thing though, and it concerns you, my lovely readers. I’ve made a decision about my blog. You won’t have seen that much from me lately – and that’s because I’ve let myself off the hook, freeing myself from the self-imposed burden of posting regularly.

The decision I’ve now made, is to stop blogging altogether.

I opened this blog to build an audience for my writing. Initially I wrote about the experience of writing, then of trying to get an agent, then of self-publishing. When I ran out of steam on that front, I began blogging about weight-loss and healthy lifestyle, and lately my blog has ranged all over the place – no core topic, no strong stand, no clear message… and perhaps (though I may be being very self-critical here) not much point at all. So I’ve decided, for now at least, to call it a day.

I didn’t want to disappear without a trace, leaving those who care wondering whether something ghastly has happened to me.  So this post will stay up for a while, perhaps a month, before I take down the whole blog and leave a holding page. Not sure if I’ll be back or not, but I think, probably, not.

I love writing, you see. But I don’t make enough time for it. And when you have a blog, and you find yourself with a couple of hours to write, the obvious thing to do is to write something for the blog. Net result – no actual writing of actual fiction, no developing of Novel Number Two, happens. And that’s another thing that I want to change in this great Life Laundry period.

The process of clearing out the old, makes room for the new. And that’s what I’m hoping – intending – will happen. That in reasserting control, clearing down some of the clutter of my life, I can make time for the things I want to do more of. One of those is to focus more consistently on my health and fitness, and another is to write fiction, properly, again.

So – and I hope you will forgive me – this is me, signing off. For now, or for good, I’m not sure. But I really, really am so very grateful to those people who have actually read (and hopefully enjoyed) my posts over the months and years. Thank you for reading, for making yourself known, for commenting, for interacting – it really has been a pleasure.

Adieu.

Worth A Thousand Words?

Yesterday you might have caught my Guest Author post on The Story Reading Ape’s blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. But you’ve heard the adage, haven’t you – that a picture is worth a thousand words?

So I thought I’d follow with a few telltale snapshots – all taken on a little wander around my home this morning. A caveat – I’m not a photographer and iPads don’t take the best pictures, especially indoors and close up, so apologies for the quality.

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Let’s start in the office. This is where it all happens – the writing, the work, the Google-enabled procrastination. Long ago I treated myself to a full-size office desk and I’m glad I did, because a succession of desktop PC’s has claimed precious square-footage. But when this Dell behemoth expires, I’m going to reclaim the space. Those guys at Apple know how to squeeze a lot into a very small space, so I’ll be off to buy a MacBook Air.

2015-06-26 09.35.17A relic. It took me 30 years to amass this collection of CD’s now rendered obsolete by Apple and its profusion of listening devices. But I can’t bear to throw them away. I’m an old-fashioned girl and physical product still has the edge over ‘in the cloud’. The observant amongst you will notice that yes, they are in alphabetical order. So shoot me. But forgive those nine Simply Red CD’s. I know I’m not the only person who had a Mick Hucknall habit in the 80’s.

2015-06-26 09.39.06The bathroom next, and here’s a rainbow of TeePee brushes. Having spent a pot of gold on periodontal treatments in recent years, these are little life-savers.

2015-06-26 09.37.07This is not an instrument of torture. It’s a Pilates Reformer – a really neat design which in this photograph is retracted to around half its original length, upended and tidied away. It’s normally around 8 feet long and flat on the floor. The guest who slept in my spare/Pilates room, and was the reason for it having to be tidied away for a few days, departed over two weeks ago. I love Pilates, but I’m sometimes not very good at practicing every day, as I know I should.

2015-06-26 09.44.37The contents of someone’s fridge can be telling. In mine, leftover Chinese takeaway and home-grown alfalfa sprouts; smoked salmon pate from Ocado and meat salad from Lidl; an overabundance of cheese, yoghurt and full-fat butter, salad vegetables and olives. So I’m a girl of contrasts.

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On my mantelpiece, two burned-and-turned wood vases which I bought from the artist a few years ago during a period of rampant Art/Craft Fair shopaholicism. But I love them still. They are fine, fragile, and the colours of autumn.

2015-06-26 09.46.38A different type of craft – I make my own cards, messing around with inks and paper on quiet Sunday afternoons. This cleverly designed carrier holds an assemblage of cutting, poking, slicing and distressing tools – and the now essential pair of close-work glasses.

2015-06-26 09.46.57Talking of crafting, the box on this shelf was one of those naked wooden ones you buy to decorate. This one is covered in paper, distressed then accessorised with die-cut flowers and swirls. Simple enough, but it came out nicely and I was chuffed with it. The books are a miscellany – stories I’ve enjoyed, but which don’t fit my more genre-focused shelves. Actually, I didn’t like The Hunger Games. At all.

2015-06-26 09.41.23This is a segment of a picture called ‘Swinging Sax’ by Thomas Wiesenberger. I couldn’t stand far enough back to shoot the whole thing without a mass of reflection on the glass. It’s just a poster, but I had it framed when I bought it in 1990. It’s been on my wall in 3 homes since then. Last week I had it reframed with a new mount. It’s given this old favourite a facelift.

2015-06-26 09.46.13A last shot, out into the garden. I like my pots but they got a bit sad over the winter months. I’m tidying up, bit by bit at the weekends. One acer thrives, the other is decidedly poorly and there’s a monstrous thistle and a load of sprouty stems at the base of the dogwood on the flowerbed. That’s this weekend’s job. The smaller potty snail seems to have lost one of his tentacles. I couldn’t find it. It’s somewhere out there in a sea of stones.

I can’t wait for the days to arrive, when the sun comes out and the garden can become my office for a few weeks.