Category Archives: Organising

a little bit of news

It is the time of year when the sun comes out and the dust is revealed.  Time for a Spring Clean.  The fact that it is mid June is not lost on me.

Skybluepinkish will still be here and postings will be as fast as I can read.  I have been on a reading binge and will share my reading list with you.  Meanwhile over at  one pair of shoes at a time  I will be charting my progress towards a Zero Waste Home.

I look forward to seeing you around both places 🙂


in which i reveal the secret of my sandals

IMG_0954Today this arrived.  I am desperate to start reading but instead it is sitting on the table next to me as I write.  Tempting me.  However, I have decreed that I will not even open the cover (though I can hold it and feel it) until I have done at least half of today’s list.  That includes writing today’s blog post.

Has anybody else noticed the slight contradiction yet?  I have a new book, a new thing, a new possession.  Yet the possession in question is a guide to simplifying my life; a guide to reducing the things and the stuff which clutters and suffocates.

I am a reasonably sensible, well educated woman who took on board the refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle mantra long before it was considered normal let alone essential.  I turned into my mother at an early age; keeping the plastic bags that magazines and catalogues came through the post in, carefully storing yoghurt pots for the seedlings and cutting up plastic milk bottles to make seed markers.  I never bought dusters I just cut up old sweat shirts and I could make a roasting joint last for up to three meals plus sandwiches (roast, shepherd’s pie and stovies since you ask).  I have never actually cut the toes out of my children’s crepe soled start-rite shoes to turn them into summer play sandals however.  There were some depths to which I would not go.  Yes, reader, I wore such sandals for playing outside when I was a little girl.  It was the sixties, I think she can be forgiven.

 I have a collection of household books and life simplification books that would not disgrace a small public library. Why?  I really doubt I am going to find anything totally new in this book, yet I can’t wait to curl up with it.  What is going on?

What I think is going on is confirmation.  I can read this book and I will feel good because even if I’m not doing all of it, I will be doing some of it and I will have thought about doing some of the rest.  It’s the feel good factor.  I am a good person. 

I don’t think the same applies to other genres.  I also have substantial collections of gardening books, cookery books, knitting/sewing/craft books.  I have books on organisation (from homes to minds) and a vast array of books on self sufficiency from keeping hens to how to survive Armageddon.  Another corner of my library houses books on the desert fathers, monasticism and meditation.

All of these offer me something new.  I know that I will learn new skills, tricks and develop new ideas every time I pick them up.  I am not so arrogant as to say that this particular book will teach me nothing, but put another way – I probably don’t really need it and the irony is in purchasing it I am committing the fist sin by not refusing something I don’t need.

But I do know I am going to love it and love transcends everything.

Planner Hall of Shame

While undertaking some therapeutic displacement activity I discovered a whole new genre of planners.  Planners designed specifically for writers.  I felt that my heart should have leapt, but instead it sank.

Surely the planner junkie in me would be whooping (much like the way the Inner Goddess cartwheels through Fifty Shades).  But instead it sighed and clicked somewhat despondently on the link.  It was not disappointed.

What do writers need in a planner that engineers, dancers, doctors and flower arrangers do not?  Answers on a postcard please, or you could just write on the back of a stamp.  When was the last time you saw a planner dedicated to the needs of a butcher?  I rest my case.  We all have appointments, commitments both one off and regular.  We all have to do lists (even if those of my husband are always, without fail, on the back of an envelope) and some of us have goals and monthly targets both practical and emotional.

Most of us need planners.  Actually we all need planners, but sadly some people believe themselves to be exempt from this rule.  They are the ones whose necks have been wrung on a regular basis (in fact I could even schedule the neck wringing in my own planner).  What we do not need are twee quotes “to encourage you along your journey”.  I’d love to see what would be selected for a planner dedicated to an abattoir manager.  Okay so I am edging on the edge of facetiousness but I hope you get my point.

There are a lot of things that as a would be author I need to know.  I can find them all in the wonderful Writer’s Yearbook, or on any one of the excellent blogs and websites dedicated to the writing process.  I do not need them in my back pocket or taking up valuable space in my planner.

So here is a sample of the Hall of Shame.

 A working writer’s daily planner – your year in writing  I note this is the 2011 version ……

Mslexia Writer’s Diary   I love Mslexia but why oh why did you stoop so low and why does it have to have a twee yellow flower on the front ……

Writing World    Fortunately I suspect that most people would have lost the will to live just trying to find the link to the planner.

Personally I find it all bit condescending.

house editing

I am editing the house.  It has accumulated far too many adjectives, they are quite surplus to requirements and need to be evicted.  I have moved everything into the Barn and Gin Gan which means that the rest of the house is more pared down, neat and exact in places.  Unfortunately open the door between the Barn and the Kitchen and the evidence that this is not true editing, that I have cut and pasted and kept all the extraneous stuff in another file “just in case” is plain for all to see.

I was forced to focus on this problem when it transpired that rodents have eaten yet another bit of wiring (I do hope they don’t have little wellington boots and they fry as they chew) and the lights in the Barn and Gin Gan were turning themselves off and on in the style of a fast moving Samba.  The lovely chap from Tom Hibbert Electricians return to inspect the damage and performed exquisite gymnastics over the carefully built obstacle course behind the Barn/Gin Gan door. The fact that the lights now stay on only highlights the severity of the situation.

In the manner of a master wordsmith I intend to edit this house from the kind of book you buy at an airport because it is three inches thick and will last the entire 12 hour flight regardless of the quality or storyline to something more akin to Julian Barnes.  Small enough to slip into your handbag to read at the bus stop or in a traffic jam.  Enough in a couple of paragraphs to satisfy.


For anyone who has read my blog for a while the revelation that I love organising, de-cluttering, setting up and following systems etc. etc.  is not news.  But the question is do they make me more productive?  The answer is possibly not.

The Boss is, on the surface, highly disorganised.  His diary other than his online work diary, is non-existent; to do lists are scrawled on the back of envelopes and filing is a foreign language.  On the other hand he is highly productive, while some jobs do slip through the net it is rarely the important ones.

I set annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals.  I set disciplines for myself and I have a fully up to date diary and keep all my to do lists and notes in notebooks that I keep and can and do refer back to.

Reader, I procrastinate.  I waddle my way through my to do lists.  Not exactly cherry picking but certainly not attacking those jobs which won’t give me pleasure.  Consequently I do a lot of decluttering and sorting and tidying and cleaning and I am always behind with the invoices.

Leaving work to write full-time means I can no longer work this way.  If Book Two is going to come to fruition I have to “go to work” .  Previously I have snatched writing time around my job(s).  Now writing will be my job so that must be the occupation around which everything else is wrapped.

I need a plan.  I always have to have a plan.  A timetable, maybe?  A set number of hours?  A set number of words?  When I didn’t have the luxury of time I wrote.  Now I have the time I am worried I will fritter it away.

How do you write?

Filling boxes

Boxes, I have a lot of boxes at the moment.  I’m not moving house, I am building some new vegetable gardens using this method  or this one if you prefer the US equivalent!  Personally I think they are both brilliant.  Anyway, I need lots of newspaper and/or cardboard for the base.  I have used up our entire firelighting supply of newspaper and have had to resort to making vast orders on the internet in order  to feed the cardboard requirement (well needs must and a girl’s fancy turns to lipstick in the spring and just think how many lipsticks I need to buy to fill a really BIG box!)

However, the boxes I am thinking of are not the card or even plastic variety.  But the mental ones.  The ones we use to put things in order in our minds, to prioritise and codefy so that day to day life can potter along at a reasonable pace without disappearing down the portaloo when we aren’t paying attention.

You may have noticed that we have just reached the end of the first quarter of 2013.  Time to reasse the goals I set in January.  This is a bit disingenuous as I assess weekly and monthly goals so I already have a pretty good idea where I am at.  However, quarterly goals are slightly different.  They are milestones rather than goals, a subtle difference but you could say that Casanova used his notches on the bedpost as milestones marking his progress to his long-term goals…

I have goals that cover all aspects of my life, I like to think of myself as a well-rounded individual.  Actually, hopefully less rounded as of July 2013 so that I can wear a bikini without frightening the fish (to be found under Goal 2 “Take care of myself inside and out”).  Nonetheless in the year that I take up writing full-time it would be strange not to have some goals and milestones focussed on the written word.

Obtain an agent, a six figure book deal and sell film rights to Warner Brothers for an obscene amount of money did occur to me, but whilst I believe it is important to dream I also think it is important to have at least one’s big toe on the ground.

Timesmudger is complete.  It has been rejected by three agents but was also requested in full by an agent I didn’t even contact.  As far as boxes go, that one is fuller than I expected.

Dorothy is filling up nicely.  It’s a slow process but at least that way I know what’s in the box.  Nothing worse than unpacking at random because you don’t know where anything is.

Finally I have acquired some new and unexpected boxes.  I am off to Edinburgh tomorrow to set up a whole new box of stories from Cape Verde which I am thrilled to bits about.

As we move into the second quarter of 2013 what boxes are you taking forward and how well have you filled them?

Clutter in my ears

I’ve noticed a lot of posts recently about workspaces.  Probably because it is too bloody cold to go outside.  However, it is something much on my mind at the moment as we are in negotiations with the Singers on the interior decor.  Our house is over 700 years old and it is hard to combine the bright white modern look they want with some of the features that we can do little about, but we are getting there …. slowly.

I have a study.  I never use it.  I clear it out occasionally, I use it to store paperwork and an obscene amount of fabric and wool but I never write in there.  It’s a gallery over the kitchen so I can’t complain that I am cut off, although my deafness means that conversations are limited and of dubious quality.   But it  is not right for me.  I can’t put a finger on it.  It is a bit too dark but not impossible to live with.  There isn’t quite enough space but all I really need is a keyboard and space for my notes.

Instead I take my laptop to the morning room table.  It has become my office.  I sit in exactly the same chair.


I have a small shelf for notebooks behind me.


I love it.  I can watch the bird table,


I have lots of light, more space than I need.  But what really makes the difference is that the family and the animals come in and join me.

The Boss sits and dictates on the sofa (or plays on ebay in equal measure).  The Dancer and the Singers do their homework



(or watch endless reruns of Silent Witness on iplayer).  The parrot squawks


and the dogs bark at butterflies in Brazil,


or just snore.


It’s mayhem, but it’s where I work best.  No physical clutter but plenty of family clutter and noise.    Not the traditional writer’s set up it would seem.  Everybody else would appear to aspire to a silent room locked away from everyone else.  Am I the only writer who craves company when she works?