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Befores and Afters: January cures

Does your daily routine make you HAPPY?

I ask this because, just before Christmas, I realised that, while I have many things in my life that make me happy and for which I am deeply thankful (my family, my friends, our home), what was NOT making me happy was: my daily routine. My 'daily work'.


 "Nothing is really work, unless you would rather be doing something else." J.M. Barrie


One of the most unexpected challenges of parenthood, for me, has been the metamorphosis into Household Manager, Family Secretary and General Dogsbody.

For someone earlier famed for untidiness (as well as a tendency to spend hours on the loo, reading... - What? It's peaceful!), the throwing of domestic duties at me at the same time as I was tackling baby-care and sleep deprivation was, let's say, an INTERESTING EXPERIMENT.

For many years, our house looked mainly like this: 

Messy bedroom pic

Okay, this was in the midst of a renovation, but still, fairly representative.

This particular renovation experience was transformative, for me. We put the house up for sale after we'd finished renovating (- we were off to China for an adventure!) and so had to spruce it all up.

'It needs to look IMMACULATE,' the estate agent warned us.

I read my first book on de-cluttering - Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui by Karen Kingston

We sifted through our stuff, put things on Ebay, did countless trips to the tip, bought big wardrobes from Ikea to hide things in, and stuffed all the kids' toys into the car when viewers were coming round. And we got that messy bedroom to look like this:


Tidy bedroom

I didn't actually think I had it in me. I remember the joy - the ease - of keeping house when we had so little stuff, everything had its place, and we'd cleared out all the rubbish (or hidden it in the boot of the car).


5 and a 1/2 years and 4 house moves on, I sometimes feel as though we've gone backwards from that point. I feel as though I am constantly sorting stuff - and still the house rarely looks as nice as I'd like it to.

I read my second de-cluttering book - The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, by Marie Kondo.

In some ways, it has changed my life. I've been through all our stuff again and got rid of loads more clothes, books, toys, papers. We have less stuff. Instead of flinging clothes into piles in the cupboard I now fold them on end in the drawer, so I can see them all every time I open it, like this:


  Drawer pic


And I can't imagine going back to the way I did it before.

But, still. Somehow it all seems to creep back again - especially after Christmas, with all of those presents, paper and packaging. I can't seem to inspire much tidying zeal in the rest of the family, and I am still so new to it myself - and still quite lazy - that I don't really know how to TEACH it.

For me, a way of getting myself to do chores I dislike is to find some sort of INSPIRATION. The 'Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui' book talks about how you shouldn't spend your time tidying: you should get your home organized and clutter-free so that you can then focus on what is REALLY important to you - your work, your family, friends etc.. Marie Kondo says something similar in her book - tidying in and of itself is not important; what is important is what it frees you up TO DO afterwards.

In theory. But sometimes I feel as though I am going round in circles, cleaning up the same old sh*t.


Know what I mean???


We went away for the New Year week, to France. I had a week of sitting on the sofa reading novels, interrupted by the odd walk, pony ride (the kids, not me) or bit of cooking. It was lovely.

We got back late after our drive home and walked through the front door and I thought, 'Oh. All this STUFF to manage again.'

 I read an article on (a website I am now totally addicted to!) which said [something like]: keeping a house clean and tidy is a lot of work. There is no way round it. 

I thought, huh.

That's kind of helpful. I COULD keep my home super clean and tidy - IF I could be bothered. But I can't. Not really. I want it to BE tidy, but I don't really want TO tidy.

I have signed up to the January Cure, though. Every day in January you get a small 'assignment', so by the end of the month your home - be it big, small, owned or rented - can be as spruced up as you like.

I am a bit behind on my 'assignments', if I'm honest, but I do appreciate the daily INSPIRATION HITS. They get me thinking, and then, when I'm ready, doing. And it feels good, afterwards.


So, de-cluttering is back on my list of NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS.


What I REALLY want, though is to TRANSFORM my daily routine. And part of that, I think, is worrying less about the house, getting out of the house more. Sometimes I think I had more FUN when the house was still like it was in the first photo :-).

So, my other GOALS FOR 2016 include:

  1. Doing more exercise - getting strong. Prioritizing physical well-being.
  2. Learning about plot and how to structure a novel - reading creative writing books and novels
  3. Meeting up with friends - several times a week, if possible (to banish loneliness )
  4. Adding activities with the kids to my To Do list - I feel I used to do loads of fun things with them at home; now we seem to spend time at home doing our own thing, and I'd like to get some of that FUN back.


How about you?

Is de-cluttering on your 2016 list too?

Is there an answer to the circular task of TIDYING, or is it just 'hard work' - what do you think?

Have you set any other goals? I'd love to hear!


Love Elizabeth, aka The Writing Parent


"Out of clutter, find simplicity."   Albert Einstein


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I definitely want to de-clutter my home in 2016. We live in a very small apartment so everything must be in the right place, everyday is a struggle. So funny you should write about this when a recently sent you an article, Minimalism” Should Be Your 2016 Resolution" 😊 Big hug and keep up the good work!


Oooooh, I feel strongly about this one... I don't want to have to tidy up either, but mess is a nightmare! And it was bad enough when it was just one's own mess, but now it's the constant Sisyphean chaos created by children as well! There doesn't seem to be any way round it, yet SOME people seem to manage. How do they do it? Perhaps we can all dismiss them as obsessive-compulsive? I remember a friend of mine describing a woman she knew who spent her time hovering around her toddler with a cloth - whenever food was splashed / dribbled / thrown, she would immediately and without comment wipe it up. So I guess her kid and her table were always clean - but doesn't it sound kind of weird, and wrong? Don't you feel like that child might grow up feeling a bit hemmed in? My parents have always kept a fairly untidy house, and have a sign up in their living-room that reads "Bless This Mess". Yet I ASPIRE to tidiness, I really do! One thing I have read is that it can be helpful to try and keep just one room tidy - a sort of oasis to which you can retreat to rest your eyes and mind from the rest of the house. And a friend of mine allows no toys in the living-room - they are all banished to the basement playroom. Her living-room looks like something out of a magazine, all clear surfaces with the occasional zen-like orchid or fruit bowl... Well it's nice to know that tidiness should not be an end in itself and that we all need to figure out important things to focus on for the year! :-) My resolutions are to do more exercise, to try to be a more attentive and fun mother (sounds like your list so far!), to draw or paint something most days and generally find more ways to express myself creatively. Oh, and to be tidy and organized. :-)

The Writing Parent

Are we too hard on ourselves, Meredith? I rather love your parents' approach of 'bless this mess'. A beautiful reminder to cherish what we have. Sometimes I think it is the depths of ingratitude in me to curse the mess I have to tidy - how would I really like to do without my comfortable house and all my nice things? I remember when my washing machine broke down for a week or so, thinking how grateful I would be to do the laundry again when it was fixed. Hah! I was very lucky to have kind friends to help launder my clothes. And going camping is always a useful reminder of the basic requirements of domestic comfort. I suppose there is a balance - and the trick is constantly trying to keep it. Which is, perhaps, our work-in-progress?

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