Tuesday, 2 November 2010

An interesting read...

My daughter Kate and I have been reading a book called ‘Why am I so disorganised? Sort out your stuff’ by Dr Marilyn Paul. Using an in depth psychological perspective and illustrating the work with her own deeply painful experiences, she writes about clutter, lateness, procrastination and disorganisation and the incredible negative effect these habits can have on one’s life and relationships.

I grew up with the strong messages of ‘waste not want not’ and ‘don’t throw it out as it will come in handy one day’. People who grow up with different messages and find it easy to tidy up and keep possessions to a minimum, find it difficult to understand messy people who surround themselves with clutter and vice versa.
When my children grew up and left home and I merged houses with my very tidy and organised partner, I found it extremely difficult to clear years of acquired possessions and move into my new life as a ‘post dependent children’ person. 

The words of William Morris became my mantra: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Parting with unwanted gifts or never-loved heirlooms felt like betrayal but once I took those words to heart, I thought of it all as recycling as I offloaded via the tip, the Freecycle web-site and charity shops.  I found the hardest part was making the decision about what to get rid of – once it was gone I didn’t miss it and felt nothing but relief.
“Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement; a sanded floor and whitewashed walls and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside.” I haven’t quite managed the living waters outside unless you include the excuse for a  pond we made from sinking a large bucket into our tiny garden, however,  having pared my possessions right down the house is a pleasure to clean and tidy and it feels fresh and spacious. 

Marilyn explores the myths by which messy disorganised people live. These include ‘if you are neat you can’t be creative’. ‘Tidying up is boring’, ‘I don’t have time to do housework’, ‘I’m always late because I am so busy’. These were her myths and they affected every area of her life.  As she explored them, challenged them and began to change her habits her whole life changed.

She learnt the importance of allocating the correct amount of time for a task to include preparation and clearing up – it is an unfinished task without.  She found that by considering clearing as ‘a return to readiness’, she found it a posiitve experience rather than a time wasting procedure. She gave the example of washing up; by drying and putting the dishes away the kitchen is then in a state of readiness for the next meal preparation.  She stresses the importance of allowing transition time between tasks to have a break, say goodbye to the completed one and prepare yourself for the next.

Anyway I think it is a really interesting and informative book and has great relevance for me on many levels. I will mention two here:  Firstly, one of the ideas I am exploring for my research proposal is the topic of hoarding – why people do it, what is the thinking behind it, what keeps them in a state of such unhappiness surrounded by so much stuff that is neither useful or beautiful.

Secondly, I am determined to plan this year more carefully than the last to avoid major imbalance, unnecessary stress and feeling overwhelmed as deadlines approach.  By understanding and identifying underlying reasons and unhelpful thought patterns that lead to getting myself in such a tizz I hope to change bad habits and  improve my university and study experience. Maybe other students who struggle in similar ways will find this helpful – good luck and I’ll let you know how I get on!

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