Thursday, July 25, 2019

Good friends and quiet neighbours - by Catriona

Life: You’ve just read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” and you’re getting ready to clean up your writing space/office. What things “spark joy” and what would you get rid of? Do you keep old drafts of stories/novels, e-versions, paper? Copies of your books, others’ books? Knickknacks? Etc.

I love Marie Kondo.

But let me unpack what that means.

 I read the book when it came out, as did many others, and, also like many others, found it to completely bonkers. Thanking your socks? Drying and putting the shampoo away between showers? Shehhh, right.

But watching her on Netflix - twinkly, curious, apparently not a slave to gravity like the rest of us - she is mesmerising. Her voice is one of the voices - like Alan Rickman's and Maya Angelou's - that I'd happily listen to read a long audiobook. In Japanese. And she's so kind. She looks at the chaotic messes of schlumphy mortals  - hot sauce that went off in the 90s, a pile of scratty t-shirts that touches the ceiling, heaps of yellowing paper with ten pizza menus for every one insurance policy - and never judges anyone. She's the antithesis and antidote to those nasty, shaming reality shows that infest our screens. (Dragon's Den is the one I hate most. I've never watched more than ten minutes of it, before shouting "Oh get over yourselves, you crummy little walking cheque-book. Rent a clue for a day and see how it takes you.")

But could she help me with my work space?  Not really.

It's no secret that my decorating style is not minimal. My aesthetic could be summed up as "Far too much is almost enough". Let the following exhibits be entered into the record:

Far too much
is almost enough
But I've a got a dirty clean little secret. While the surfaces in my house might be covered with a deliberate, curated collection of kitschy tchochkes, I'm dead organised when it comes to non-decorative stuff: I keep receipts and other papers, filed in date order, in separate pockets of a filing cabinet, until the tax window is closed, then shred them; I keep the latest manuscript draft until there's a new one, or the book's out, then I recycle it; I've got roughly 85 categories of saved email, but 60 of them are muted so they don't distract me.

Here's an honest snapshot of my "messy" desk - the one I keep stuff on, not the one I work at - a day before I hand in a new book, two weeks before I leave the country on a long trip:

If that's not convincing, behold my linen cupboard:

And you know that inevitable drawer in the kitchen where stuff ends up? Here's mine:

The third category of stuff that I would separate from mid-century treasures I can never have enough of and papers I file and then discard is . . . of course . . . have you guessed yet . . . books. I keep a copy of every edition of my own books (doesn't everyone?) and also every book I either read, or might read, or might moderate a panel containing the author of one day, or can imagine using as an example of how to write (or not write) in a workshop one day. They make my office a lovely place to spend my days and I'm glad that this house allows for so many of them.

For books make such good friends and quiet neighbours (see what I did there?)


Paul D. Marks said...

One can never have enough mid-century treasures, Catriona. And your junk drawer is amazingly well organized. It looks like you can actually open it without a hassle :-) .

Cathy Ace said...

Your junk drawer is...WOW! I am inspired; I might rush out and get one of those organizing tray thingies. I might even get around to using it, one day. (Who am I kidding? LOL!)