Thursday, 7 June 2012

Half-term Holiday

It's been an odd sort of half-term week, and I am really sorry that it is nearly over.  Mostly because it didn't fulfil its potential.  I like to pack plenty of activities into the school holidays.  I remember the awkwardness of being asked to talk or write about what I did in the holidays when I was at school, and how I always answered, 'Nothing' and was told off because it was assumed that I had forgotten or was being deliberately uncommunicative.  Neither was true - we just never did anything.

I don't think we should wallow in the past - but we can learn from it.  So I make sure my kids do plenty in the holidays, so they have plenty to report back to school to save them from any difficult moments.  When the girls were small I even used to help them to make up little books or picture stories about how they had spent their holidays to take in to show the teacher - I suppose I created little teacher's pets, although not intentionally.  (They still get on well with their teachers now and I like that - it is good to know that your children are appreciated in the wider world).  It has been a long time since I did anything like that - I seem to spend far less time with the kids nowadays - but I still make sure the holidays are action packed.

Not this one though.  We did have friends for lunch on Sunday and went for a nice walk afterwards, but the rest of the half-term has been a non-event.  Our elder son developed a nasty cough and the weather has been foul, so we have really had no choice but to stay at home.  The girls have managed to get out a bit to see their friends, and we have had a few friends over to play with them all, but still... Too quiet for my liking.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and this one was that I have been busy sorting out the house.  I have been doing this in stages for the whole year - having major clearouts of areas one at a time.  It has been a slow process though.  Such is the accumulated chaos that one cupboard can take me an entire morning, and by the time I have recovered from sorting it (usually a few days later) the mess is out of control in other parts of the house.  In fact, I had despaired of ever getting the place properly organised. 

A couple of weeks ago I moved it up a notch.  I had set my writing group a task - to write about what we would do if we only had a limited time left to live.  I wonder if it was a peculiarity of our group, or a strange trait of the whole human race or the females in it - but we unanimously agreed that we would like to organise our drawers before we departed this life.  (We would also take holidays, spend time with loved ones, and other activites that are usually associated with a terminal diagnosis.  But we would all tidy our drawers).

Well, why wait, I must have subconsciously thought.  Because I suddenly made progress - I achieved an immaculate linen cupboard (by dint of being completely ruthless with the notion of how many towels, sheets etc we actually need as a household, although I admit that I do miss one or two things I disposed of). 

I still have a whole cupboard stuffed full of winter coats, but no longer any that are too small or too shabby to keep. The bathroom cabinets still have a multitude of cleaning products within them, very few of which I ever use, but at least I now know what they are.  I even cleaned and sorted out the corner cupboard under the kitchen sink and now I only have to open the door of it to cheer myself up.  That cupboard had not been cleared out for eleven years.  I can hardly believe that as I am typing it.

In the last few days I have been like a vortex.  I have tidied the boys' bedroom to the point where I could lay my hands on any one of their toys or items of clothing at a moment's notice, and if you knew how much stuff was in their room you would know that this is some achievement. I have cleaned and tidied the conservatory and now as soon as I enter the room I have a kind of Zen moment (although not for long because I have set up the Yamaha keyboard in there and it is never long before someone follows me in and treats me to a 'tune'.)

I have sorted out my paperwork, and have files and folders for all sorts of different activities.  It is wonderful...

Or it should be.  I think the problem must lie in the humdrum nature of all the tidying, or the sense that it will all soon get messed up again, or the solitary aspect of the work;the fact that although I have been with the children for the last few days I have been disconnected from them, too busy sorting and cleaning.  But despite the satisfaction I felt from a job well done, I found myself feeling alarmingly low this afternoon - I had to force myself out to walk the dog, which helped, especially because Little Daughter came with me, and she never fails to lift my mood.

My trouble is that I get too immersed in a project - I can't sort out part of a room, I have to blitz the whole place and I'm not happy until I've finished.  And in a family home, with four young children, I will never be finished - and shouldn't be, because a house needs to be a home, and children need to play and to make a mess.  For years I used to clean and tidy regularly each day, now I do it more in spates, because it sucks up too much time, and is not actually that important.  But I don't think the place will ever be pristine - every year I have good intentions of sorting the garden, for example, and most years I don't even get started.  And the years I do get started it doesn't really look much diiferent.

Anyway, what a dull blog post, you may be thinking, and you would be right to think so.  Because cleaning and tidying and sorting is dull work, and a waste of life when we could be playing with our kids, or writing, or doing other things that make us happy.

So that's enough of that - tomorrow I am not going to lift a finger.  I am going to take the kids out come rain or shine (elder son's cough is much improved thank goodness).  And half-term isn't over yet after all - we have three more days and I am going to make sure that the children have the best time possible during every minute of each of those days.  Life is too short to waste....


  1. Your post is not dull: it made me smile. I have struggled all my life to keep my place half-ways tidy and it is like running up the escalator going down. It is all about balance again isn't it? If my place was tidy, other things wouldn't get done, my children or my friends would get neglected or other pleasures of life would pass me by. So, like you, once in a blue moon I roll up my sleeves and try to get some order in this house. It is very satisfying to watch the end result, even knowing that it is not going to stay that way for very long.

  2. Thank you. I do feel better now that everything is in order, and I have played with the kids much more in the last few days. I did some writing this evening, which always makes me feel good - I have shelved my recovery book because it was starting to feel like a chore and embarked on some fiction. A novel, no less! I am quite excited about it; although I have tried to write fiction in the past and not done it very well at all I feel ready to have another go. And I think that getting the house tidy helped - I didn't feel as though I should be doing something else because it was all done!

    I will go back to my recovery book - I was thirty thousand words in and I don't want to waste all that work. I do still feel that my experience can be helpful to others, and I feel a bit guilty about not pushing myself to finish the book. But I feel that I need some perspective on the subject - and some light relief from the topic of mental health. So hopefully the novel will provide some respite, and be fun to write and to read - I did a thousand words already this evening, and really enjoyed the creative process.

    I am glad to hear from somebody else who struggles to keep their home tidy. My GP used to say that if he went to a house where there were young kids and it was tidy, then he worried - i.e. mess is a normal and desirable state of affairs. But chaos is not - and it is hard sometimes to keep the mess from descending into chaos. Anyway, all is good in this house - for now.

    Louise x