I look at my perfectly organised flat and understand it to be a reflection of my equally organised life. My books, CDs and DVDs are all neatly arranged, displayed and placed just so. My few ornaments are also in their rightful places, and the three marble-filled jars on my table are roughly equidistant from one another, although I haven’t measured it, that would be really too much. I’ve got lists for everything; shopping, potential hotels in each of the cities I’d like to visit over the next few years, lists of books I’d like to read and films I’ve missed and need to catch up on.
My clothes are organised as much as possible, space permitting; skirts together, dresses hanging down in the middle of two plastic storage units which contain underwear, t-shirts and jumpers; shirts and cardigans often go together in the work or non-work side of the wardrobe accordingly. Most of my shoes are kept in their boxes. Everything, all that can, and cannot be seen, is sorted, organised and arranged in the correct way, maintaining order within the little world that is the two rooms I call home.
This tidiness even extends to my colour co-ordinated appearance, and my artwork, which my tutors used to encourage me to ‘be a bit messier’ with when I was at university. I’m a routine lover, and advance planner; I like to know what I’m doing beforehand. Anxiety can set in if I’m going somewhere unfamiliar, especially if I don’t know anyone there.
Yet I don’t entirely subscribe to my ordered existence, and over the last few years have actively tried to shake things up a little by travelling more, getting out of my comfort zone and welcoming more surprises into my life. My work teaching international students helps me to do this, as they constantly keep me open to new and sometimes unpredictable moments in my work and life in general; you never know what someone’s going to say on any given day in the classroom, which is great! I may love to keep order, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome a certain amount of chaos.
Ironically, it’s my writing that needs some routine and I can’t seem to stick to any timetable for that. I’ve tried various tactics to get myself to put pen to paper every day; from leaving my writing pad on my table, so I can write after breakfast or dinner, to keeping it by my bed so I can write at the end of the day, but nothing seems to consistently work. Like so many writers, I read instead of facing the blank page. So much easier to delve into someone else’s world, than try and create your own. I also often feel guilty for taking time to myself to write and turn family or friends away for the day in order to do so.
It’s that need for solitude that can be a problem, which I guess any writer reading this can understand. Also, a need to routinely write, which is a struggle too, and is an area of my life I have yet to bring proper order to.