Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Thanks a lot, science.

Let's go back to high school chemistry class. Remember entropy? I know, that's a silly question. Of course you do. It's the natural tendency of the universe to move from order to disorder. And right now it's on my mind big time.

Image from here.

One of the main reasons for my recent malaise is that my house is getting me down. Despite being lucky enough to have a three bedroom flat, it has virtually no storage space (save for my jam-packed fabric closet) and every single room is full to the brim with stuff. Pressed up along the perimeter of every wall, the stacks get higher and the rooms get smaller in ever-decreasing circles. I try to keep on top of it, I have regular clear outs but the stuff seems to replenish itself. As soon as it's organised, I turn around and it's disorganised again. I make space, by the end of the day the space is filled. I know that this is inevitable having small children but the chaos and claustrophobia make me anxious and depressed.

It affects the business because its harder to motivate when I have to take everything out, and put everything back, often very late at night. It affects the children because we have a holding pen in the living room where they spend most of their time and the too-small space creates more conflict. It affects my marriage because we snark at each other about putting extra stuff into newly-empty space, and argue about whose stuff takes up more space (answer: his). It affects me socially because if someone unexpected calls on us, I'll come out into the vestibule to speak rather than invite them in because I'm ashamed (which makes me The Rudest Person on Earth). There is nowhere inside the house that I can take pictures without peripheral mess, which makes me sad. Yes, I am a real person and a mother of small children but proper bloggers and proper crafters have aspirational lives, right?

So I guess I'm at breaking point with the house, and despite the fact our bank balances show negative a million I need to do something to fix this. I was really jealous inspired by what Skip did with her living room, and I'm thinking about something similar. The living room has to be tackled as a priority as this is where we all spend the most time. I know getting shelves and cupboards aren't a panacea to how I'm feeling but it'll be a start. And I need help: How do you keep entropy at bay? What tips and solutions can you suggest? Whose spaces do you find inspirational / calming / beautiful?

I'll start. I totally want to make this beautiful boxes for my mythical shelves:

Tutorial and image from here.


  1. I know to some I must sound like a broken record but if you are really feeling like that then you need to check out www.flylady.net

    One of the things she talks about is living in chaos (can't have anyone over...) . It's a simple step by baby step way to change your habits and your life. Do let me know what you think of it.

  2. My bedroom is sacred, no toys, just our adult stuff (which sounds slightly rude - but it's not - honest).
    In terms of storage go high rather than low, low reduces floor space which makes the room seem smaller. And cull mercilessly. Good Luck

  3. FlyLady isn't a bad start but some people (me!) find that the constant emails can be extremely irritating and offputting.

    You know we were the same Amanda, seriously. Bob and I never fought about anything except the housework and I finally lost the rag before Christmas and hired a cleaner to do a deep clean. She was here for eight hours and cleaned every room in my house from top to bottom. See once it's been done totally and everything's organised just the once, life is so much easier.

    If I were you and I was trying to organise your living room, I'd remove one of the sofas (stick it in Maia's room?) and replace it with one of these. Use the top row of shelves for your sewing machines/overlockers and give the lower shelves over to the kids. I'm willing to bet if J&M are anything like our kids they rarely if ever sit on the sofa and it ends up being a magnet for all the crap of the day.

    If you can get S to go out with the kids one day I'd totally lend my muscles to give you a hand.

  4. I'll second the fly-lady and also add that you don't need the email subscription. It's all on the website, too. Plus she recently put out a smaller subset list if you do like a few email reminders and not the barrage.

    I don't know if I'm in a place to give advice on this. Because I'm in the same emotional/mental place and I even have more space! It's hard to tackle it when it's getting you down, so I can at least sympathize with that.

    I'll share one of the best tips I've heard lately, though. Figure out if you're an "innie" or an "outie" person when it comes to organizing. This was a revelation to me because I love to put things away and have things in nice neat little cubbies. But I'm also an out-of-sight-out-of-mind person. So anything *really* important gets piled, because I don't trust myself to remember it if I put it away.

    For me that means clear bins for things that aren't too ugly (thread) and well-labeled bins for other things. Try smaller containers for frequently used items, because if something is on the bottom of one of those beautiful fabric bins it raises the risk that you won't use it, or will forget about it or that you won't put everything else back when you take it out. Stacking containers is good. Stacking things inside a container will defeat you.

    I'll be interested to hear the updates. This is a continual struggle for me, although I aspire to be a professional organizer. Physician, heal thyself is the name of that game!

  5. Thank God it not just me, reading some peoples blogs make me cry that my life is so crap, which is wrong as I have a Hubby of 14 years, 2 beautiful children, we both have jobs,I can make things that sometime people will like enough to buy & I have a roof over my head. This is loads more than others have.
    I'm in exactly the same situation as you but my house is a shoebox with 1 & half rooms(no really)and no cupboards for fabric(its piled up on bedroom floor), so what can we do to motivate each other chick? How about we start posting pictures every week of 1 thing we've done in our home that week to make us smile, doesn't have to be huge, just anything, what do you say?

  6. I like those boxes but I'm not sure my stuff is small enough to fit in them. I also have visions of chocolat-y fingers smearing gooey goodness all over them. It doesn't seem to matter how high something is in my house, it will get smeared with something god awful.

  7. You are NOT the only one. With all the childminding stuff we have zero storage anywhere, and a constant floor-coverage of toys. Plus a brother in law who is currently storing his life's possessions in our place. Argh!

    Second the suggestion to "cull mercilessly" ;) and that old adage "a place for everything and everything in its place", which drives me insane just saying it but it is true.

    But also, try not to look at it as a whole. When (er, I mean IF) I tidy/clean, I do mad short bursts in one area, then try to stay in that nice clean area and go "la la la la I'm not looking at you!" to the rest (ie, living room once baby is in bed, giving you a temporarily clear space to chill out in the evening).

    This is not meant to make you feel worse, but INSPIRE you, my friend Beth took the 100 days project on to organise her life and she made HUGE progress. It made me make an abridged list of 'do-able' things that I was more manageable than the "ohmygodit'shorrendous" feeling of looking at it all in one big mess. Here's her blog: http://mynameis-beth.blogspot.com/
    (you might have to go back to the start of it to see all her progress).

    {hugs} - summer is coming, so you can spend more time outside than in!

  8. Like the idea (if you can afford it) of getting someone in to do a massive spring clean to start you off. Its much easier to keep on top of it once its organised but doing a big clear out is really daunting particularly with 2 small children around. Could your other half take them off for the day/week-end while you and a friend move things around/sort stuff out? I've just bought one of those shelves Vonnie mentioned for my sewing room/spare bedroom. They are great and pretty good value. All my neighbours must think I am really rude as I never let them through the door as they always turn up when the house is a mess - seriously sometimes it looks like we have been burgled! Good luck and post some photos if you can.

  9. You have already received some excellent advise/help here, and it seems that perhaps some of these lovely bloggers are close by. If you could purchase the book case or similar, perhaps you could have a clean up party! Ask hubby to take the kiddies out for a couple of hours, buy in some biscuits and make tea, (or persuade your friends to bring a cake and a bottle) and have fun together reorganising and filling it. Many hands make light work and I guarantee you would have a laugh. I'd join in if I lived close enough. Just don't struggle with it all on your own.

  10. I love those boxes!
    Our house is an absolute disaster zone. I don't need a deep clean I need a bomb.

  11. Sell stuff on e bay and at car boot sales (also good for wearing children out) and use funds to purchase shelving and storage. You will have cleared out in order to sell things ergo less to store. Merciless culling is cathartic...honest!

  12. My house is also full of stuff and mine is dirty, to boot. One drawer/box/shelf/matchbox of perfection that you can go and look at to achieve some mental calm sometimes helps me. My mess also contributes to anxiety - definitely our living space is a reflection of our mental space.
    Re flylady - I tried it a few years ago and just found it too daunting and cheerful. I just do one thing from her site which is to go round w bags to dump/donate, singing 'please release me let me go'. The singing takes my mind off my anxious need to hoard -'but I really should keep that 1mm of pretty wrapping paper, what if I ever need it for wrapping up a 0.25mm present?'

    Good luck & please share your best bits. x

  13. You are so not the rudest person in the world because I do that too. I'm actually very depressed about the state of our flat and am looking at being made redundant as an opportunity to clean. Actually, really depressed about it - if you want a supporting email conversation about it let me know.

    Plus, sooo glad I'm not the only person who feels like this.

  14. I love reading your blog and appreciate how you keep it real.:)

    I think all of us have felt that way about our houses/life. I go through times when the disorder drives me absolutely batty and I can't deal with the other curve balls that life throws at me because the house is a perpetual mess. The one thing that has helped me is like others have said "cull mercilessly". We have 4 kids 11 to 3 years old and way too many toys. It seemed like every night there would be no floor space because the 2 younger had dumped every frickin' toy in the house on the floor and while they'd help a little with cleaning it up, it took forever and bedtimes were being pushed back and that resulted in cranky kids the next day, and snowballed from there. One day when they were all gone, I boxed up almost all the toys except for the ones they played with the most. The funny thing...it took them 3 days to notice! Since then we've donated/sold those toys that were not missed and there's less mess to clean up.

    I like the suggestions to go high with storage. Also, make sure you're utilizing the space under beds and any other hidden storage areas. Good Luck!

  15. Flylady is universal! I did it religiously for a year but it does get annoying - you CAN just buy the book. I still do the few-minute mad toss every day (I open the mail over the garbage can), and you MUST get rid of stuff. We donate or toss if it hasn't been used in a year and the house now stays clutter-free most of the time. I like pretending we're moving and have to clean out the drawers (well, that may not be normal...). Good luck!

  16. I agree with the culling idea. I have 2 small kids and a house full of stuff - unfinished projects, toys, recipes to try one day......I recently donated a ton of toys and have started saying NO to the cousins' hand-me-down toys. We also have a rule now that for every one thing that enters the house, two shall leave it. We have charities that actually come to your front porch to collect your stuff too, which is awesome!
    Good luck!