I spent most of 2016 feeling that things were out of control. Primarily this was down to events in the wider world; the political shocks in the UK and the US, terrorism, war and the desperate situation of millions of refugees. None of these are things I have any real ability to influence so in the words of Reinhold Niebuhr, I’ve been seeking the grace to accept with serenity these things that cannot be changed (while continuing to shout at the news and rant at my husband each and every time I read a newspaper). But in the same vein, I have been looking for the courage to change the things which should be changed. And for this, I have to address the mess and chaos at home.
Since their birth in 2010, I have used my twins as a convenient excuse to explain away the general untidiness of my home. I am too busy looking after them to tidy and children are mostly mess makers. This was very much true when they were babies, and mess and chaos of the toddler years nearly finished me off, but it’s not so much the case now. Even so, the house remains a mess. Kinder visitors to my home have described it as “lived in”. Even as I type these words I am cringing in the knowledge I’ve generally spent at least an entire day clearing up before their visit, and that “lived in” is the best I can hope for even after pulling out all the stops.
The untidiness at home is not helped by my personality – I have long known that I am a serial starter of new things and not a completer finisher. It’s like a switch goes off in my head when I’ve 80% completed a project and suddenly it’s lying unfinished and forgotten, and I’m off onto the next thing. Sometimes this is circumstantial, like when I think I’ve got enough time to finish something before the start of the school holiday and a child gets ill and the school holidays start in a rush several days earlier than expected. But mostly I just do it to myself; by simply getting bored and starting something new or generally getting distracted. How often have I thought “ooh I’ll just cast on to see how the yarn works in the pattern” only to find myself several inches down the leg of the second sock, trying not to dwell on the wip I abandoned for this one, but also thinking “I wonder if that poncho pattern would work in that new yarn I bought last week”, before caving and casting on the poncho.
But I’ve been finding this behaviour increasingly frustrating. There have been plenty of occasions this year when I’ve wanted to get involved in a KAL but have taken a look at the wip pile and realised I just can’t justify it. Then when I see all the finished pieces others have produced, I feel sad because, now the KAL is finished there is virtual chance I’ll ever get to make the item.
Also, this behaviour means a lot of unfinished stuff lying around cluttering up the place. This never used to bother me, but earlier this year, tiring of the mess, I resolved to Konmari my house (this is a way of tidying that asks you to consider every item in your house and ask yourself whether it sparks joy). This started straightforwardly enough. I deposited car loads of clothes, shoes, ornaments, toys, baby equipment and books at our local charity shops and donated still more to the jumble. I dragged long forgotten boxes from cupboards and threw out endless phone charges and other electrical paraphernalia. I Ebayed chairs and tables and cupboards and decided that the country cottage look we had going on just wasn’t for me, and I was going to go where my heart lead towards the simplicity of scandi living with a mid century twist, irrespective of the fact we actually live in a country cottage.
But none of this made any real difference to the levels of clutter in my home. In fact, and it seems ridiculous to say it, but all this tidying actually made things worse as I often neglected the day to day stuff (like filing the enormous amounts of paperwork we continuously accumulate). And so, I’ve been forced to confront the true reason for our perpetually messy home. And it’s me. Or more specifically my inability to finish anything. I can’t even finish the tidying!
So I’ve been analysing this aspect of my craziness and I’ve come to the conclusion that I usually think I’ve finished a task several steps before it is actually complete. The laundry is a good example of this. It should be obvious when the laundry is complete – when the dry clothes are folded and neatly put away in the drawer. However, sometimes my head will tick off this item on my mental to do list, when I’ve merely folded the clothes but not yet put them away, so they languish for ages, usually in a basket on the stairs or the spare room. Sometimes my head does this at the point where I drag the clothes out of the tumble dryer and put them in a basket. When this happens the basket usually ends up in the living room, and often, I’ll need the basket to gather more dirty laundry so I will empty the clean (still unfolded) laundry onto the couch where the children will spend a couple of days sitting on it, and using it as cushions and blankets, before it occurs to me I’ll need to fold it (and, by now, iron it or sometimes even wash it again) and get it upstairs into the drawers. If it were just the laundry, I could probably live with it. But it manifests itself in the way I’ll cast off and block a shawl but won’t ever get around to sewing the two ends of yarn in. Or that I’ll vacuum but not put the vacuum cleaner away afterwards. Or that I’ll load the dishwasher but take days to get around to the handwash items. And, in countless other ways. I’m not proud of this behaviour. I’m just putting it out there, (partly in the hope that I’m not the only one. Please tell me I’m not the only one!?).
So for 2017, I’m resolving to fully finish tasks. All tasks. This might take a while as there are almost 46 years worth of unfinished tasks to get too. But, specifically, I’m going to finish all my yarny projects, and then I’m going to use up my stash. Yes, you heard me say it, I’m going to USE UP MY STASH. I may also be opening an Etsy shop to sell some of the yarn I’ve dyed myself but which I’ll never get around to using. The using up of my stash also means not adding to it, so I’m cancelling my yarn clubs (sob!) and will not be buying new yarn at yarn shops or shows (how? how?). In tandem, with this I’m going to do the same thing with my fabric stash.
I’m also only going to work on one wip at a time, and am not going to start the next thing until I have finished the first, and that includes sewing in the ends. This will be quite a challenge for me as I do always flit from one thing to another. But earlier this month, I gave myself a test. I knitted a pair of mittens from start to finish without picking up another project. They were an easy knit, just stocking stitch, in DK yarn so they didn’t take forever, but I enjoyed the focus and felt huge satisfaction in completing a project, so hopefully more of that feeling will spur me on.
So, here’s to a tidy (tidier?) house and mind, in 2017.