Thursday, 12 September 2019

Back to school

Or not! This September marks the end of an era and the start of new adventures: my Girl is going to leave home to go to university! When I started this blog, she was only nine years old...

(with her great-grandmother, at my sister's wedding)

All through May and June we were both absorbed with exams: she was sitting them, I was invigilating. We were both slaves to the timetable and the alarm clock. Since then, she's been at home (or at orchestra or on tour with orchestra or on holiday) and our days have lacked routine or structure. Since our short holiday in France in August, I've started to try and claw back some sort of discipline. It's been hard, but I know that we have to get ourselves sorted out before Girl leaves. I'm a night owl, so without a routine I think I'm in danger of becoming nocturnal! She's received her uni timetable today, so that's been a bit of a kick for me to get myself sorted.

And whenever we return from camping in a tent and existing in shorts and T shirts, the return to a house with wardrobes and cupboards and furniture and stuff always prompts a massive declutter. Even though I do it every year, we still have far too much stuff. I've been very inspired by the idea of minimalist living, although I'm not sure I'm quite ready to go that far - I just like watching YouTube videos of Scandinavians living in their beautiful white houses with wonderful empty space, woolly blankets and pot plants that aren't desiccated from neglect like mine.

The other major change that will be upon us once Girl leaves, is our Saturdays. For ten years we've spent Saturdays taking it in turns to either do the orchestra/choir taxi service, or to stay behind and clean the house. Now our Saturdays will be free (if I'm not teaching...) we don't want to spend our weekends doing chores. I've tried various systems for getting the housework done in the past, and nothing has stuck. The most complicated system I ever found was the Fly Lady system, and I didn't even last a day - but that was before I found Diane in Denmark!

Via my noodling on YouTube, I came across Diane's videos. She uses the Fly Lady system, but the way she explains it suddenly makes so much sense. So far, I'm three weeks in and the house is (mostly) clean and staying clean. And the best thing is, I don't spend hours doing it. The second best thing is my YouTube feed is now suggesting all sorts of other cleaning/organising/hygge videos, so I'm wallowing in a bingefest of Scandi inspiration!

I've tweaked the system to suit me: for example, I've designated Thursday (today) as my "plan and play" day. I've just started a new Tai Chi class and (a) it starts early, so I have to set my alarm (good for getting back on schedule) (b) it's very close to one of my favourite places, Wakehurst Place. So after Tai Chi, I pop along to Wakehurst for a coffee and a walk. Lovely.

When my weekly class starts in a few weeks on a Wednesday, Thursday Tai Chi and coffee will be my reward for the next day! (The "plan" part is to sit down with Mr Gonecycling and plan the weekend and week ahead and decide what we want to eat etc.)

I'm also trying to implement my own version of the system in the studio. The key is to have morning and evening routines, and then a theme for each week in a month, and a theme for each day in a week. Let's just say it's a work in progress! I'm doing slightly better with my themed weeks than I am with my routines: I decided last week was newsletter, and this week is blog - so here I am!

The main thing I've learnt from Diane in Denmark, is to avoid the temptation to do everything at once - start simple and build the habit first - which is why the routines are so important. The first and most important thing you do is to "shine your sink". That way, even if wheels are falling off all over the place, your kitchen sink is shiny and clean and you feel at least some measure of control!

I've been trying to work out what the "shiny sink" equivalent is in my studio - is it to draw every day, no matter what? Or is it to stitch every day? What ONE thing can I do that will make me feel as if I'm on top of things? And it has to be very very easy to do...

It probably should be stitch, because that's what I do...but stitch means getting stuff out, and switching on the machine and so on. Whereas drawing/sketchbook is as easy as picking up a pen or pencil. Or is it the literal equivalent of shining my sink - tidying my desk? That's tricky! I still wouldn't be creating anything! I'd love to know what your ONE thing is, your "non-negotiable"? Let me know!

So far I've managed both the sketchbook and the stitch, but certainly not everyday. Here's what I've achieved so far:

Six little paintings based on a method suggested by artist Louise Fletcher

A little card

It's not a lot, but at least I've created! The card was a bonus from the painting - I saved the masking tape that I used to divide up my sketchbook page, et voila, new material to play with. I sealed it with acrylic wax, because I'd used charcoal on the paintings.

If like me you're fascinated by how other people organise their time, this is a great book: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.*

So there's a couple more weeks when I can indulge myself in all this, but then I'm going to have to crack right on, new routines and timetables ready or not. I'm just trying to retain a sense of some calm and space for as long as I can before life gets hectic again!

(*this is an affiliate link, so if you buy I'll get about 2p for recommending it!)