De-Cluttering …

pexels-photo-326624.jpeg

I just remembered this and thought for anyone wanting a fresh start, it might help. It certainly helps with depression and anxiety! That’s for sure … just one drawer at a time …

Part 1 – Recognising The Problem

Very early on in my relationship I remember cooking lunch for The Colonel (my then boyfriend, now husband) and it was, as per usual, chaos ….

I recall him quietly observing the scene in front of him, looking at the wonky, dusty pictures with those little black thunder bugs that somehow find their way behind the glass, the piles of ironing that I had tried to hide behind the sofa, the pretty, distressed cream and rusty paperwork tray spilling its guts onto the work surfaces, the sink overflowing with every pot and pan and then, at me. What I had thought of as scatty and endearing was in fact to him, frighteningly chaotic.

“I think we have a problem” he said quietly …. Not exactly “I think we have a problem Houston” in a Tom Hanks sort of way, but in my little world, it was quite frankly as momentous as that. This could be ‘the deal-breaker’.

Now, some may say that he should have accepted me for who (or is it whom?) I was – The problem was, that I didn’t really like the person that I had become. I in fact wanted to change, but I simply didn’t know how or indeed where to start.

“Oh!” I said.

“Wait!” I said.

“I have a plan!” I said, by now rather excitedly. He was looking a little nervous, and annoyingly, somewhat unconvinced.

“You, my darling, gorgeous man are at one end of the organised spectrum, not saying that you’re, you know, anal or anything, God forbid! No, just seriously beyond tidy! And truth be told, that’s where I would like to be ….. not anal, obviously, and let’s face it that’s never going to happen in a month of Sunday’s.” I snorted with laughter at this and then remembered that this was no laughing matter, this was a serious, grown-up conversation, so carried in a more restrained fashion, perhaps even verging on an ‘eating humble pie’ sort of way “And I appear to be at the other end of that, um, particular spectrum.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Ok. Fair enough, I’ve completely fallen off the end of the scale into the big, black pit at the bottom,” I grudgingly admitted but then continued on with renewed gusto, “however, if you could shift just a teensy half a fraction up the spectrum towards me, would you help me get this all in order and start again? I NEED to do it. I WANT to do it. By the way however, nothing, I repeat nothing is to be colour-coded or chronologically ordered.”

I think I could see his lips twitch, but could have imagined it. “Where shall we start?” he asks.

Part 2 – The Process

We started with books. I had literally hundreds of wonderfully trashy romantic paperbacks, some fabulous history books, gardening books galore and the occasional self-help book (which I tried, and failed to hide). Most I’d read and some I hadn’t. They were all fairly battered, the majority being secondhand and of course covered in the habitual layer of dust. A bookshelf, emptied onto the floor, cleaned within an inch of its life and whilst it was empty, hoovered behind and underneath – that hadn’t happened since I’d moved in. Clearly the spiders had been very happy. Then, one at a time a good book would be dusted and put back on the shelf. A rubbish book, a book I’d never read and frankly never would, would go into a cardboard box and finally a pile of ‘I’m not sure books’ would sit beside me for a final decision at the end.

The start was difficult. The colonel was fantastically understanding and patient although from time to time had to pull out the odd Jackie Collins from under my jumper where I’d attempted to hide them. The first box was filled and then more and more as we worked through the house, through all the bookcases that I had inherited in the last forty-odd years. That’s a lot of books. That’s a lot of boxes.

The car was full and a trip to the charity shop ensued, double parked as we carried them in to the wide-eyed surprise of the volunteers there; perhaps they thought we’d robbed a library. Driving away, exhausted, very teary – an end of an era. A change. Scary. Getting back home ….. Dear God – freedom. Total freedom. Half empty shelves. Space. This is bliss. Exhilaration. I want more – I want more of this feeling. Laughter and pure joy. And so it began.

Some things were more difficult than others. It meant making decisions which was not my forte. But I can, in all honesty, say that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that I’m pining for or that I miss and wish I didn’t got rid of. Also, it’s incredible how quickly you forget what was actually there in the first place.

Slowly but surely I cleared up my little cottage. Some days it was just a case of clearing out one drawer. A kitchen drawer or cupboard. Just emptying it, cleaning and chucking out the tin opener that my mother gave me when I was a student but had gone a bit rusty, or the three chipped wine glasses that had gone cloudy, never matched and frankly I could buy a new set of four from Ikea for the cost of a cheap bottle of plonk if I really needed more. It was cathartic. It was therapy on a major scale. It felt so darn good.

I found my wedding list from my previous marriage, all the letters from the guests, everything to do with a marriage that was no more. Why was I hanging onto the past? I didn’t want my house any longer to be a shrine to the past. I wanted to move forward. Those were the more difficult days and once the colonel had seen I was on a roll, he left me to it, so I could spend as long as I wanted dealing with the past, putting it behind me, moving forward.

It was liberating. As the cupboards emptied, the nic-nacs on the tables and every visible surface became clearer too as I realised that it actually wasn’t necessary to cover every windowsill and table with ‘stuff’. More space and less stuff meant easier cleaning. Easier cleaning meant less time doing it, so more free time. More free time meant more time to organise and sort and clean … and, live. The more I did, the easier it became and the more I enjoyed it. It was like the endorphins that one gets from exercise. I was happy, very happy, very organised and had started afresh. I had finally moved away from the past and it was good, seriously good.

I’ll still use every pan in the kitchen when I’m cooking and sometimes the Colonel will ask why I have to have three lipsalves, a handful of hair bands and a tube of Crabtree and Evelyn hand cream in every room in yet another pretty little pot, and I’ll call him anal and he’ll call me an untidy, scruffy bugger and we move on, giggling and chatting as together we cook, and clean up ….

☀️☀️Kx ☀️☀️

P.R.O.M.I.S.E.

pexels-photo-371285.jpeg

Make this promise every single day.

Make a commitment to yourself, your mind and body. Make a promise to put on those rose-tinted glasses that you once, where the world was a wonderful and happy place.

What have YOU done for your mental health today? Can you make this promise to yourself?

P. Prescriptions

If you need them, take them. If they’re not working, change them. Your doctor is your friend – your job is together to find what works for you. And if the doctor doesn’t work, change them.

R. Re-setting The Thought Patterns

Go to therapy, talk to a psychiatrist, talk to a psychologist, learn about CBT and practise, practise, practise every day until your brain starts to ‘unlearn’ the bad habits and learn the good. It works.

O. Outside

Get outside, get some fresh air in your lungs and find the light. Just to let you know, bright moonlight gives you 1 lux, normal living room lighting gives you 100 lux, but being outside on a sunny day gives you 20,000 to 100,000 lux … monumental difference and we need it more than most.

M. Mindfulness

Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, whatever you need to practise daily to start to control the anxiety .. Nb Don’t do the audio cds in the car. I nearly crashed I was so relaxed, and they keep telling you to close your eyes … enough said.

I. Instil proper eating habits

Invest in your body. Think you can live on processed food and feel good? Cooking is for everyone, for you and your family. If your own parents have brought you up on Macdonalds, crisps and ice cream, shoot them (Nb Yes that is a joke) or better still, educate them. If your mind and your body is out of sorts, it’s going to be even harder to get back on an even keel. (Ginger nuts don’t count as long as the whole packet isn’t eaten in one sitting.)

S. Social Interaction

Have a proper chatter and a natter with at least one other human being every single day. The dog does not count, neither does talking to yourself.

E. Exercise

Whatever floats your boat as long as it raises your heart rate and gets the endorphins and dopamine kicking in. Find something, anything that you’re going to stick at.

Make the promise that you’re going to do this every single day and see through those rose-tinted glasses …

Katie x

43. The Good Old Days?

 

pexels-photo-533360.jpeg

I once had a garden in Oxfordshire, England. Sincere apologies if I’m sounding like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa … ‘I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills’. Somehow it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and I certainly don’t see Robert Redford kicking around here ….

However, in my garden, I discovered that digging up potatoes is like finding buried treasure, rather exciting. Picking beans (before the dog has sniffed them out) is total satisfaction, and the monotony of shelling peas is absolute therapy (mindfulness I think it’s now called).

Now, it strikes me that these are some of the normal everyday tasks that our grandparents used to do … did they suffer from anxiety and depression? Did they have the same levels of diabetes and obesity that our generation suffers? Did they hand their child in the supermarket a packet of crisps and their phone to play on, in order to stop the tantrum? I don’t think so somehow …

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they had it easy in any way, shape or form particularly with the advances in medicine as an example, but surely there’s some form of halfway house to be had?

They did the washing without the help of a washing machine, they cooked without blenders and microwaves, they cleaned without hoovers and spray polish, they wrote, read and enjoyed handwritten letters. Everything took time, and effort and patience was the norm and absolutely necessary.

No online food deliveries or factory-made meals with ingredients defined by letters and numbers and more often than not, ending in ‘phosphate’. What exactly is disodium diphosphate anyway? Some sort of raising agent … what’s wrong with an egg from a happy chicken. I’m on a roll now, warming to my theme .. does anyone actually know what partially inverted refiners syrup is? Apparently it’s in my ginger nuts. And no, I don’t really want to know, I’m just having a rant on my soapbox.

Perhaps I’m simply feeling a little nostalgic for an era of which I only know snippets of, from what has been passed down through the generations. Perhaps I crave some simplicity in my life to help me. Perhaps I crave some digging up of potatoes, weeding the beds, working up a sweat and doing these things that we now call mindfulness, but in those days was just called life. Perhaps I simply crave my garden … not at the foot of the Ngong Hills, just my little simple garden in England.

Katie 🌼

28. Baking … The Best Therapy?

pexels-photo-533322.jpeg

When I arrived in Scotland, I started to cook. Not just the run-of-the-mill hearty stews which I now discover are a necessity as the weather is dire, but something more ‘fiddly’ to prove to the Colonel that I have many undiscovered talents simply waiting in the wings to be unleashed …

The other reason for this new activity, is because yet another radiator has decided to pack up, meaning that there’s only one way to keep warm, and that’s to keep active whilst I wait for the teeth-sucking plumber called Trevor.

Trevor is not a happy man.  Trevor has to be plied with two cups of coffee before he can start work.  Trevor is hard work. Trevor also likes to discuss at length how his ex-wife ran off with a tree surgeon called Marc (that’s Marc with a ‘c’ he likes to tell me). If I ever want a drink more, it’s when Trevor arrives. “Think kind thoughts” I repeat to myself.

So whilst I wait for Trevor, I begin to bake.

I started with ‘Miniature Victoria Sponges’ (sound a bit like fairy cakes so not that testing surely?).

Admittedly I forgot the baking power and had to sprinkle a random amount into each individual cake after 7 minutes in the oven hence the somewhat erratic size and shape, but a bit of sawing off of a soggy bottom here and a burnt top, there resulted in a not too bad end result …

Secondly, chocolate ice cream – I thought I was being bit too adventurous with this one, but actually it was nothing short of a doddle (and delicious, if you can cope with the knowledge that a cardiac arrest or at the very least diabetes is only round the corner …)

And strangely, I enjoyed making them. It was calming, soothing even and faintly therapeutic because you have to give it your full attention, no minds wandering into dark places when there’s ice cream at stake. You read the recipe (… properly), you follow the recipe and ker-ching! something sweet and delectable to nibble follows – what’s not to like?

However, on putting the ice cream in the freezer and seeing that we had run out of ice for the Colonel’s gin and tonic, new wife here and wanting to please, I called Trevor to let him know I’d leave the keys for him and drove to find bags of ice.

I collected said ice, registered with the local GP (Nb they don’t hand out pills unless you’ve had the afore-mentioned cardiac arrest – tough bunch up here – begging does not work I also note), but, they do spend over and above the usual allotted time to discuss their family (photos included) and expect the same detail from you – it might be considered rude not to, and one doesn’t want to offend and one does want the drugs … suffice to say, by the time I arrived back at the car, my ice was not ice, but a wobbly, leaking bag of iced water on the heated leather (gulp) seat of the very new car.

I love a heated seat … A warm bottom when you haven’t felt your ears or feet for 3 days is something akin to a ‘heavenly moment’ – when ones nether regions truly believe that they have moved to the equator. So, the new car, the Colonel’s pride and joy and my mini equator, now somewhat soggy.

Visions of angry new husband …. visions of leather no longer stretched beautifully across seat, just a bobbly, wrinkled affair and a shockingly big bill … honeymoon period firmly terminated with no G & T to placate. Stress and anxiety roaring through me now.

Much mopping, swearing and praying … promises to always be kind to everyone for the rest of my life, including the children and even Trevor, if only the leather didn’t shrink, expand or turn into something resembling a prune.

I think God might have been listening, as an hour later the Colonel returned home none the wiser, his pride and joy beautiful, intact and still with taut leather, but his strangely exhausted wife curled up on the floor beside the fire, a socking great G & T at the ready with no ice, but an unusually smiling Trevor eating some rather oddly-shaped Victoria sponges in a very cold kitchen.

I shall try some more therapeutic baking next week when I’ve recovered.

Kx