Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chaos and wreckage

When we moved back in to the cottage, the study became a dumping ground. Anything that could not find a home in the rest of the house weedled its way into a pile and stayed there. I tried ignoring it; pretending it did not matter; telling myself it would get better. It got worse.

The problem with a study that looks like you have a sideline doing house clearances, is that it shows what is going on in your head. You might as well have the words "My life is a mess" scrawled in neon glass and hung over the doorway. I have had psychotherapists living next door to me, I know these things. (I decided I like having psychotherapists for friends. I am hoping they will not send me a bill when they get home.) Chaos is alright in moderation but after a while you cannot think straight.

My husband does not help. When he is not down in London, he shares the study with me. I do not find it easy working alongside him. He has been known to eat herring at his desk. He prefers to work hunkered down behind enormous walls of paperwork, newspapers and statistics - in London, he has been declared an official fire hazard. He is also ever so slightly deaf which means he shouts down the phone. Sometimes, if I am on the other phone, the person I am talking to will start talking to my husband instead of me.

I was invited for lunch the other day in a house so grand it makes you think: "I so married the wrong man." It has a kitchen that would fit four of my kitchens in. Three larders including one in the grounds for game. The sort of book lined drawing room you see in Edwardian dramas. It has a dead tiger on the floor and an ironing room with a linen press. Thirteen bedrooms and an atrium so large I did not immediately notice the grand piano. I brought roses. My friend took me to her "Flower Room". Shelf after shelf of vases. I counted them. Including the planters for the 78 pots of orchids she has in the hothouse and the bowls for roses, there were 114 vases to chose between. I wished I had brought a bigger bunch. I said: "Wow." She said: "Let me show you the box room."

I grew up in a boxroom; it had a narrow mirrored wardrobe and a single bed. Hers was a room full of boxes; it smelled of dust, scented soap and money well-spent. It had heavy cardboard boxes from 1950s Bond Street jewellers; boxes from Hermes, Tiffany and Saks Fifth Avenue; for gardenia toilet soap, glace fruit, macadamia nut shortbread and oriental cigarettes. When you opened them, you could think: "This box is empty" or you could think: "This box was full." My friend said: "You buy something and you think, this would be a nice box rather than that's a nice soap." I thought: "Why keep all these boxes?" Apparently, it is handy to have a box if you wish to send a gift to a godchild. Then I thought: "This house is so big, they probably would not even notice if I snuck in my laptop and set up my study in an outhouse or a large shoebox."

I decided I did not want a room for my gift boxes. I did want a room in which I could work. I tried desperately to find an alternative working space in my own house. I suggested the four-year-old might like to move in with the six-year-old and let mummy have his room to do some work. That did not go down well.

The builders are still working on the arches. First of all we had to wait for the painters, then the electricians; now we have to wait for the carpet and floor fitter before the plumber can come back in to do the underfloor heating and the shower room. I have decided the builders have become emotionally attached and do not want to leave us. Unless I was willing to work in the arches with a concrete floor and type by candlelight, that was not a goer either. There was only one thing left. Clear the study.

My husband told me he would sort it out in November. He has been telling me the same thing since July. I hardly ever shout at my husband but I shouted at him about the state of the study when he told me none of the mess was his. He did that walk-away male thing and "left me to it." I cried. Then I threw something out and kept going. I dry cleaned my chair; I vaccuumed the floor so hard I broke the vaccuum cleaner. I became obsessed. So obsessed, I cleaned the windows. In three different ways to see which pane looked the best. I used washing up liquid and newspaper (a traditional favorite of my mother's). This is how I normally clean windows and mirrors but I think I may have put too much washing up liquid in the water because it came out slightly smearier than usual. Then I tried my best friend from school's window cleaning product designed for car windows (works a treat but you have to give it time to dry first). Then I used bleach. I have never used neat bleach to clean windows before but I went to visit a friend on a farm and the girl who cleans for her was using bleach "because of the flies". Good enough for me. It got the windows clean but the smell nearly knocked me off my chair. The problem with cleaning your windows in this way is that once you realise that you have a winning pane (the car cleaning product), you have to do the others again to bring them up to the same standard.

Anyway, I cleared the study; my husband helped me shift some of the heavier furniture despite the fact he had not diaried it in till November. We started speaking again around half past one this morning.

20 comments:

aims said...

Sounds like my husband's office - and he has promised to clean it this weekend - I wonder if he'll break the vacuum?

Too much Fun!! am still laughing - am relating....

aims said...

I am still laughing - and relating...

Guess the laughing affected my typing....

Stinking Billy said...

Nice one, wifey. You always manage to make the daily drudge sound so interesting - like it couldn't possibly happen to anyone else in quite the same way.

BTW, have you looked me up, yet?

belle said...

I love the bleach option. There's something about the smell. Must be my nursing background. I've made a mental note. Should I ever decide to clean my windows I'll try it out.

Loved this entry, made me laugh such a lot. It must be the season for it as I've been purging my study too ;o)

Tina said...

WITN, please will you come & clear my study too? I promise to help, and some time before November.

merry weather said...

That was very funny - your husband eats herrings at his desk - your friend's palace smells of money well spent - you are engaging intellectually with cleaning products - I loved every minute of it!!!

Iota said...

On the next window you can try vinegar - my granny's patent method. With newspaper, and never in direct sunlight. There must be several other window-cleaning ideas out there for you to try - I know you find it hard to fill your time.

Kaycie said...

Our study is full of hubby's exercise equipment. I don't go in there. Instead, I work on my laptop from the sofa or the bed or the kitchen table if I'm really ambitious.

Norman said...

While my official studio across the town is being refurbished I have to work in the kitchen at home. Your imagination can do the rest....
My wife is still speaking to me, but only just.
This month the house will be a Norman-free zone. She gets the kitchen back to use as a kitchen. I will be in Cyprus.

mutleythedog said...

I do not know why you need a romm for working - JK Rowling used to do it in a cafe - and if it is good enough for her it should be good enough for you!

Have you thought about clearing out the bondage dungeon and using that? You are too old for BDSM anyway...

Jackie Luben said...

I have a tiny office and no-one else can fit into it, so the mess is all my own. For years I did all my typing and bookkeeping in the lounge, or should that be living room, I never know. Eventually, we built a utility room on the end of the house, moved the boiler (next to the kitchen) into it, had a new kitchen, moved a wall, (to make the loo next door larger) knocked down a porch, rebuilt it with an additional loo, removed the existing extra loo, and lo and behold - my office. (But it took about three years.)

PS Your husband sounds like mine; he always walks away if I shout.

lady thinker said...

All husbands are the same - it's called 'going into their cave' - I know cos I've just read that book which explains it all: "Men are from Mars......"

I have one small PC desk in a small corner of the guest bedroom. My husband has a 6foot oak table for paperwork and a study for hobbies, then he moans that my desk looks overcrowded and untidy!! I warn him that the alternative is His and Her apartments ...

Thanks again for a wonderfully crafted and amusing LOL post. I could almost smell the big house's box room, flower room and I thought I caught a hint of beeswax - I'm trying to ignore the smell of bleach with which I am all too familiar..

Swearing Mother said...

I love the smell of bleach in the same way as I love the smell of new paint. It means that someone, at last, is doing something to clean or maintain the house. Even better if that person isn't me.

My husband has managed to fill a huge double garage and his entire study with junk. If asked to get rid of anything he sulks like a little boy asked to tidy out his toy box and send some off to the jumble. I've given up trying to rationalise it all now, and have also given up cleaning his study, so it's a complete and utter tip.

It's almost impossible to find anything, but I'm sure he's in there somewhere ......

sunshine said...

Okay -- You all have succeeded in making me feel very guilty. 99% of the mess in our home is mine. My hubby had a first wife who was what I call a "Suzi Housekeeper". He didn't dare set a cup of coffee down -- it would be in the dishwasher in 2 minutes. He couldn't mess the decorative pillows out of their prescribed order. So he happily climbs over rolls and stacks of fabric etc. My guilt may be big enough to move me to clean out the "guestroom" cave which was to be his hideout.

If I want something done, I use a wide black magicmarker sign, taped to the back door by the keyhole. He has to come home, after all. And I also make sure all the materials are purchased -- nails the wrong size can hold up a project till next summer! But he does not disappear to London---

Mean Mom said...

I have never heard of anyone having a room for their boxes, before. I have heard of people having a box for their one and only room, however. No-one said that life was fair, I suppose.

The rest of my family also uses our study as a dumping ground. It is badly cluttered for the third time in as many years. I hope, one day, that I get angry enough to clean the windows. It would be nice to see what lies on the other side again. Every cloud....

Potty Mummy said...

I'm sure your friend is lovely but why exactly did she take you to all these rooms? It does rather sound like showing off... Our study, on the other hand, could not be misconstrued by anyone as an attempt to show-off. It's approx 2m sq and the books liking the shelves are all my husband's, variants of Ludlum / Le Carre /McNab. Which is fine. At least I don't have to look at them piling up on his side of the bed (that's already occupied by work presentations and old copies of the FT).

On second thoughts, oh, for a 13 bedroom mansion to show off to all and sundrty

wife in the north said...

She wasn't showing off. She is far too nice to do that as women with a lot of vases often are. (I virtually pleaded to be shown the box room once she mentioned she had one.)

ade said...

The house you described visisting was so beautiful described, it's as if it never existed.

I could imagine being in that box room myself.

If not for the laws of privacy, i would have asked where is the house.

I just moved myself, and I am thinking I have been short-changed by my estate gaent.

Valleys Mam said...

Mega sigh -a soul mate my spouse also a psychologist has an office so cluttered and full of "stuff" he insists every thing is vital. Even various empty bottles. He keeps telling me that its good to de-clutter in reality cos it de-clutters you mentally
My office is full of a mix of work and family stuff; my cosy sofa, which I so wanted, is taken over by my huge but lovable dog and her toys. Its white and blue. Thank god for removable covers eh.

Lord Higham-Johnson said...

He has been known to eat herring at his desk.

A dead one?