Tag Archives: declutter

Clean Desk, Clear Mind…

The day isn’t over yet, and it is entirely possible that I could have a clean desk, and a clear mind before the moon sets. I’m just not so sure about the kitchen table. At this point, it’s been buried and more like a case of RIP. Then again, there might just be enough air pockets to sustain life. Indeed, I can just detect a feeble heartbeat.

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This is where I could have been today.

Just to clarify things a little. It’s Monday afternoon here and it’s a public holiday to celebrate what has become the mythical eight hour day. Being Spring with a bright blue sky and lashings of sunshine, we could be down the road at the beach right now. However, Geoff had the audacity to remind me that I still haven’t cleared my desk to set up the stereo we bought last December. It’s only October. A full year hasn’t expired yet. In terms of procrastination, this job is only half baked.

So, instead of going to the beach and carpe diem seizing the day for pleasure and relaxation, the day has grabbed me by the short and curlies and taken everything off my desk and dumped it onto the kitchen table for sorting. The desk is looking fantastic and leaping for joy in shocked amazement. I can now see a gloriously clean wood grain finish and I’m listening to Icehouse. The stereo is all systems go and my in-tray is an empty as a dry creek bed in a drought.

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Shame about the kitchen table. Moreover, it just struck me that I have somehow been diverted into writing about this earth-shattering cleanup exercise and photographing the evidence while the kitchen table is beyond gasping on life support. However, don’t worry. This is just a perfectly natural phase of procrastinating. Nothing has collapsed…yet!

There are certain truths they leave out of declutter manuals. Of course, we’ve all heard about their do-gooder deeds: “Something in, something out”, “If you haven’t used it in six months, toss it”. Indeed, the zealots have turned decluttering into a religion, don’t you think? They even have confession.

However, all of this just leaves me a sinner. If our stuff actually manages to get off the ground at all, it’s more likely to be a case of only moving from A to B. Indeed, we’ve perfected the “Great Declutter Shuffle”. Yes, much of my stuff is very well travelled moving from one part of the house to another. Goodness knows how far some of the stuff I’ve picked up at the op shop travelled before it actually reached me? Much of it could well have a full passport and a truckload of postcards from a lifetime of travel.

I shouldn’t jest.

This is a serious business. I need to clean up my act. Having clear real estate on my desk feels so much better. I feel cleansed. All sorted. Ready to tackle all those outstanding writing projects. Indeed, this could well be the jolt I need to finally get some runs on the board and venture further afield with my writing than my blog. There are so many opportunities out there. As many possibilities as stars in the sky and yet I’m hiding behind my pile of books…all written by someone else.

Well, I guess that’s my cue to exit stage left and work out where the hell all that crap’s going to go and how and what we’re going to have for dinner. As much as I’m tempted to  throw the lot out, I’ve stumbled across some great memories and I really can’t understand these people who keep nothing? Do they even exist?

Are you a clean desk or messy desk person? Does it make a difference to your capacity to think and write? Get things done? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS The sun has just set and the pile on the kitchen table is steadily shrinking. Hey, the table cloth is even starting to peer through without compromising the wood grain on the desk. The in-tray isn’t empty anymore. I’ve set up two folders. One with letters and bits and pieces and the other has short stories I’m working on. There’s also a stack of notebooks. Consolidation required. It does feel good!

 

Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

If you could see my desk and take a panoramic view of my house, you’d immediately understand why I bought Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

It’s not because I’m anally clean. Rather, it’s because I’m naturally messy, chaotic yet delightfully creative. Indeed, I rarely have any trouble with writer’s block and have more of a problem with creative overflow and all my neurons going off at once.

I didn’t need to think twice when I first spotted the book in  a Surry Hills bookshop in Sydney (the one with the rainbow bicycle out the front). I’d finally found an ally…someone else on my side of the messy desk debate. After all, I’ve long been an advocate of: “Messy desk, active mind”.

However, with the rise of the dreaded Declutter Movement, I’ve been becoming increasingly outnumbered. So, I welcome this book, which will become a handy weapon to defend myself against those marauding armies of preachy declutterers. While it might not be the size of a telephone book or antique Bible, it could still inflict a bit of damage, sending them packing along with their almighty bins.

book pile

However, Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World is far more broad reaching than the state of your desk. I guess it’s saying that you don’t have to be tidy minded to be creative. Indeed, Harford is suggesting quite the reverse. That chaos, shock thinking and juggling multiple projects across disciplines has led to some incredible breakthroughs. That being focused might not be the best approach to generating creative solutions after all. Indeed, he suggests the reverse.

I am still reading Messy and am only up to Chapter 3. While I appreciate that you usually finish the book before you write about it, I couldn’t wait.  I am finding this book so amazing that I’m not just reading it, I am studying it…scrutinising each and every page. That in itself is not exceptional. I always read books with a pen in hand to underline stuff and also jot down striking vocabulary such as “monomaniacal tendencies” in this instance. However, when it comes to this book, my scribbling has reached new heights and I am Googling bits along the way. There’s just so many valuable insights to investigate and explore that I really want to take it as far as I can. Just how far can these revelations take my writing? The way I think? I don’t know but I have very great expectations and am savouring every word along the way.

That’s why I thought I’d run through the book as I go on the blog and I’d like to encourage you to rush out there and buy it, so we can read it together.

When I studied creative writing at university, I was told that “writing is a thinking process”. Therefore, if we’re going to improve our writing, we also need to work on our thoughts, how we think, what inspires us and what helps us take those incredible creative leaps which take us way beyond anything we’ve ever written before.

As a reader, one of my pet hates is the number of writers who write about what it means to be a writer. Added to that, is the high percentage of novels which have have a journalist or writer as the protagonist. There’s such a plethora of characters out there, so why do so many writers stay within their comfort zones?

You might be surprised to know that I’m not only a writer but also a photographer,  am learning the violin and for the last 3 months, I’ve been taking adult ballet and lyrical dance classes. That’s alongside living with a disability and chronic health issues. This enables a lot of cross-fertilisation. I actually think of this as creative cross-training in the same way a swimmer might run, lift weights, do aerobics and yoga.

Have you read: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World?

If not, I’d personally recommend abandoning your current read and getting stuck into it before you let the opportunity pass. It won’t just get you thinking, but will also inspire action, change and growth beyond writing. After all, we as humans should be in a state of constant refinement. To sit still, is to stagnate.

Well, I apologise for putting on my motivational speaker hat, but who doesn’t want to be their best? The only trouble is putting in the work.

Anyway, rather than stuffing all these insights into one humungus post, I’m breaking it up. My next post will be looking at Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy Cards and then I’ll be looking at how to keep multiple projects on the boil without blowing a gasket.

That’s just looking at Chapter 1 on Creativity. So, stay tuned for more gems to get those synapses firing…really firing!!

xx Rowena

Where Have All the Odd Socks Gone?

Full marks to my husband! He went and bought himself new socks. However, instead of buying a set of matching pairs, he went and did the unthinkable. He bought individual pairs. Indeed, he bought 7 pairs of socks each inscribed with the day of the week. I guess that’s in case he forgets what day of the week it is. Then, he can simply look down to his feet and have that magic “Ah Ha!” moment. Be relieved when he finds out it’s “Thank goodness it’s Friday” and Monday has been and gone.

However, these Day of the Week socks can be problematic. What if you are wearing the wrong socks? That is, that you’re sitting in a meeting trying to make a great impression when suddenly everyone notices you’re wearing Wednesday socks on Thursday or even worse still…you’re wearing different days of the week?!!

At best, you’ll be perceived as odd. More than likely, you’ll be referred for “counseling”…or worse. You can certainly wave that promotion good bye!!

Not unsurprisingly, therefore, these Day of the Week socks are an absolute nightmare for your sock drawer.

That is, unless you’re one of “them” and you not only pair your socks up but also file them as well.

As you could imagine, Day of the Week socks were just too much for our household.

Indeed, only on their first wash, the unthinkable happened. All 5 days of the week came out of the wash alone. That’s right. There were 5 odd socks sitting on the bed and just to make me feel even worse, there was one naughty sock as well.

Naughty! Naughty! Naughty!

I have long since given up philosophizing about what happens to odd socks and where they all run off to and yet…

Sometimes, there’s a perfectly simple explanation. The pairs have just been split between loads and have simply separately…not divorced.

On the other hand, this doesn’t explain away those “cold cases” where the missing sock never returns.

Over the years, I’ve pondered whether there is indeed some kind of tropical paradise, where these odd socks go. Abandoning not only their partners but also their responsibilities, they’ve parked themselves on the beach sipping Pina Coladas, while everyone else is tearing the house apart trying to find them…the inconsiderate sods!!

That’s one possible explanation.

I’ve also wondered whether the washing machine is implicated. Has it developed some kind of weird odd sock fetish? Or, does it get a bit peckish and simply gobbles them up? That socks were on the menu for lunch? I don’t know but I’m certainly suspicious!

However, as much as missing socks are de rigeur around here, losing five consecutive Day of the Week socks in one load has to be some kind of record. I’m not sure what kind of record but a record all the same. After all, losing all five days of the week, has to be an achievement! I usually only lose a day or two at a time.

Indeed, it was so offbeat that even my husband was laughing.

That’s a turnaround. You see, socks are usually no laughing matter…especially when I’ve been sprung wearing his socks yet again!!

Humph…I guess it’s time I went out and bought myself some more socks.

Speaking of which, these Day of Week socks might actually be useful after all. I might just get them personalized with the kids after school activities printed on them. That way I can just look at my socks and know exactly where I’m meant to be. Wouldn’t that be great?!!

Then, these @#$% socks would actually be useful…the perfect reminders!!

That is, as long as they didn’t get swapped!

Wish us luck. We might yet find the perfect pair!!

xx Rowena

PS It seems I am not the only one struggling with missing socks. Here’s Ann’s saga: http://annofgg.com/2015/08/31/odd-socks-and-ocd/

Obsessed by My Second-Hand Quest

There’s a very fine line between success and obsessed. Quite often, I miss that line completely and accelerate right over the edge and straight onto the rollercoaster ride from hell. You’d think I’d learn but the lure of the thrill gets me every time. I too weak-willed and simply can’t say “no”!

In what must trigger off some deep, primal hunter-gathering instinct, I haunt opportunity shops like a determined hunter stalking its prey. l swear sometimes I’ve even felt an itch or “the call of the wild” to drop in and my instincts were spot on. There was something with my name written all over it.

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity”

“Hippocrates

This obsessive stalking of opportunity shops waxes and wanes like the moon and like a gambler, I really have to stay right away or I’ll succumb. It’s not that we usually don’t need what I’ve bought. Indeed, today I’ve managed to score a heap of quality, striking t-shirts for the kids at $4.00 each. I also found myself a LBD (little black dress) with white polka dots and it fits me like a glove. Thanks to Summer gear being half price, it was an absolute steal.

Divine Inspiration. The Bible just fell open at this page.

Divine Inspiration. The Bible just fell open at this page.

However, a lurking danger with stalking op shops is that passion can shift to obsession and ultimately, dare I mention the word…(drum roll)…ADDICTION!!

Ouch!!! Double ouch!!! That really hurt!!

Although I’ve never heard of a support group called: “Op Shoppers Anonymous”, I probably should be on  the look out. Even though you’ve got to spend money to save money, there does come a point, as I said or had it said to me, when the bad outweighs the good and the whole shebang seriously starts to unravel.

Some of the eclectic fabrics on offer.

Some of the eclectic fabrics on offer.

After all, although it might look quite innocent on the surface, op shopping is very much like gambling. You go in there maybe even just to fill in time while you’re waiting for a script. The next thing you know, you’ve spotted some fabulous antique baby’s jacket imported from Italy and you snap it up because you can, even though your baby is almost a teenager. This trip, I’ve bought a hand-painted Aboriginal vase, a Greek demi-tasse cup and saucer, a gorgeous wooden writer’s box, which probably came from Turkey or Morocco and seems completely unique…at least, that’s when I did a Google search. I even found a foldout driver’s map of Mt Kosciusko National Park dating back to the days of miles, before metric came in. We go skiing there and my daughter is currently doing an assignment for school on it, so it was a great find…especially as the dear old Lady at the Red Cross Shop threw it in. You see, I’m a regular.

Great find for a family of avid skiers! Vintage Map of the Snowy Mountains.

Great find for a family of avid skiers! Vintage Map of the Snowy Mountains.

Humph, “regular” could be another euphemism for “addict” but I’ll overlook that.

I love the randomness of everything I find at the op shop and the eclectic smattering of treasures from all sorts of places, eras and designs. Feeling about 5 years old again, I could sneak my way through all the clothes racks and feel all those different fabric brush against my skin, while a kaleidoscope of colour dazzles my senses. I find the sheer array of fabrics alone intoxicating and so much more interesting than a contemporary boutique with it’s particular, usually very narrow, sense of style. I don’t want some supposed fashionista telling me what I can and can not wear. I’ll wear whatever I @#$% like. It’s my body…my life!!!

Sharon and I introduce Wandering Wally to op shopping. Wally has flown all the way from the UK to raise awareness of myositis, the muscle disease I live with.

Sharon and I introduce Wandering Wally to op shopping. Wally has flown all the way from the UK to raise awareness of myositis, the muscle disease I live with.

However, not only do I go to the op shops for the treasures, I also go in there for a chat and some are better in this regard that others. My absolute fave is the Lifeline Shop at Avalon, Managed by my friend, Sharon. This is one of of your more “boutique” op shops, which specialises in designer labels and exotica from all around the world. Sharon meticulously yet passionately runs the shop like an upmarket boutique with the clothes and the window displays arranged with love and finesse. What with  Weight Watchers telling people to get rid of their fat clothes and the home improvement shows promoting decluttering, it’s a treasure hunter’s dream. As they feel good getting rid of it all, I’m only too happy to assist!!

After all, for some strange reason, it seems like people only want plain, white walls with one measly ornament on the shelf. Personally, I can’t understand it. How absolutely boring!! How could you possibly live in a home that’s as sterile as a hospital all white-washed and lacking in character? As far as I’m concerned, such minimalism also looks like they can’t afford to decorate the place!

After all, what ever happened to a bit of flamboyance and exuberant self-expression?

Of course, nobody has ever accused me of being a minimalist. Occasionally the word “hoarder” gets muttered but I’m really more of a collector. I just need to be careful There’s a fine line between passion, obsession and addiction.

However, there’s just one little weaknesses I haven’t fessed up to yet.

Books!

Op Shop Treasures

Op Shop Treasures

When it comes to books, I have well and truly exceeded the limit. Okay, you mean-spirited, Kindle freaks. I know that I’ve already got far more books than one person could ever read in a life time. However, you can’t always predict what will take your fancy and when they’re so cheap, how could I possibly resist?!!

I don’t quite know what I’m searching for in all these books. The meaning of life? I don’t know. These days, I’m actually not sure that I’ll find the meaning of life in a book.  After all, life is to be lived and not simply read about. You have to get out there! You need to find your own meaning. Write your own book.

Meanwhile, my rationale for managing all my “finds” is that I just need a bigger house.

That said, I am planning a big reorganisation when I get home from holidays.

I  am !! Truly, I am!!

Do you have any obsessions you might want to confess to? I’m all ears and extremely non-judgemental!!

O is or Obsession and Opportunity Shop… my latest installment for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

By the way, here’s a good complement to this post as Conversations Around the Tree discusses the difference between “needs” and “wants”. Tree teaches people with intellectual disabilities and even reminded me of a few home truths!! Well worth checking out: https://treerabold.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/n-needs/

xx Rowena

Miscellaneous Mutterings

Since I’ve been doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, I’ve developed some kind of additional neurosis…some kind of mutation, which has been completely overlooked by the DSM Manual, otherwise known as “the psychologists’ Bible”.

M is for Monkey

M is for Monkey

Every morning, no sooner than I’ve inhaled my kick-starting coffee, it all begins. I start jibber-jabbering away to myself and all sorts of words start cycling and recycling through my clunky head as I try to pick my word to go with the day’s letter. You see, I am now halfway through the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and with each passing day, the jibber-jabbering is only getting worse…the proverbial broken record.

Being a new recruit to the challenge, I didn’t realise until it all got underway that people generally write to a theme and turn it into quite a project. That’s right. This challenge goes way beyond simply reciting the alphabet and writing about “A is for apple”. My theme has ended up being “A few of my favourite things” and I’ve also been following the challenge on other blogs where I’ve been blown away by the amount of research involved and have learned so much!!

M is for Monster

M is for Monster

While I have written a list of topics for each letter, some days I’ve revisited it and changed my mind.

For some reason, trying to pick something for M today has had me muttering more than usual.

Mummy

Mummy

In a sense, M has to be Mummy, which I guess could also be M for Me. However, the trouble with writing about my journey as a Mum or about myself as “Mummy” is to come up with an angle that isn’t sickly sweet and sugar-coated or isn’t some never-ending whinge to end all whinges, leaving you all wondering why I ever had kids and thinking I don’t deserve them.

Next.

I did consider M for Manual, as in receiving a parenting manual when you give birth so you know what to do. After all, here in Australia, you have to sit a tough written test to get your Learner’s Permit before you can even start learning to drive a car Yet, when it comes to becoming a parent and leaving the hospital with your bundle of joy, there is no test. No licence required. You’re just left on your “pat malone” with what often turns out to be, quite a complex little bundle.

However, once I explored the manual concept further, I actually decided that I really didn’t want a manual or any kind of prescription telling me how to parent my kids. After all, being a bit of a free-thinking, creative type whose journey pretty much goes off road well beyond the road less traveled, I don’t want to create a pair of robots and I really don’t want to become a robot myself. I do try to have a routine during term time but come school holidays, I really do like to mix it up a bit, go away and explore something new but also just hang out. We all need to recharge a bit for another school term.

So, before I’d even written a word, I’d eliminated Mummy, motherhood, parenting manual and if you knew me in real time, you’d know that minimalist isn’t me. No, it’s definitely not me at all although I do appreciate those that fastidiously declutter their homes. They drop all sorts of fascinating treasures off at the op shop, which I snap and re-house. After all, treasure should never be homeless. We just need to get a bigger home or open a museum.

G'day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can't even remember their best friend's name.

G’day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can’t even remember their best friend’s name.

I had originally been intending to write about miracles, which ties into what became something of a life mission to “turn my mountain around”. You see, I have an auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis as well as a neurological condition, hydrocephalus, which both give me some mobility challenges. In 2012, our family went on our first trip to the snow and although the rest of the family was going skiing, I didn’t think I could do it. Instead, I bought a pair of snow boots and intended to photograph the snow instead. However, on arrival, we spotted the Paraolympic ski team, who were out zooming down the slopes on sit skis.  This sowed a seed of doubt and I started to wonder whether I, too, could ski. We had a chat with them and they introduced me to the Disabled Winter Sports Association. We couldn’t get organised in time for that trip but I set myself a goal for the following year to ski down the mountain and in effect, turn my mountain around. In what really was quite a miracle, although it also took a fairly large dose of courage and encouragement from the family and my ski instructor, I made it down the mountain and turned my mountain around going down instead of up the mountain.

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby Published by Templar Publishing

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Published by Templar Publishing

I was so excited and on such a high, that I forgot all about the laws of physics and that what goes up, must come down.

Before we’d even left the skifields, I developed the first signs of a chest infection, which despite preventative measures, turned into a life-threatening bout of pneumonia and my auto-immune disease flared up and was attacking my lungs. Before I knew it, my life was flashing before my eyes and instead of being on top of the world, I was having chemo and fighting for my life.

Of course, this totally flipped my mountain back around and in the process it turned dark, stormy and very foreboding.

This wasn’t how my story, the motivational book I was working towards, was supposed to end up. This wasn’t the plot I’d worked out. No, it was anything but. I put the book writing plans on hold. Indeed, I was so sick that I didn’t have a choice.

You can read about my ski challenge here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/turning-my-mountain-around/

However, if you know anything about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey, you’ll know that any journey has it’s complications or challenges but that doesn’t mean that’s where the journey ends. No, instead, we’re supposed to tackle those complications and work them  out and ultimately reach that perfect happy ending. We just need to make sure we don’t give up half way before things start turning around and starting to work out. Moreover, once we reach that happy state we need to end that journey before another journey begins, taking us to a completely new destination with a whole new set of complications, challenges and rewards.

While at first thought, it might seem desirable to get rid of all the mountains in our way to make the road smooth, without these mountains, we would never be stretched and grow to take on tougher challenges. We’d never find out what we are made of. This would be a serious loss because, through my own journey, I’ve truly come to appreciate that each of us is truly capable of doing and being way more than we ever thought possible.

Indeed, each of us is a living, breathing human miracle.

We just need to believe.

It seems that I should have had a bit more faith in my miscellaneous mutterings. It’s been quite an interesting journey and I actually found a destination after all.

Indeed, it could even be motivational.

xx Rowena

PS Geoff was doing a few miscellaneous mutterings of his own today after driving the kids all the way to their Scout Camp and finding out our daughter;’s daypack had been left behind. Unfortunately, she’d put most of her essentials inside and so a very loving Dad is driving all the way back to Nelson Bay to drop it off again tomorrow. Mutter…mutter…mutter!

PPS: Bilbo, our Border Collie, has added his howls to the mutterings tonight. Somehow, he managed to fall in the swimming pool. I had a friend over for dinner and we heard a splash follow by a few more splashes and the poor boy was desperately trying to pull himself out. I am so relieved I was within ear shot. Poor Bilbo. He doesn’t even like to get his paws wet so this was really quite an ordeal!!

Time Traveling Through A Vintage 80s Magazine…

Everyone has a secret. Well, mine isn’t exactly a secret. I just haven’t got around to sharing  my passion for history and almost anything retro. This hasn’t been a conscious omission. I’ve simply been writing about other stuff. Besides, it’s a bit like stating the obvious.

You see, when you visit our place, there’s a Morris Minor parked out the front. There are rows of antique bone china tea cups which have broken out of the display cabinet and have started to wander. Old, black & white family photos peer through ornately carved, antique wooden frames and my computer is perched on top of an old oak desk with a gorgeous wood grain finish.

Being the eternal good Samaritan, I’m forever salvaging the past from our local charity or “op” shops as we call them. Indeed, you could say that I’m quite the “archaeologist” or even that I’m “kind to the homeless”. While I do have dogged persistence, most of my “finds” are beyond coincidence and were clearly: “serendipity” or “meant to be”. I had to take them home!!

Anyway, while my greatest archaeological weaknesses is vintage tea cups closely followed by illustrated books and cookbooks, another love of mine is collecting old magazines, which is quite odd in a way because I rarely buy contemporary magazines at all. My most cherished magazines are copies of the Australian Women’s Weekly dating back to the 1950s, which I picked up from an antique shop in the Queensland country town of Marburg, where my mother spent some years as a child. I love really getting into how people lived in “the olden days”.

Australia Day Wishes 1988.

Australia Day Wishes 1988.

Recently, I came across a new find for my collection. It was  an Australian Women’s Weekly dating back to January 1988. That’s now 24 years ago. While it is not as old as my other editions, it was the “Bicentennial Souvenir: Special Collector’s Edition”, which celebrated Australia’s “200th Birthday”. The Bicentenary was a very special time in Australia’s history when we really thought about our identity as a nation and there were all sorts of special events as well as much sorrow.

Personally, 1988 was also a very special year. You see, I’d left school at the end of 1987 and you could say life began in March 1988, when I walked through the gates of Sydney University and discovered a social whirl like none other. Aside from having my heart broken by my high school sweetheart, 1988 was a jolly good year!

While the magazine has much to say about the bicentenary, I’ll get to that after further research. I’m sure you can appreciate that any national celebration of that magnitude was “complex”. Meanwhile, I just want to bask in the light of the glorious 80s and soak up the social, fashion and technological changes and let the good times roll back.

Charles & Di: the greatest modern tragedy.

Charles & Di: a great modern tragedy.

With a touch of schadenfreude, I opened up my Women’s Weekly to find the usual suspects, Diana and Charles, who were guests of honour for the Bicentenary. The headline read: “What will Australia see this time…Diana: Royal Charmer or Spoilt Princess?” After finding this little gem, I would probably advise royal reporter Ingrid Seward to stick to journalism as she makes a lousy clairvoyant: “If the fairytale royal romance were going to crack apart, overheated in the furnace of public scrutiny, it would be now. But it hasn’t. And it won’t.”

This, of course, is one of the disadvantages of getting published. Your words really are set in stone and can indeed come back to haunt you.

Not unsurprisingly,fashion was hot.

Lady Sonia McMahon 1988

Style Icon Lady Sonia McMahon 1988

I came across an interesting feature called “Women of Style”, where they interviewed Australian style icons about their views on Australian fashion. Not unsurprisingly, Lady Sonia McMahon, wife of former Australian Prime Minister Sir Billy McMahon and mother of actor Julian McMahon, was interviewed.

Lady Mc Mahon had climbed to fashion royalty in 1971  when, as the wife of Australian Prime Minster Sir Billy McMahon,  she wore “that dress” to a reception held by US President Richard Nixon at the White House. The daring dress was split both sides to the armpits though held together by rhinestones about two centimetres apart from the waist up. While the dress appears quite revealing, it was actually lined with a pantyhose-type, flesh-coloured fabric.

Sonia McMahon in THAT dress at the White House.

Sonia McMahon in THAT dress at the White House.

Apparently, Lady McMahon was too impressed with how Australian women were dressing in the 80s. “She (Lady McMahon) used to think Australian women were among the best dressed in the world. But then came the jeans revolution and women relaxed- something Lady McMahon does not approve of. Smart clothes, she says, make a smart woman. Neatness and attention to detail, which some women are born with, but Lady McMahon says can be learnt, are paramount to style”. (I can’t help wondering what Lady McMahon would think of the current girl’s fashion…denim short shorts…)

Dame Edna Everage wearing a signature piece of Australiana

While Dame Edna Everage wearing a signature piece of Australiana

Meanwhile, not one to be outdone in the fashion stakes, Dame Edna Everage also featured in fashion pages in: What Dame Edna is Wearing Overseas. If you haven’t encountered Dame Edna before, she has a certain je ne sais quoi, which completely defies any kind of interpretation. As my daughter said when I introduced her to Dame Edna tonight: “What kind of person is she?”

Only Dame Edna could manage to incorporate the Auistralian flag and a 3D version of the Sydney Opera House into a frock.

Only Dame Edna could manage to incorporate the Auistralian flag and a 3D version of the Sydney Opera House into a frock.

In contrast to Lady McMahon’s classic elegance,  Dame Edna is wearing a garish canary yellow outfit with two koalas up a gum tree. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s also pictured wearing a blue dress with the Australian flag sequined on the bodice. But wait!!! It gets worse. I just noticed that the white starchy collar is actually the Sydney Opera House. Yikes!!! Hasn’t she ever heard that less is more? Oh my goodness!! I can feel some kind of severe anaphylactic reaction setting in. Oh! I mean… there’s the pink hair, purple hair and I’m not even going to discuss the glasses…Oh my goodness. There just aren’t enough superlatives to do Dame Edna any kind of justice whatsoever!!  She just has to be the most truly cringe-worthy, “national symbol” EVER!!!!!

The big question I have is this: Who allowed Dame Edna to leave the country dressed like that and why on earth did a magazine like the Australian Women’s Weekly publish the evidence?

Quite frankly, someone should have grabbed Dame Edna by the horns and told her in no uncertain terms: “Go to your room. You’re not leaving the house looking like that!!!” I know fashion was a bit out there in the 80’s but I’m flabbergasted.

Indeed, when it comes to managing Dame Edna stronger measures would have been required. The fact that she ended up overseas dressed like that and representing our country makes her fashion choices a matter of national security.  She was destroying our National Credibility Rating (NCR). What with those crazy outfits, the pink and purple hair and all her “hello possums” and parading around as Australian royalty, she was a national embarrassment.

I understand that customs usually stop undesirables from entering into a country but couldn’t they have done something to stop her from getting out??? Anything!!!

Of course, there are the fashion police. If ever there was a case demanding their expert attention, this was it. They should have locked her up and thrown away the key! absolutely!! Sentenced her to life imprisonment rather than let her flaunt her peculiar fashions overseas and in The Weekly.

Yet, as much as Dame Edna has that incredible cringe factor, for some strange reason, we still love her even though we want to hit her with the nearest fly swat!!!

Gee, I hope Dame Edna never gets hold of Lady McMahon’s “dress” from the Powerhouse Museum. Seeing the epitome of kitsch dressed as the epitome of style would be the outrage to end all outrages…especially as I doubt Dame Edna has ever shaved her legs!!

Moving on from fashion, I also found an interview with then 60 Minutes journalist Jana Wendt. Among other topics, she was responding to a magazine article which appeared two weeks after the birth of her son, Daniel. The article had implied that Jana was “afraid of motherhood” and was fearful that motherhood would make her less effective as a journalist. She had not been consulted for this article and explained: “I can’t believe that any responsible journalist, who supposedly values the qualities of motherhood, would come out and try to undermine a working woman’s life by saying that, just because she’s had a child, she’s somehow going to be different, or unprofessional, or, all of a sudden, softer in her interviewing technique. The prejudice that women often lay at the feet of men- well, I think some women should examine themselves for that prejudice because it’s clearly there.”…

“Your priorities do change when you have a child. Not your personal priorities but the fact that your lifestyle has to accommodate another person.You have somehow to work out how you’re going to make that person happy and contented so, yes, it did- or is- taking a lot of thought and I’ve no intention of stopping work at all. My work is very important to me and it makes me a complete person. I don’t think I’d be very successful at just sitting at home,” Jana said.

I personally have mixed views about Jana’s comments. I wholeheartedly support her desire to combine motherhood and career but her assertion that full time parents are just “sitting down” is poorly informed. They’d be lucky enough to sit down long enough to get through a cup of tea uninterrupted.

Another point of interest was a joint photography feature between the Australian Women’s Weekly and Fuji Film: How to Take Perfect Photos…Every Time!

Of course, this was written before digital photography when cameras used film and you couldn’t see how your photo had turned out until you’d had them processed. That’s right. There was a door on the back of your camera for putting in the film and not a screen. You also had to choose the right speed of film and you couldn’t switch easily between colour and black and white either. Photography was a lot more conscious than it is now. You really did need to try to set your shot up well and get it right before you took it, rather than checking as you go. This feature also suggested that if you were traveling and wanted to remember characteristic sound effects, you could take along a small cassette recorder. Now, that really starts to date the magazine.I’d imagine that if we could travel backwards in time and tell them we’re taking selfies on our mobile phones, they’d tell us: “You’re dreaming.”

I also came across this photo of a computer 1988 style:

Computers 1980s style...a terminal connected to a mainframe.

Computers 1980s style…a terminal connected to a mainframe.

However, as much as things have changed since January, 1988, some things have also stayed the same.

Thank goodness for Sao biscuits!!

Thank goodness some things never change!!

Thank goodness some things never change!!

I don’t know if I really miss the 80’s but wouldn’t it be great to be 18 again for just one day!!

Yes, I’d have a lot to say to my 18 year old self!! What about you?

xx Rowena

Sources:

The Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/a-love-beyond-understanding/story-e6frg6z6-1111114526775

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/sonia-mcmahon-elegance-loyalty-and-that-dress-20100403-rkcv.html

 

 

Slaying the Dreaded Pantry Beast

Although you might think I’m paranoid, for quite some time now a wild beast or monster has taken up residence in our kitchen pantry. The doors won’t shut and last week, a glass jar suddenly fell on my foot. The monster’s getting angry and quite frankly, I fear for my life!!

Moreover, I’m pretty sure this isn’t some cute, fluffy harmless monster of the cookie monster variety. Rather, it’s dark, sinister and very, very mean! The sort of monster that keeps you tossing and turning at night…all night!

I think there could even be drop bears inside. You see, the glass jar isn’t the only thing that’s fallen out of there and I often hear the sound of falling cans or jars. I’d always thought that drop bears lived deep in the Australian bush but I’d swear there’s an entire tribe of them living in my pantry and they’re all having a party….Boom! Crash! Bang!

There’s a lot of activity going on behind those almost closed doors!

Well, I’m no Shrinking Violet so I’ve decided to reclaim my pantry and get rid of that monster and its friends once and for all. Unlike David Attenborough who would quietly study the monster in its native habitat, I’m going to kill it. Exterminate! This is a time for decisive action!

It’s my pantry and I want it back! It’s mine! Mine! All mine!

Well, although it’s generally a good idea to prepare for battle and at least do a few push ups, I actually slept through most of last week. I’ve barely been able to get out of bed and actually enlisted help getting the kids to and from school. I came to an absolute grinding stop due to some kind of stomach bug or extreme stress. Either way, my stomach ached. I couldn’t really eat and then I ran out of ergs. I was like a ghost wafting through the house.

Not exactly the time to tackle pantry monsters perhaps but I needed to clear my head. I have way too many things on my to do list and they’re all swimming round inside my head. I need to clear my head…or have I mentioned that already?!!

I’ll say it again. I need to clear my head.

Anyway, I was feeling recharged today and was ready to slay the beast once and for all. It was going to die. Meet its maker. Moreover, it was going to happen today too! No more “tomorrows”!!

The monster inside my pantry is the familiar “clutterbeast”.  Perhaps, you know it well. It doesn’t just settle with one of something but always goes for multiples. For example,  I found three separate bags of polenta stashed in different parts of my pantry. There were also two packets of sponge finger biscuits. You see, I’ve been intending to make a decadent family dessert called Chocolate In-Betweens but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. We also won the school’s Christmas hamper and there are a few delicacies left from that as well. It’s quite an assortment really and everything tells a story.

As chaotic as it sounds, my pantry hasn’t been total anarchy. Rather than a place for everything and everything in its place, there are general areas or shelves dedicated to particular categories. All, or at least most, of the breakfast cereals are together for example. I have got something right!

It’s just that over time, things get shoved in gaps and any breathing space at all fills up and the whole place begins to suffocate (for some strange reason Cluttermonsters defy science and can still breathe in these difficult conditions and moths continue to breed as well).

Traditionally, I am not an ordered or structured type but I’ve come to appreciate that being able to find things quickly can save me a lot of time and stress.

I also hate waste with a passion…particularly food waste. We have a worm farm and I’ve also made a commitment not to use plastic packaging for the kids’ school lunches anymore. They do have plastic containers but that’s it. So while I could be doing more to save the planet, I am trying.

Throwing out unused food stuffs from the pantry, wastes both food and packaging. These are my two pet hates so it’s really something I want to avoid. Having a more organised pantry where I can see what’s actually there, will hopefully prevent such waste in future.

So my reasons for cleaning the pantry were as follows:

  • Being more efficient. I want to find things straight away.
  • Clearing my head. Get another task off my to-do list.
  • Saving my feet from future glass jar attacks
  • Keeping a better inventory of what’s in my pantry
  • Preventing waste
  • Saving money
  • Having a happier family life. Peoples have been grumbling about the drop bears in particular.

I’m certainly not cleaning my pantry to win some Housewife of the Year Award! I absolutely detest the term “housewife”. Moreover, if I was a domestic goddess of any variety, my pantry wouldn’t be in such a mess. I’m just your garden variety dreamer. That’s all.

Anyway, I probably could have looked up a zillion web sites and blogs to find out how to clean out my pantry without reinventing the wheel. However, I just wanted to get on with it. I’d put it off for long enough!

So here’s a dreamer’s guide to sorting out your pantry, which I believe could be used to sort out just about any kind of mess in your life. It is surprisingly methodical and structured, probably because I find it so difficult to organise stuff.  However, I’m starting to suspect this is somehow related to my lousy sense of direction and difficulties parking my car and isn’t some dreadful character flaw after all!

This is what I did:

1)      Emptied the pantry.

I took everything  out. That means everything. This process is not for the faint-hearted. You need to see this space with fresh eyes and not simply put everything back where it came from. Be extremely critical!

2)      Stacked everything on the kitchen table.

You will obviously need a clear, flat surface.  At this point, I felt completely overwhelmed. There was just a huge, amorphous blob…a veritable haystack… packets, jars, cans, bottles and quite a few moths flapping around. The monster had now materialised and boy was I scared!!

3)      Wiped down pantry shelves.

4)      Threw out things that were out-of-date.

This sort of felt good because I was getting rid of stuff and creating space but at the same time, I felt guilty about the waste. I threw out two bin bags worth of stuff. That was a lot of needless waste! That waste also cost money.

5)      Merged things together.

I topped up containers and generally added like with like.

My labeling machine

My labeling machine

6)      Labelled everything.

I used my Dymo labelling machine to do the labelling. This may seem a bit anal but I am so naturally disorganised that I need to be super-organised (if that makes any sense). Some of the containers had been labelled on a previous cleanup.

My Pantry Mind Map

My Pantry Mind Map

7)      Made categories.

Everything needs to be grouped or classified before being put back in the cupboard. By putting like with like, it makes it easier to find things.  At this point, I drew up a quick mind map to get some kind of structure in place. Again, this may seem a bit over the top but with that great big blob on my kitchen table, I needed to impose some external order. It was my way of trying to establish some boundaries and control…and subdue the beast!

8)      A place for everything and everything in its place.

This was easier said than done. How do you find a place for everything and as all of us know, there’s always a handful of homeless stuff left over after every big clean up. Where does it all go? How do you work out where to put everything? I’m still working on this one. Most of this superfluous clutter usually sneaks its way back in there somehow.

A common rule of thumb with these declutter projects is to put the things you use most at the front where you can access them easily. That might work in some households. However, in my last stop-gap pantry clean-up, I put all my chocolate in one plastic container and I had my Tim Tams and other chocolate biscuits in another. I labelled the containers and stuck them at the top of the pantry. Before I knew it, the kids had spotted my stash and it was gone. It had all been a sitting duck just like the US fleet in Pearl Harbor.

I have put all the sweet contraband type stuff on the top shelf, which while it’s not out of reach of the kids, they’ll at least have to work harder to get it down. If I’m really lucky, they might also realise that the stuff on the top shelf isn’t for kids but somehow I doubt it!

DSC_6946

Next I drew up a little diagram of the cupboard and wrote on the things that were easy to place first and slowly tackled the rest. Breaking down the space into more manageable blocks helped me feel less overwhelmed and that I could tackle the pantry one step at a time.

9)      Give away food I won’t use.

I accidently bought a huge jar of olives with pips and I’m going to drop them down to a local food charity. I won’t need to feel guilty anymore. I’ll be generous instead.

10)   Use what’s in the pantry.

It looks like we’ll be eating a lot of polenta!

11)   Buy what we need in future.

Don’t be lured in by specials and supposed savings in future like buying two for less when we’ll only use one anyway. Maintain a shopping list.

My storage tubs.

My storage tubs.

Rowena’s top pantry storage tip:

I have some medium-sized lidded crates where I store like things such as packets of biscuits, dried fruit and baking “bits” (bicarb, patty papers etc). These all stack up almost neatly on each other. They manage all those really annoying bits and pieces and make it so much easier to find things.

The finished product. It isn't perfect but at least the doors finally shut!

The finished product. It isn’t perfect but at least the doors finally shut!

Well done Ro! I’d say that it probably took me almost five hours to clean out the pantry. I threw out two garbage bags worth of food and I’ll be taking that jar of olives down to our local food charity. I found quite a lot of what I would call “exotica” in the pantry. Ingredients I’d bought to make some kind of fancy or different meal which I’d never made. That felt a bit disappointing because there have been so many nights when I haven’t known what to cook and we’ve had the same old same old when we could have been eating polenta (all three bags of it) instead.

But now there are no more excuses. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…we’ll all be having polenta! Ha!

Do you have any funny pantry or clutter stories? I’d love to read them!

xx Rowena