In order to focus on housework, mainly, but also the business accounts, I’ve now put notices on both business websites saying that I’m not taking on new work. This is a relatively big deal because the web is the main source of new business these days. I’m currently thinking of this as lasting until around the end of September, but it will take as long as it takes. There’s enough work currently on the books to cover the next few days, then I’ll be reporting the housework progress here, with photographs!
Whether influenced by internal chemistry or not, the idea of “working” in the evenings (where the work is quite enjoyable, see the previous post) turns out to be over-optimistic, at least at the moment. Come teatime I’ve been finding myself quite fagged-out and good for nothing but collapsing in front of the telly. What might not be coincidental is that I’ve been busier than ever, in terms of paid work. There’s also the possibility (to put it no more strongly) that I don’t have the stamina that I once did. Anyway, I’ve decided that there is no alternative now to turning away paid work, to free up the time to work on the house (also the business books, but the house comes first). Current work will keep me going to at least the middle, maybe the end of next week, but after that things have to change. You’ll see it here first! (Unless you visit the house at the right time of course.)
As I said last time, I remain amazed at the way in which work that I used to hate—I don’t think that’s putting it too strongly, at its worst—becomes positively enjoyable when I take my time and do it carefully. And only this morning did a probable—haven’t had a chance to check it yet—consequence of this occur to me.
For a long time now, many years I would say, I’ve avoided evening work of any kind because of the way it used to exacerbate my insomnia. I was prone to that anyway, but anything other than relaxing in the evening reliably made it worse. Now, since learning how to relax, the insomnia is very, very much better, but I’ve continued to reserve my evenings strictly for relaxation, partly because sleep still eludes me at times, partly through sheer habit. Until now—because, if work becomes enjoyable, does it still count as work in the relevant sense? I’m guessing, and hoping, not. Because lack of time is a big problem for me at the moment (see recent posts).
These are some big changes in the life of a 60 year old man, no doubt to some extent set in his ways, and despite their apparent positivity, the prospect is quite unsettling, I feel somewhat at sea. For a few days there, with the return of the old knee problem and the prospect of a great deal of work to do, between paid and house varieties, I was really quite depressed. In fact I resorted to 5-HTP, an over-the-counter antidepressant that I find amazingly effective, compared to what I’ve used before: tricyclics, Prozac and St John’s Wort. But things are looking up again and not just because of what I’ve got in my bloodstream!
There’s an old song called Walk Right In that has the line “everybody’s talkin’ ’bout a new way of walkin’.” It’s supposed to be a bit absurd, but a new way of walking is what I think and hope I’m developing at the moment. Or rather, I’m relearning to walk properly, after years of unconsciously favouring my left leg. I could write hundreds or probably thousands of words about that, but the point here is that I believe that “favouring” was actually directly making it worse, and by stopping it and using the leg properly, I’ll be able to cope with all the work that has to be done.
OK, so maybe it is the 5-HTP talking, but I strongly believe that both the new way of walking and the new way of working (work as leisure) are worth trying, and that’s what I’m determined to do, even if it takes a wee while to get into it. Watch this space.
In the previous post, 6 days ago, I said the current glut of paid work looked likely to end this week, but it didn’t. There’s been little in the way of new work, but some jobs have turned out to be more time consuming than expected and some deadlines have changed. It now looks like the busy-ness will continue for another 10 days to two weeks.
But the real bad news (unlike the busy-ness, there’s no upside to it) is that my old knee problem has flared up again. What that means is that I have to stay off my feet as much as possible for an unforeseeable length of time, which is not a good fit with printing, because that involves almost continually moving back and forward between computer and printer, which are in different rooms and can’t be moved closer, standing up and sitting down again many times in a session. And the more active I am, the longer it will take for the knee to settle down again.
Regarding the housework, I’m finding that keeping things more-or-less at the same level is really quite easy. But when I’ll next be up to making significant improvements to the state of the house, I honestly have no idea.
Found I had some time on my hands today for the first time in weeks, due to a printing ink supply problem. (There was actually some paid work I could have gotten on with, but that knocked out the biggest and most urgent job.)
So I managed to make some progress with housework! Not a lot, just some cleaning and dusting in the hall and bed-sitter, but it was interesting: at first I lapsed back into the old familiar “don’t enjoy this, just get it over with ASAP” mode, then I remembered it doesn’t have to be like that, slowed down, began to take some care over it, and found myself enjoying it again! Still find that quite amazing.
I’m going to do a bit more now and knock off around 4, then it’s back to the paid work first thing in the morning. The current glut looks likely to end this week, though, so with any luck I’ll be able to report real housework progress next weekend.
It’s been about ten days now since the last housework diary entry and I’m afraid I’m no further forward, due mainly to the amount of printing work that’s been coming in. As well as my biggest ever job by far, there are two others running concurrently, and some computer repair work too. I have actually cut back on the advertising for both businesses quite substantially, specifically to free up time for housework and bookkeeping, but it doesn’t seem to being making much difference! And it goes very much against the grain to turn work down, as well as being bad for future business. However, the good news is that things in the house haven’t slid backwards either, and as evidence here’s another pair of photos of the kitchen. Admittedly, they were taken a couple of days ago, when I first thought of doing this entry, but they represent the current state quite well.
So this evening, with all the windows flung wide to catch what little breeze there was, I took Katy Rodgers’ mango frozen yogurt from the freezer and Fallen Brewery’s Just the Ticket hoppy extra pale from the fridge, noting that the latter incorporates lemon, lime and orange zest, alongside the more traditional ingredients. That was when it happened: a genuine memory of childhood and warm summer evenings, the ice cream van coming round, and mixing vanilla ice cream with Barr’s American Cream Soda (apparently no longer available) for a fizzy sort-of milk shake. I thought, if beer can have citrus flavours, why not go just a little further and mix it with mango frozen yogurt? So I did, and for a while experienced food-and-drink heaven. As they say, to die for…
Haven’t had time to do any housework worth mentioning since the last entry, nor will over the next couple of days, due to pressure of paid work, but here’s something that I think is worth a mention anyway.
On the basis of the relevant history, the big question is not whether I can improve the state of the place, but whether I can keep it up mid- and long-term. The answer to that question has to be yes, for this reason: social isolation is no longer good enough for me. OK, I’m not totally isolated, I do go out now and again, but what a difference it would make to my social life if I felt I could invite people back here, too! I have a sister and a cousin that live within 20 miles, the sister’s been here once in the last twenty years—at least fifteen years ago, I think—and the cousin’s never been here, despite the fact that I visit her around once a month. I belong to a small informal meditation group that meets in members’ homes—except of course mine. And so on. Changing that, and keeping it changed, is an absolutely essential part of getting my life back on track. And visitors in the offing was always the one thing that would get me busy cleaning and tidying. Given that we’re talking not life-and-death but quality of life, I think it’s fair to say that my life depends on this: get the place good enough to invite people to, then keep inviting them.
This is a follow-on from the previous post. That explained why I’m blogging about my housework (basically, using public commitment to boost short-term motivation) and described the state of the house at the low point, which was roughly a month ago. In this post I’ll describe what I’ve done since then. Future ones will cover what’s been done the same day, or in some cases, probably, to be realistic, over the previous two or three days. But I’ll really try not to let it go beyond that. (This one is a few days late I’m afraid.)
The kitchen was the top priority. I cleaned the window first, glass and frame, then cleared and cleaned the work surfaces. The rest of the woodwork followed: mainly the external door and the skirting (not yet the shelves), and then the main appliances: cooker, fridge, washing machine and tumble drier. (The interior of the fridge remains to be done, also the oven, but neither is at all bad. Being vegetarian and eating mostly ready meals, or at least things that only need reheating, help keep the oven relatively clean. To go off-topic for a moment, I know ready meals aren’t awfully healthy but I do eat quite a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables.) After that I gave a proper cleaning to the “inside” bins (the wheelies, which live a couple of hundred yards away down at the roadside, can look after themselves as far as I’m concerned). Stuff for recycling goes in its own bin now which has cleared the floor but I’ve yet to make a decision on covering it so though it’s much more visible now, that’s not entirely a good thing.
Having gotten the kitchen to what I felt was an acceptable state, if only just, I moved on to the bed-sitting room. The changes here at the time of writing are less obvious, but the next post will describe more. So far the fireplace around the stove including the mantelpiece and the visible areas of the floor have been cleaned, as have the window glass and frame, and a substantial proportion of the papers have gone to recycling. I’ve also cleaned the outside of the windows of the kitchen, bed-sitting room, work room and those at the back of the house. The next stage will be to remove the remainder, or at least another substantial proportion, of the papers and other stuff that doesn’t belong in the bedsitter, and clean the floor areas and furniture thus revealed.
That’s not an awful lot to have accomplished in that time frame and the pace will have to pick up. To be honest, due to the good weather we’ve been having I’ve spent a fair bit of time outside on low priority garden/logging work and just relaxing. I view that as justified because I’m not taking a holiday as such this year, but if that particular distraction comes into play again very often over the coming weeks, we’ll be lucky. (Of course the main other demand on my time is paid work, which varies quite a lot but over the past month has probably been quite close to the long term average.)
Here are two pictures taken in the kitchen within the past few minutes:
How boring is that? Why on earth would anybody blog about their housework? They might have an ideological position on it, or ideas on the best way to go about it, but just listing what they’ve done? Surely not!
In a recent post I committed myself to stop using clinical depression as an excuse. I said I no longer considered myself a victim of it, and while I might be depressed at times in the future, I strongly believe that I’m well enough now that I can stop blaming it for my own failures. (It might be argued that I should have taken that attitude before now, maybe even long ago, but we are where we are, as they say.) I also believe that this change will actually be therapeutic. But anyway, the point of blogging about my housework is the public commitment. I hereby commit myself to posting on a very regular basis—it should probably be every day, in fact—saying what I’ve done and admitting it when I’ve done nothing, because I believe that commitment will help me get on with it. I might no longer be suffering from depression but I still have bad habits developed in the past, and lack good ones that most people take for granted. (This is for short-term motivation and good habit building, there is also mid- to long-term motivation but I think that works differently.)
The house is certainly in need of plenty of work. When people come here with computers to be fixed I have often said “I’m the world’s worst housekeeper and customers aren’t allowed in because they might get the wrong idea about how I’ll look after their computers!” When clients for printing started to come a couple of years ago I couldn’t keep them outside so I sorted out one room. I had great intentions of bringing the rest of the house up to that standard but that hasn’t happened, in fact the printing/work room has sunk back slightly towards the state of the others. There have been other developments, I got a lot of help from friends with painting and decorating the work room and others and in that respect most of the rooms are still not too bad but in terms of tidiness and also, I’m afraid, to some extent cleanliness, things are not at all great.
I say “are”, but the low point is now past, some significant improvements have already been made. The turnaround was about a month ago now. However, I’m going to describe how things were then in this post, use the next one to get up to date, then those that follow will be “in real time”, or least made on the same day as the work was done, mostly. (All posts on this topic will be filed in the category Housework diary.) I won’t mention such regular things as dish and clothes washing, or toilet bowl cleaning, which never got too far behind anyway. I’m not that bad!
Regarding the kitchen, I’m very conscious of potential rodent problems, the rubbish always went out regularly, and it never smelled of rotting food. But it did look bad, with accumulations of dry bread crumbs beside the chopping/bread board, the cooker top very spattered, cardboard and paper for recycling supposedly piled up but actually spilling across the floor, and all the large white appliances, as well as the white painted woodwork, looking distinctly grey. I lifted the old carpet tiles, which really were filthy, quite a while back, but never got around to replacing them, so the floor is currently unsealed and therefore quite badly stained hardboard.
OK, that’s enough detail, if not too much, I’ll try to cover other rooms more briefly. The work room is generally untidy but gets tidied, to some extent anyway, every time a client is expected, so it’s the best. Then there’s what is currently a bed-sitting room. It has a wood burner that emits a little smoke from time to time and tends to be quite dusty. There are piles of papers on the floor and the coffee table, two chairs piled high with clothes (there’s another that I use), an entertainment unit along with two free-standing speakers that all seem to attract dust, as do several shelving units and their contents. The mantelpiece is not now but was at the low point very dusty.
This is a three bedroom bungalow and what used to be the largest bedroom is now the work room, so there are two others, both of which are used as storerooms. For what? For junk, to be frank. Well, not all of it, in that case it would be relatively easy to get rid of. In fact some of the stuff in these rooms is definitely worth keeping so I will have to go through it all and make a decision about each thing. Also, due to their contents, these rooms were the only ones not redecorated two years ago, so that will have to be tackled too. I might as well admit here, I definitely do have hoarding tendencies.
The hall is not too bad. Its worst feature is the bare floorboards, apart from where I laid a few carpet tiles a year or so back before getting distracted. It contains the big printer, which is too big to go into the work room, but will fit into one of the junk rooms after de-junking. (As well as housing the printer that room will still be a storeroom, but a properly organised one. The other junk room will revert to being a bedroom. If you noticed the anomaly that the printer won’t go into the biggest but will go into another room, it’s not actually the room size but the width of the hall and the corners it would have to go around that are the problem. I made the mistake of filling it with ink in its current location, so now it can’t be tilted, or not without a great deal of trouble.)
That leaves the toilet/bathroom. There’s no shower. The toilet bowl has already been mentioned. The washhand basin has in the past been quite grubby, with blue-green stains, but it’s been not too bad for a while now (since about the time I started letting clients into the house). The bath still has similar stains but they seem to be very gradually getting better as I work on them a little at a time—more on that in a future post. The floor is bare boards, like the hall. There’s a water filtration/treatment unit with associated pipework that badly needs boxed-in and an Ikea cupboard intended to play the main part in that, when I get around to it.
I think that’s about it for now. The update post will follow in a day or two then I’ll get into the routine of real-time entries. I’m still considering whether to include photographs!