#MethodToTheMadness: Spring Cleaning
PHS columnists Jenna Kernan, Nina Milne and Vanessa North are taking on spring cleaning and tackling it in their own, individual ways...
Jenna Kernan - Organisation is the Key
I come down in favor of being organized. I find my workflow is much better when I know where everything is because I don't have to waste time searching for something.
Since beginning writing my third Harlequin Intrigue series of four stories, I have found the need to be organized even more important. That being said, I do struggle to keep organized. I am a lover of writing useful bits of information down on any available piece of paper. I often have notes scribbled in the margins of magazines, napkins, and on post-its. Despite this messy habit, my workspace is generally clean. If I noticed piles of papers for notebooks stacking on floor or work surfaces I will take the time necessary to put things away. One of my methods to reduce the clutter is to digitize or write conference notes in digital form and not print a copy. This has reduced the amount of paper I need to file.
As I write my third series of four books, I find that keeping a notebook on each series is very helpful. Inside I have character sketches, timelines, backstory, inspiring images, and maps that I have created. In addition, I have my writing log, a story timeline, and a list of character names.
My one perpetually messy spot is the place beside my laptop. This means my desktop is a combination of extremely organized at the edges with one unorganized pile of miscellaneous information at the center. It seems no matter how I try, I always end up with a similar stack. I think this is because I am either using them or there is just no great place to file them.
Here is a list of some of what is currently on the center pile from top to bottom.
Writing log – small blue notebook
Blood type research for current WIP – on bright green Post-it
Timeline sheet for current WIP – printer paper
Purple business card for Littlinks from NINC conference
Romance Writers Report magazine with dialogue for my heroine scribbled on an article titled “Stuck in the Middle.”
Social Media Folder – This is on the bottom and includes a calendar of posts for Facebook
You get the idea. Being organized is a lot like writing the first draft; it is a work in progress. But taking the time to put things away makes my writing space much more inviting.
Nina Milne - Operation Declutter
So the first thing you should know about me is I am a #hopelesshousewife, a #cluelesscleaner…. you get my drift. Luckily for me I married a heroic husband who wields a mean hoover and agreed (no word of a lie) before we got married that he would take over toilet cleaning duties til death do us part. Perhaps my next book will feature an Alpha stay at home Dad armed with a duster and a toilet brush!
Anyway, I digress. Back to the article – you may well be asking why on earth I feel qualified to write it?
Because, Reader, I have a dream. That by next Christmas I will have a clutter-free house, a blissful, organised place with clean lines, clean floors and a clear desk. But the key word here is organised – I am 100% convinced that organisation is the key.
Now in theory I am extremely organised – I am the mistress of the colour coded timetable, my book shelves are in alphabetical order by genre. Hell my spice rack is in alphabetical order. And yet I live in chaos….this is a mystery I can’t solve though it may have something to do with three children, a cat, a large dog and of course the fact I work from home. To say nothing of the #cluelesscleaner issue….
But no more. I am going to find some clues and I am going solve the damn things and my house will be organised whether it likes it or not. In fact Operation Declutter has begun. Which, believe me, is hard because it turns out I am also a #horrendoushoarder Worse every single hoarded item has some sentimental memory attached of the type that means discard is almost impossible. Plus I am convinced that one day every unidentifiable piece of Lego or Playmobil or random bit of plastic will be needed….
So clearly Operation Declutter is doomed to utter failure if I don’t find some method.
So this is my plan – I am going to ROAR and use:
1. Realism: My name is Nina Milne and I am a clutter addict….so I need to take it one step and one drawer at a time.
So I can go from this type of drawer to this type of drawer:
2. Organisation: Invest in sensible boxes/ racks – I haven’t done this yet as I have decided to wait until I see what I am left with after the declutter. So from this photo I need to purchase a shoe rack, a kitchen towel holder, and a dog food dispenser:
3. Allocation: Use available space sensibly – for example, I have converted the cupboard under the stairs into a re-enactment space (we do historical re-enactment so need a place to store our medieval kit)
4. Ruthlessness – I have to throw things away (this isn’t going too well!) But I do have a box to put things in I know I need to get rid of!
Which takes me nicely back to being realistic….maybe I should give up before I start, embrace my clutter – and accept I am a #clutterqueen
Vanessa North - Procrasticleaning
My housekeeping skills are, at best, rudimentary. At any given moment, you’re likely to find dirty dishes crowding my sink, a pile of shoes greeting you at the front door, and a mountain of laundry two hampers deep blocking access to the laundry room. Not to mention the dust-bunny farm thriving underneath the TV stand, or the boxes of books teetering on the sofa in my office. Between trying to foist some of the chores off on my children—it’s their laundry, mostly—and neglecting the rest of them until the last minute, I’m in a perpetual state of housekeeping triage.
But then the strangest thing happens as a deadline approaches. I get an itch to clean. And not just clear away the laundry backlog or make my sink sparkle. I start organizing my bookshelves and alphabetizing my husband’s DVD collection. I match the children’s socks and fold their underwear. I go through my closet and get rid of all the clothes that don’t fit. I throw away the shoes with the broken heel that I never got a chance to fix. I wash the inside of the silverware drawer, under the plastic trays. Y’all, I even evict the dust bunnies.
Clearly, this is a case of cleaning as procrastination shortly before deadline—or is it?
Considering my usual track record with housekeeping, it seems like this sudden urge to make my house look like a magazine spread must be tied to not wanting to write. Usually, that close to deadline, I’m hammering down the finicky bits, putting off writing the black moment, and totally skimping out on the denouement. I haven’t met an editor yet who thinks “and then they lived happily ever after” is sufficient in the denouement department. So why would I leave all that to inventory my husband’s extra sets of guitar strings?
Because the creative brain needs a break.
Procrasticleaning is giving your brain, your hands, and your body a break from “deadline position” and hitting the restart button. Think about it—close to deadline, we’re often writing around the clock, hunched over a keyboard. If you’re like me, you’re drinking caffeine in near-toxic quantities and consuming so much junk food, your nose is starting to turn the color of artificial cheese powder. Getting up and cleaning? It’s good for you. It gets you moving, and better than that? It gets you thinking.
I find myself thinking about my writing while I clean. That black moment? The perfect line to convey heartache will arrive just as I’m cleaning the last bits of sludge out of the vegetable drawer in the fridge. That stubborn decision about who should top in the makeup sex? Worked out while vacuuming the kids’ rooms. That name change that I know my editor is going to insist upon because you can’t have eight characters whose names begin with J in one book? That will come to me somewhere around the eighth load of laundry, along with the sock that had been missing so long I finally threw away its match last week.
Hitting the reset button by getting away from the computer screen and elbows-deep in dishwater can reconnect me to my story in ways I don’t anticipate. And bonus—my house will look nice. At least until the kids get home from school.