I’m one of those people who work best in a moderately orderly environment. With visitors coming to stay for a few months and a new puppy about to arrive, ‘orderly’ is starting to fall into the same headspace as ‘challenge’. The puppy arrives at the end of this week, the guests at the end of the month – along with their four chickens, five quail and two kittens. Luckily no partridge – and I already have the pear tree.
Our place has rather aptly been renamed Menagerie10 and will really be living up to that name over the next few months. To accommodate the various changes to our lifestyle, three rooms need to be compressed into one and the contents of those rooms put away somewhere, baby-gates (repurposed as puppy-gates) have to go up to protect some areas from sharp little teeth and a cat run needs to be built. Since that’s clearly not a big enough challenge, we also decided to replace the water repellent, smelly back lawn with an all new buffalo variant. The existing lawn gets to be replanted out on the verge, after digging up the mostly-dead wild grass out there as well. The final item on the agenda is to lay down the conduit for a below ground power cable up to my art shed.
Clearly this little lot could only ever be achieved by chunking it into manageable mini-tasks, then working through those until the whole lot’s done … so phase one has been to accept that there is no room for scope creep, to actively set aside any bright new ideas that pop up and to focus on the core objectives.
Phase two has been to implement replacing the lawn with new turf. After a weekend of back-breaking digging, we recruited the help of strong backs (friends, family), acquired extra spades and hired a backhoe – then spent yet another weekend in the garden. Getting the back lawn up and moved was a fairly straightforward job, even if it was a long, hard slog, and it was done by mid afternoon of day one.
Phase three has taken longer and cost more, both in terms of dollars and sweat. The trench for the power cable was a fairly epic digging job and finding that a section of concrete had to be attacked with an angle grinder and chisels was just one not-so-small small hiccough along the way. By close of business yesterday the pipes were laid in readiness for the electrician and the trench was filled. At this point it was clear that there will need to be some late night gardening activity under spotlights this week in order to get the back lawn down by puppy-day (Friday). Replanting the verge was re-evaluated and has gone into the too-hard-for-now basket.
Phase four, the three-into-one room compression, is ongoing. After flailing ineffectually at the task or a week or so, it became clear that the only strategic way forward was to take a step sideways. So I started by emptying the two rooms of everything that needed to come out, leaving one room furnished with guest beds and the other with a bookcase, table and two chairs. This effectively created guest sleeping and chill-out accommodation, so that part of the to-do list can be ticked off.
Unfortunately , this also left my study fair bursting with a combination of office equipment, books, toys, xmas decorations, craft equipment, old university notes and kitchen appliances that somehow don’t fit in the kitchen. Even though it was all stacked in neat piles, the increase in chaos in my workspace definitely pushed my limits. So it was back to decluttering basics for me: do a little every day, starting with one pile and working towards having everything either put away, boxed for storage, given away or binned. It’s the good old four box method and works pretty well for me since it forces choices: keep / unsure / re-home / chuck. The ‘unsure’ pile gets revisited for a second round of selection at the end of the process, by which stage the whole ‘do I really need or want this’ mindset is fully engaged and the decisions are easier to make.
Although it took a while, I could feel calm returning with every decision made, even if some of the harder ones stalled me out for a while. Keeping my goal of an uncluttered workspace in sight, I’ve made two trips to the Op Shop to donate some of the more useful gear and a lot more trips out to the bin with bags of junk so far. After unearthing the label-machine, all the boxes and drawers got shiny new labels as I put things away. My theory is that this will make it much easier – and less frustrating – to finding the left-hand widget (or whatever) that I know I had somewhere.
It’s been pretty satisfying to do a little every day, working around a slightly anxious dog and see the goalposts getting closer. Next step: getting that lawn down. We shall make it so 🙂