Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Why Putting My House in Order is not Procrastinating

For years, nay decades, I’ve said that I can’t wait to retire because then I write full time. I’ll stop working two jobs (writing and teaching) and go to just one. I’ve planned my future daily schedule in my head so many times, I know it by heart. Get up between 6:30 and 7:00 A.M., check my emails, play my online games (4 each day – takes between 5 and 20 minutes), go brush my teeth, get dressed and write for the next hour. Have breakfast, write more. Take a mid-morning break to do something mindless (dust, laundry, etc.), write more. Lunch. Edit in the afternoons. Or do promo, write a blog post, read the loops...something business related but not actual writing, since I’m not usually at my creative best in the afternoons.

I officially retired as of seventeen days ago. So why, after spending years planning for this, have I spent only four of them actually writing?

Because I’m putting my house in order.

Tony Morrison once said, “I don’t wait to be struck by lightning and don’t need certain slants of light to write.” And I don’t either.

But I do need a clean house.

I started with the upstairs, since that’s where my study is. I’ve dusted shelves, culled through our book collection to make way for new books I’ve gotten from the closing out of three households, vacuumed, straightened and rearranged. I have also created a guest room out of my son’s old room (he now has his own apartment), washed the woodwork in all the upstairs rooms and found the floor in our bedroom. The upstairs bathroom is sparkling and the clutter is gone.

And it feels good.

So good that I’ve started on the attic. It’s been a niggling thought in my head for the past few years. When we started bringing things home from my Mom and Dad’s place in December, I declared a zero-sum policy. If something went into the attic, something had to come out.

That worked for a while. My son had only a few bins stored up there, so when he left, a little more space became available. Then the weather turned hot and the three window air conditioners stored in the attic came down as well. Of course, it was too hot to work up there, but we’ve had a run of lower temperatures yesterday and today, so....

How much junk is up there? Well, there is so much junk up there – that, between yesterday and today, I’ve brought down six boxes, four of which are going to the recycling center on Saturday. What was in them? Receipts, NYSEG bills, telephone bills, bank statements, old paystubs...from the 1980’s.

Yep. Thirty-year-old statements when they only need to be kept for seven.

Going through them, however, has been a kick. Remember long-distance charges? My husband found a paystub from a night watchman job he held for several months...for which he was paid $3.60 an hour. Good money, since minimum wage was $3.35/hr. I also found notes and business plans for theatre companies we started (or tried to start – one was successful, the other two attempts, not so much).

But some not-so-pleasant memories as well. Reminder notices of bills not paid, bank balances alarmingly low, and paystubs from a job I hated. Shredding all those, however, has made my load lighter. In a way, its destroying the evidence and now, if I don’t want to remember that job (selling furniture on commission. I was – am – a lousy salesman. Closing the deal just isn’t in my nature), I don’t have to remember it.

That’s why cleaning house isn’t procrastinating. It’s a mental state. I am literally putting my house in order in order to allow my mind the room it needs for creativity. I will no longer have that annoying thought in the back of my head, “You know, that room needs cleaning...those boxes need to be sorted...that junk needs to be thrown away.” And because that voice will be silent, I can settle into a good story and write my heart out.

Now if I could just ignore the basement...

Play safe!


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