I am an appalling housekeeper.
I’m good at a number of things, I think. I seem to be an effective teacher; at least, my students mostly pass and, as far as I can tell, don’t actively hate me at the end of the semester. I’m an efficient researcher, as well. I’m also good at remembering where other people have left their glasses although not, alas, at remembering where I have put my own.
But housekeeping? No. We don’t live in actual squalor, mind: not the kind of squalor that includes dead animals or human waste (okay, there was that one possum, but he was in the downpipe, not the living room. And I do occasionally have to chase out water dragons seeking fresh fruit and bush turkeys hoping for a dry nesting place. But those are temporary).
But we generate a lot of paper: books, notebooks, draft chapters, sketchpads, notes, stray Post-its. And, somehow, I’m starting to think that having everything in piles doesn’t really qualify as being tidy.
The study is causing me particular concerns.
I love my study; since moving out of home, I’ve been longing for a house where my desk wasn’t in the corner of my bedroom, and this little, white, wooden house is the first place where I’ve managed that.
So I love my study.
I love the window, even though it opens on to next door’s unpainted, corrugated-iron roof, and the sun’s unbearable in the afternoon (don’t blame me for the chintz curtains—they came with the house).
I love my James Jean prints, even though the one of Hansel drowning two witches as an interrogation method (from Fables) does seem a little creepy, now I look at it.
And I love my books.
But that’s where the problem starts. And ends, really. Because books are never a waste of space, but they take up so much space. And technically, I only have half a study, since Nick occupies the other corner.
So what this picture doesn’t really show is that the shelves are essentially triple-packed: books, with books on top of them, then more books in front. Trying to find anything is a nightmare, and I’m getting to the point where I’ve forgotten what I’ve already bought.
There are also books on the floor, although that did cause amusement when the temporary kitten wouldn’t believe me when I told her that the piles weren’t stable and then had to go and hide behind the swan table until she calmed down.
What I find particularly odd is the tendency of the study to attract wasps, so that you hear them buzzing somewhere and next thing you know they’ve built a succession of nests down the back of your hardback of Leslie Stephens’s Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century, which you don’t discover for months, because, really, who reads Leslie Stephens on a regular basis?
So I’m hoping now for a bigger study. One where I can have bookshelves lining the walls. Shallow bookshelves, so I can’t triple stack even if I’m tempted.
I could just stop buying books, but that doesn’t seem like a viable option. It would take a heart of stone to go to the Lifeline BookFest and walk past a facsimile reprint of late Wizard of Oz books, or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, or the complete poems of Keats in a puffy orange suede jacket.
Even if they do end up sitting in a pile on the floor until you’ve temporarily forgotten about them.