For most of Better Than Before, I really enjoyed Gretchen Rubin’s company. She’s chirpy, cheerful and positive. She reads children’s literature. We share  a genuine pleasure in de-cluttering. We find stationery shops blissful and like nothing better than a list compiled in the morning with all its items crossed off at night.  “Me too!” I kept thinking. “Gretchen, you’re my new best friend.”
Well, up to a point. And this was is it.

One night, Eliza and I had a long conversation about homework. She lay on her bed while I prowled around the room in search of clutter to clear. I stashed blue nail polish, threw away empty gum wrappers, put books on the shelves and put away clothes as we talked. (I find light clutter clearing very relaxing. Eliza tolerated this activity).

But Gretchen, that’s not your nail polish. Not your room. Not your space.

I too have done my fair share of ‘organising’ other people’s belongings. My son, like Gretchen’s daughter Eliza, had to tolerate my raids on his bedroom until he was old enough to protest and resist. My husband has always resisted, but nevertheless he’d had shelves, files, boxes, bags, magazine holders thrust upon him in my quest to streamline his stuff. Until I realised that it was my problem, not his. I still drop the odd heavy-handed hint about how nice it is when you cleanse your wardrobe of worn-out and rarely worn clothes, but I don’t steamroller any more. It’s easy to imagine there is some kind of moral high ground in orderliness, but there isn’t. And there are better ways to use my energy and reforming zeal.

For  instance, working on my next novel.




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