I have had the loveliest weekend! My dear friend Emilia is on sabbatical from her eco job in Edinburgh, and after wrestling the neverending problems of air pollution fancied a bash at the supposedly finite [ahem] problem of organising my studio for me. I am very lucky in my friends, previously Jennifer has given me birthday presents of time sorting the studio as I downsize and share regularly, but equally attract large gifts of materials and tools when people want to find homes for things too good to throw away. Being known as someone who can direct craft and art materials in many directions is good, but as I get more ill, I think next year’s resolution might be to accept less, and signpost more! Jennifer is much missed in my life at the moment as she is nursing her terminally ill mother and her calm wisdom and loving support of my art and self development have helped me enormously over the nearly 20 years of our friendship. When Emilia spontaneously suggested giving me a weekend of clutterclearing the studio, I leapt at the chance! Like Jennifer and myself, Emilia is deeply committed to thrifty use of resources and environmental responsibility, and I knew I could trust her to respect why I had hung on to things others might have sent to landfill, and to help me let go of things that no longer appeal or are possible with the increasing limits of disabling fibromyalgia.

So, the basic problem in the studio is that it is a very small bedroom – think room for a double bed you can squeeze round, but with very good built in wardrobe and shelves on the left hand wall. The window faces the air shaft up to Woodborough Rd [a very busy main road in Nottingham] and the wall has broken away a little so there is a terribly depressing view of bricks and breeze blocks, and almost no natural light. The light in the front room is fantastic by the huge window, which is why I have the big front room as a bed sit and use this back room as a walk in storage area for clothes and most of my craft materials. {that could be an economical use of the truth, my materials are in every space in the flat 😀 } Anyway… the walk in had become a squeeze in, and due to dizziness and fear of falling I rarely tried to get to the back any more and would ask Cherise or Penny [personal support carers and friends] to fetch things for me. So, basically a big ‘island’ had built up in the middle, with chairs I only use for gatherings, boxes of eBay goods, project boxes, and then what I call randomness… boxes gathered from the sofa in a scurryfunge {(v.) middle English; to rush around cleaning frantically, when company is on their way to your home. To clean briskly.}  which start off easy to remember, but get very blurred after a few weeks, especially as this summer’s medical sagas have drained my spoons. Then some paintings a friend had been storing came back and though I tried to put them in a sensible place, somehow {that’s the bit I really need to work on!!}  now they were in the way… sigh. And being vulnerable/fragile and in the way is a terrible combination! So, brace yourselves, now come photos that don’t really convey the horror, because it was so cluttered I was standing in the doorway to take the pics and there’s almost no light in there… {be glad people!!}

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and some more:

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and, er, some more…

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Emilia suggested I make a list of things she could blast through while I was sorting through randomness, and although she has recently had a knee operation, she is still very agile and nimble, so I asked if she would have a go at the kitchen window frames, which were beginning to show signs of blackspot mould, something I can’t afford to be around, as it is so bad for your health. Again, this window faces the airshaft, but the landlady has put in a pretty stained glass window sticky plastic facing, which is much more pleasing than the broken wall shaft view 😉 One of the reasons I was accepted for the flat was that I was happy to agree to never change the colour scheme of orange and green in the kitchen, which the younger applicants all hated. However, I know why she chose it, it warms up what would be a cold dark room otherwise. So, this is what Emilia tackled – she had to climb up on the counters and sink unit to get at the upper bit of wall framing the window and my lovely homehelp Penny is a real treasure but not someone comfortable on ladders or chairs, never mind vaulting a counter, so this hadn’t been deep cleaned for a while.

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and more:

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Emilia achieved wonders with this, there was a patch nearly as bad as behind the taps in a very inaccessible corner and she white vinegared it to death, and wiped down tops of kitchen units and shelves on either side and helped sort out bottles saved for an apple juice making friend and randomness such as bubble mixture leftover from when I had toddler friends visiting [easy, taken for her youngster] and leftover paint jars, beakers, yoghurt pots etc etc all washed and put in recycling or back in the painting cupboard.

So, you’ve seen the before, here’s the after!

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There should a trumpet salute for this really 😀

It’s difficult to convey how much has changed really, but what has happened is that the wardrobe space on the left has been joined by the wicker drawer unit, with the de-humidifier inbetween keeping the room dry/ mould free. Every drawer was brought to me as I sat in state {coffee regularly refilled on my right, mints on my left, cat at my feet} and I purged lots of items – I filled a large binbag with ‘rags’ for a charity shop to get 50p for from the mattress makers [they shred all fabrics] and a large carrier for the Queensize clothes swap, mostly very good condition, but some ‘medium’ because it’s useful to get clothes you can do the decorating in, as well as the obvious interview and event options. Then the drawers were filled with the clothes that had been starting to collect at the front of the island. Win Win!!

This was a good way to get into the ‘shedding’ mood, on the whole I have very little attachment to clothes, though I did keep a couple of shirts I’m intending to create Joe Brown style mixed fabric block dresses with. Seeing two large bags ready to leave really felt good and built some positive momentum for the next items, which were some very random boxes. Emilia had to do a lot of scurrying backwards and forwards as I had a big box for Playworks [a scrapstore for children’s and outreach projects] and the Community Orchard [where Jen – not to be confused with Jennifer-  works with children and vulnerable adults doing gardening and playwork, and has a keen knitter I’ve never met but often send yarns to…

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previously there was a young lad I sent yarns for, because his family wouldn’t support him doing something so ‘girlish’ as knitting, I really hope it helped him that the project supported him, I can’t stand that sort of ill-informed prejudice, most yarnwork – knitting, crochet, sprang, weaving all came from nets for fishing, shelter building and garment making. They were skills used by all genders, for all genders! Grrrr!]

I was constantly finding items that belonged in project boxes, eBay potentials, and MISSING things – like my much loved embroidery scissors, which have been gone at least 3 years :O I’d already gone through my fabric boxes to eBay materials bought for community quilts I now don’t have the spoons to make…

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that was a recent breakthrough in therapy, to just let go gracefully and save my spoons for art [I can hear Jennifer cheer 😀 ] and that means I can also let go of my midarm quilter. I’d arranged for that to go to a refugee charity in Greece, but they couldn’t get it from Nottingham to Dover, which was very frustrating – I suppose I could have paid for it to be shipped, but I don’t trust carriers with £650 machines and also felt unwilling to add £25 to what I was already giving, when I have to fundraise to afford Oxygen therapy… Emilia did a great job cleaning the cover of the machine which had been sitting waiting in a corner for over 6 months before I gave up on the charity. I’ll now try and sell it, and if I can get some Oxygen sessions out of it, that’s a good exchange.

The boxes of randomness were gradually sorted, with lunch breaks, flapjack breaks and then an overnight break as Emilia partied with some Nottingham friends and I rested and Facebook chatted 😉 Lovely Lailah is in Edinburgh on an MSc in Forensic Anthropology {close enough for skiffle?} and I had chatted lots with her during my experiments with acrylic paint, like Onni, she loves acrylic, and as she has a birthday coming up, I arranged that Emilia will pass on the tube paint set I recently bought and hardly used before my eyes gummed up. [see last post] It is very handy to have friends who aren’t offended at being offered my leavings!! We had also discussed my downsize, so when I offered her rovings for feltmaking, she could tell me colours that would work for her, and I went through my two large crates of felting equipment and materials and sorted out some yarns and rovings that I could sell on ebay, which with the small carrier I collected of bold and vivid rainbows for Lailah meant I could squash everything into one crate, though the ‘head’ for hats isn’t counted in that {not cheating really 😉 } I also was inspired by Emilias’s window blitz to downsize my herbal tea collection a bit and shared out some quarter boxes between Emilia and Lailah as I know they enjoy organic teas. I still have a dozen, so visitors have plenty to choose from 😉

By now we had a respectable count of cardboard boxes empty and folded for recycling, and when Emilia returned, slightly less caffeinated and a touch on the hangover side we had a slower speed, but still rattled through another half dozen boxes. It was so amazing to see the gaps appear, first in the ‘island’ and then as we got access to the shelves on the side of the wardrobe, boxes began to be rehoused and wasted space began to fill:

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and:

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Labelling is essential for me, and while I still have ‘backlist’ projects I am keeping materials for, I know that keeping like with like in labelled boxes means that I can easily find and pull out what I need and that equally some of these projects require more spoons than I have right now so can go under small, light canvases without suffering any harm, and when/if I’m ready, they can be pulled out by a helper.

Another big win was getting the ‘carrots’ trolley out of the wardrobe and emptying it, lots of things went straight into the Playworks box 😉  Emilia really liked the trolley, so it is now rolling back to Edinburgh with her, along with a backpack I can no longer sling over my shoulder, and 3 {so happy about this!} crochet projects I was given by Tish from clearing out her mother’s house in the hope I would be able to pass them on 🙂 I’d washed the pale cyclamen pink cardigan jacket to felt it slightly, and added some embroidery to the brown waistcoat, but the unfinished violet dress was beyond me, and I’m really glad Emilia found a friend who is happy to get a vintage 70s project!  She also has taken some beautiful woven fabric that will be great to re-upholster the new-to-her dining chairs her partner sourced, and insisted on giving me some money for it, even though she has worked so hard! I’m enjoying how things I once loved are back in use, I always enjoyed how funky the carrots looked even though Andy laughed at them 😀

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so, final numbers:

1 binbag rags, 1 large carrier of crafts and bits to charity shop

1 large carrier to Queensize swap

1 large box to Community Orchard

1 large box to Playworks,

9 cardboard boxes flattened and put in recycling,

1 large binbag paper shreddings

small bag to Lailah, small bag to Jen, trolleyful to Emilia,

1 broken shredder to the tip to be checked into electricals

1 carrier of landfill.

And a large, large breathing space! where clutter blocked the way, now you can cheerlead for art: Thanks so much Emilia xxx

And the space is more than I imagined, so I’ll be able to invite more friends to my birthday gathering, yay! Win win, winnity win 😉

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