I have in the past had subscriptions to periodicals such as “Better Homes and Gardens” and “Sunset” (Western Edition, of course), as well as “Horticulture” and “Organic Gardening” among others. Sometimes, reading magazines is like the equivalent of a fashion- or fitness-conscious person reading fashion and exercise magazines (which I have also been and done in the far-distant past). It makes me feel INADEQUATE.

Let’s face it: we all know that professionals stage, dress, photograph and edit (sometimes heavily, and with airbrushes) all the photographs. We are rarely shown before-and-after pictures of the beautiful homes; the lived-in look isn’t what the glossy mags want to project. We see only the highly focused views of de-cluttered, de-kidded, de-petted/de-furred, and de-lifed rooms.

Here’s an older picture of one of my rooms that is presented in that way:

corner of bedroom

The above image shows a corner of the bedroom before books, ironing board, clothes, and other items started to fill things in. The top of the dresser is not generally visible in daily life, there are (again) books stacked in front of books and on top of books, and there are clothes in boxes and bags that need to be stored or given away. At the end of the school year, I tried to put all my “winter” and “teaching” clothes elsewhere so they would stay useable for the next school year. I gave away a good bit, too – while it was still technically worth giving away but no longer professional enough for teaching.

This is what the room looks like today at noon:Cluttered bedroom corner

My home, and my garden, reflect my health, wealth and time. Sometimes the house is nice and tidy, sometimes the garden is exuberant and well-kept. Other times, both are disasters. Most of the time there is a balance between clean/presentable and “quick, hide the [fill in the blank] before the guests arrive!” which can be lived in with ease. Fortunately, my bedroom is private space and I don’t have to worry about it being presentable. As long as I can find the bed and the bathroom, I am happy!

What am I striving for?

I want guests to be comfortable in my home, without worrying their shoes will mar the floor, and without worrying that if they sit down they will have to burn their clothes.

I want to be able to find art and craft materials instantly when I have an idea; to be able to put things away quickly without moving other materials out of the way; to be able to work on a surface without clearing it first.

I want to be able to put my hands on my reference books — so important for developing lessons! — and samples from students without going to four different locations. I want to know where my employment records are, and consolidate tax, insurance and retirement information. I want to be able to find any book I want to review or recommend without looking through boxes.


My dining room is my one clear spot at this point. It is clean, relatively dust-free and pretty. My focus is on keeping it clear enough that if people come to visit we can sit down there to chat. Which reminds me, must bring back the chairs from the storage locker!

Bathrooms have to NOT smell like bathrooms! And they should not be sticky. In any location.

Kitchen counters/stovetop and table need to be clean and clear of non-food clutter. This is an “in-progress” at the moment as canning and other areas are taking priority. I want to be able to walk into the kitchen in the morning and not feel I have to clean before I can cook; so making sure that dishes and pots are cleaned as they are used and the dishwasher has been run in the evening are high priority daily.

The entry needs to be clutter-free with only “brand-new” items in the process of being put away or “to-go” items waiting to be carried outside. The garden bench should have my most-used tools and gloves on top and everything else below. The mail basket should have no more than a month of non-urgent mail at any one time and no more than a week’s worth of recent material.

In process right now:

The office. I haven’t yet cleared the workbench, but I can now access my bookshelves, have organized some of the yarns and have a plan for fabrics. I found my gardening books!!! Re-organizing the long bookshelf over my workbench will be a good winter chore.

The living room. There are games and books that can be gone through and given away, and we can do a better job with putting away laundry when it comes out of the dryer. Just those two things will go a long way toward making the room feel more open and welcoming. The “console” table by the front door needs organizing, part of which is a non-negotiable because it’s where my purse and bags land when I come in. Right now there are some items that don’t belong that make it harder to use.

The front entry. Technically this is outside, but it’s an important part of the home. While I cannot replace the front steps and stoop this year (but I can tell that time is coming!), I want to wash and paint the door and trim, which are looking pretty shabby. And the cobwebs have got to go!

Today I worked for three hours steadily in the office from the time I got up until I needed to eat lunch. I re-organized materials from the bookshelves to make room for books, and cleaned out two boxes (one of them a 2×2 foot box!) as well as several small piles of materials.

I had supervision for part of the time:

Left is Apollo, right is Calliope, Grant's budgies.

I have a rough sense of order and method in the bookcase, the two “tall stacks” of drawers which hold sewing and craft supplies and the old table my dad built about 35 years ago when we still lived in Virginia. It fit in the VW bus we owned, and was a place for my brother and me to play games and do art when we were on long road trips. I also know which area to work on next (a set of horizontal files by the window) and will be able to start putting materials that are currently on a card table in the living room away.

This is what the bookcase and far wall look like now:

bookcase filling up and accessible.

corner of the office showing clutter on top of small table and hats on wall

You can see, from the second picture, that the little table still has a lot of “stuff” on it that needs attention. But it will happen. Maybe even later today.

I am choosing to not show the actual workbench — which is piled over a foot high with materials and items that are looking for homes. I am also not showing you the card table that has the same ailment.

I may want to let others know that real homes and real gardens, and real lives, are messy and disorganized. But I don’t want to be too honest!

One Interaction on “House and Garden: Real Life

  1. Later that night, I managed to get the card table that was in the living room cleared off. Yesterday (Friday) I cleared off most of the smaller table. This morning (Saturday)… I spent two and a half hours watering everything before it got too hot (supposed to reach 90 today), getting laundry done and hung on the line, and attending my weekend webinar… and cutting back several dozen long blackberry vines to start getting some order in the back yard and protect cars in the driveway from at least some scratching. Far from perfect, my yard and home, but definitely seeing some progress!

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