My study badly needed repainting but I put it off for ages because the idea of dismantling the room I'd been working in for sixteen years was just too much. Finally, however, it had to be done. I knew everything would have to be taken out because a new carpet was needed as I'd worn it out completely in some places (didn't realise a chair on wheels could do that, or maybe it was just my big feet) and I just assumed it would all go back in. Then, the night before the decorating was due to start and with books everywhere, I suddenly decided to change the whole lot by removing the built-in desk and putting in a floor-to-ceiling bookcase instead of the drapers' drawers (now with my sewing machine in Alice's room) thus solving part, if not all, of the ongoing book storage problem.
It was a revelation which now feels like a fresh start. I've been ruthless with what's allowed to come back into my study, and have had to rearrange practically every single bookshelf in the house in order to deal with the knock-on effects of changing the selection in here. I've brought in all the books that relate to the projects I'm working on as well as those that are relevant to what I want to do next (to keep me focussed and inspired), and the rest have been dispersed.
After much sorting, yesterday I finally had very tidy bookshelves, a very tidy desk, a very tidy floor, in a very tidy room painted a lovely rich shade of coral. It was lovely, until I sat down to work and felt very odd. It was as though something was missing behind me and to the sides and then it dawned on me that it was simply too tidy. It turns out I don't feel comfortable or at ease in a super-tidy room, even if it's my own.
So out came all the postcards I've collected on my Grand Provincial Tour visits. Out came the Blu-Tak, and up went arrangements of all the favourite or interesting paintings I've seen so that I can see them all around me. In came flowers, books stacked one on top of each other, and a devil-may-care attitude to my desk surface.
I feel much better now, more at home, more at ease. I remember enjoying A Perfect Mess when it first came out, and never has its message felt more true. A tidy desk or room doesn't automatically mean a tidy mind, as they say: in my case it can also mean a so-tidy-it's-empty mind.