Up until my mid-fifties my life was chaotic. The bipolar disorder that occupies my mind and body was running rampant, my physical health was poor and my home was beginning to look like one that could be featured on a television series about hoarders.

It wasn’t that I didn’t throw anything away, I did but just not very often. I didn’t want to keep stuff but I didn’t know how to throw it away. I later learned that the feeling of waiting to get permission from my brain to do it was executive dysfunction.

As a teenager my mother screamed at me in an effort to motivate me. When I moved in with my husband we would do a massive clear up when we invited people round except when we were passing the doobie.

So what changed things?

I decided that I needed time away a few times a year and I had to learn to be tidier before letting a pet sitter in to feed the animals. Four rats and four cats can make a huge amount of mess and added to mine… At least the kitchen was tidy.

Wanting to go away for a few days at a time felt like a brave thing for me to do. A year or do prior to making the decision to go away now and then I had been at great risk of suicide  and had been seeing my GP as often as once a week at one point.

During one of our appointments I mentioned what I was planning and said that my depressive episodes were fuelled by my lack of domestic organisation which in turn decreased my ability to look after myself.

He suggested something so simple I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of it before.

He told me to choose a level of chaos I could live with and then attempt to live slightly below it. It worked.

Birdcage Walk, Bristol

Slowly I grew tidier and things began to get tidier. I recycled household waste which made me feel as though I was doing something more positive than just tidying up the flat. The process took years rather than months and having my kitchen revamped making space for a washing machine made a big difference as there are fewer opportunities for piles of laundry to build up.

One thing I have recently started to do has helped me enormously. I half fill a utensil container with warm soapy water each morning and as I use cutlery I pop them in dirty side down. By evening they are clean and just need a quick rinse under the tap. It’s such a simple idea but saves me a lot of angst.

Becoming less chaotic hasn’t been a sudden change in my life, it has taken years. Occasionally I look around and wonder how the neatness in my home came about. I’m not perfectly tidy and I don’t think that’s possible with three cats and a dog in residence but I am messily tidy and it pleases me.