A space to call home.

I’ve spent a lot of the last couple of years in bed. Sometimes I have needed to be there, post chemotherapy, post operations, in pain, tired. But I have spent a hell of a lot of time in there when I haven’t needed to be, too.

The reason for this is quite simple, and really has nothing to do with cancer, or sickness at all. And I reckon that while a lot of you might not relate to the bed bit, you will relate to the reason – because I am absolutely sick to death of the state of my home, the carnage that four children a husband and a dog create every day. I used to yell and tear my hair out about it, but I decided not to sweat the small stuff, right? I don’t want my kids to remember this harpy fishwife. All the hippy love and light, mama is going to bed at 7pm, jump in with me, watch a show, have a cuddle, anything so I don’t have to look at the fucking kitchen. I’ll chase my tail again tomorrow after the school run, and put that song on repeat.

I’ve been a homebody as long as I can remember. A lot of people don’t realise it, as I have an extroverted personality, but I am an introvert by nature. I would rather be in my home than pretty much anywhere, I love to have people over, I prefer to be able to give more attention to smaller groups of people than be in large crowds. I always enjoy myself when I go out, but getting me out is not that easy!

And so, my home is very important to me. And I always imagined the home that I would bring my children up in….the only problem is that this sure as shit isn’t it. There is crap all over the place all the time….the children are children, and they would rather play than clean. I can dig that, but I can’t live in it. So, off to bed I go. I am not depressed when I am in there, I am quite happy and comfortable in my cave, I have my laptop, my TV, I can write in there, hell, I have written some of my best articles the day after chemo, on the laptop in my bed. But the problem is that I have stopped caring about my home, stopped curling up on the couch with my husband, stopped playing games with my kids and participating more in the bedtime routine…you guessed it, I am already in bed myself. Too much to do, too overwhelming, too tired of fighting it….you all know the drill.

There was at time that I was constantly at pains to change this. We operate our business from home, from a little office under the stairs. It is a tiny room, as the staircase runs through nearly half of it, but big enough for a computer and filing cabinet etc. And big enough to hold every bit of junk that comes into the house that no one knows what to do with. Badly lit, uninspiring, horrible little dungeon. So, a couple of years ago, I decided that I needed at least one space in the house to call my own, and I set myself up a little writing space in the tiny nook under the staircase. I cleaned up the whole room, and created this little space, to do my writing and my school work, and just retreat when I needed to get away. It looked like this:

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I’m trying to remember if I ever sat there. Once? Maybe twice? Because in no time at all, it looked like this:

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Fuck THAT shit. So, back to the pit I went.

A few weeks ago though, around the start of the neck sweating and cock bottle carrying chemo, when I fell into a deep depression, I realised that there was only one way through it for me…the same thing that always works for me. Live like I am living, just get on with it, get up, dress up, show up, all those inspiring words on Pinterest boards. And the key to this, for me, has always been to work.

I said to Gaz, I need a home office. I’m a writer, an author, and these things need a space. I need to take the children to school, come home, make a coffee, go to work. And despite the fact that I wrote about 99% of my blog / book from the king size, I didn’t mean THAT space. Too much distraction, too much potential to have a little nap, enough with the bed already. I want to become a much more prolific writer of articles, I want to share with the world how I feel about many things…social justice, human rights, parenting, disability…so many things. I have the outlines of another book in my head. I need an inspiring place to make all these happen, to pay respect to what I have already achieved and what I still want to strive for.

As luck would have it, my friend Jen, who designed that beautiful book cover for Breakfast, School Run, Chemo decided that she wanted to expand her branding and web design business to encompass her enormous talents as an interior designer. I (along with Dev) officially opened Jen’s studio a month or two ago, and I saw the beautiful space she had created there, and I definitely wanted IN. So, I contacted her straight away, and then I told Gaz that I wanted him to clear out the study of all his gear – I want the whole room. The clearing out was the issue, rather than me wanting the whole room – omg it took hours (days) and nearly cost us both the will to live! And to be honest, Gaz wasn’t sold on the whole idea. As much as the amount of time I spend in bed shits him to absolute tears, I don’t think he thought that this would change anything, and he had no vision for the room as such – he thought of it more as a dim little cupboard. Still, I was determined, so we got it done.

Yesterday was THE DAY. Jen invoiced me only for the materials, despite my protests, she wanted to gift me the room. So, she decided to bring two of her staff, have me clear out of the house for the day, and do it “extreme makeover” style. I only gave her a few briefs…somewhere comfortable to sit with my laptop, or a book, so if I was tired, I could still be in there and didn’t have to sit at the desk. I said I liked vintage, and I liked yellow and blue somewhere in the colour scheme. Other than that, I wanted it to be a surprise. Well, my friends, when it comes to what greeted me at 8pm last night (they started at 10am here, and they’d already put in a couple of hours picking up things for the room and driving down here), surprise does not really cut the mustard. I give you the new home office of Julia Watson, writer, author, very very fucking happy person:

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Have you EVER seen anything more magnificent than that in your whole life?

That is not just a room, folks, that is a statement. That says that I am not going gently into the big void. I’m not going quietly. Gaz has lost his Mac, he’s conceded he needs to buy another one, and I am going to bash out some words on that baby. As much as I can for as long as I can.

The change was immediate and quite frankly life changing. I sat in here last night after the other dispersed to their various spaces. I cried a few times…not heaving sobs, just quiet, gentle tears. Because this says I am good enough. For all I do for others as a wife and mother, I deserve this space. I’ve never left the bed so early on a Saturday morning, and after making sure that my room was still here and I hadn’t dreamed the whole thing, I made my coffee and bought it in, and I sat in the blue chair, the sunlight streaming through the glass bricks. It’s an inspiring writing space, without question, but it’s also somewhere that I can come and drink a glass of wine, and read a book, when the chaos that is outside the door gets too much. A few people have wondered how long it will be before this descends into chaos, but I can 100% tell you that this won’t be happening. This is not a room for children and I will remain emphatic on that point. There are 13 rooms in this house and they have spread their crap over pretty much every one of them, this, well this is mine.

On a final note, this got me thinking about you guys. I was having a discussion with a few girlfriends the other day and we were all bemoaning the fact that sometimes you feel you can’t have anything “nice” with kids. Precious things get broken, drawn on, the Tim Tams we hid at the back of the cupboard for a guilty treat get found, and eaten 😛 It really can give you a bit of a feeling of not really mattering, that you are there for others and there is barely anything left for you at the end of the day. So, as I sat in my room last night, I was thinking that nearly everyone has at least one tiny space in their house, even if it is only a corner that you can screen off with one of those decorative screens, that they can make their own. Find that space, claim it, go to Kmart or IKEA, make it personal to you, and tell everyone else that it is yours and they have to respect that. It might just change your life a little bit, you know?

Not everyone can afford the services of an interior designer, but Jen’s rates are very reasonable and the quality of her work speaks for itself in the photos above. Find her on Facebook “Jen Clark Spaces” (or Jen Clark Design if you are in need of web design or branding services).

http://jenclarkdesign.com.au is her website, and she can be found in Collingwood, Melbourne. She is a major talent, and possibly the nicest human being on the planet. Thanks for making the world a better place for me Jen.

8 Comments on “A space to call home.

  1. Oh wow … Julia you read my mind as I’ve been having similar thoughts about the state of the house and my own lack of space in it. How does this shit happen? Well, we know how it happens but I’m so glad you’ve made this little oasis for yourself. It really is beautiful and I hope you spend many restorative and happy hours there.

    For most of my life, my bedroom has been my haven. It was a spot I could retreat to for work and rest and it was full of the things I loved. Things that made me happy just to look at them. That space disappeared gradually over the years. It took me a while to notice it and then I realised what the niggling annoyance about the overall state of the house was about … me not seeming to have any place in it. When I put it like that it sounds selfish but it’s not of course. We all need that space, no matter how small.

  2. Wow. You put a name on what’s been bothering me about “losing” my office. I work from home, and seldom do it in my office. And yet, I love my office and have been having some really bitter feelings that my husband took it over to store things. I read this and was nodding along. It makes sense now. And you can add that my office is filled with my late mother’s things–her bookshelves and books (Which I adore) and her huge solid oak desk where I just feel important and comfortable when I sit…to not be able to use it …well you hit the nail on the head. And, while my health problems are not terminal I have lived with debilitating chronic pain for over half my life- going in there and reclaiming my office seems insurmountable some days. Thank you for this. And I apologize for the babbling- on top of my normal pain I have a concussion and had oral surgery yesterday. I am not at my best. :)

  3. This room is divine. Jen did a great job. I can see you getting some good writing done there.
    I’ll shoot you a few more suggestions for editors x

  4. “I cried a few times…not heaving sobs, just quiet, gentle tears. Because this says I am good enough. For all I do for others as a wife and mother, I deserve this space.”

    Love this part. Love!

  5. Congratulations Julia. It is beautiful. Jen has read your brief and delivered. I hope you are really happy in their and I’m sure that the rest of the blog readers look forward to photos from your happy, creative space.
    Just make sure the other buggers respect this is YOURS. If anything foreign makes it in there, chuck it out.
    My three sons have now all flown the coop and have spaces of their own with their respective partners and have learned that mummy was right to be selfish about them not spreading their shit all over the place.
    They were allowed the family room and their bedrooms. Their bedrooms were their own space and if they wished to live in a pigsty, their choice. Just shut the door, please. And don’t come howling to me if you have nothing to wear because you put the dirty stuff with the clean stuff on your floorrobe instead of in the laundry.
    The family room was supposed to be dealt with daily, but it was mainly Saturday morning when Chief Cook & Bottle washer went through with the vac. There was a basket for stuff.
    There was also the rule that was stuck to that if I asked for it to be cleaned up and it wasn’t, said items went in the bin. And they found out I meant it. I was mean but I couldn’t cope otherwise.
    I’m no saint, my space can get pretty messed up too, but I do pick up after my own bum and try very hard to not let my stuff invade other spaces.
    And I’m extremely jealous of your beautiful space. I wish I had that sort of flair.

  6. Dear Julia you are bright light and an inspiration to so many! Warmest hugs Val

  7. Pingback: Home Office Design and Renovation | Jen Clark Spaces

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