heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 6 of 7: “Keep things neat, clean and tidy…”


This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.


My father used to say:

“Keep things neat, clean and tidy, for God’s sake!”

My father was a neat freak.  Everything and everyone in our household had to be clean and tidy. Clothes had to be ironed… properly.  Including sheets, towels and jeans.  Clothes were folded or hung neatly – by type and color.  The term “ring around the collar” was an obscenity in our home. Bathrooms were pristine.  You could eat off the kitchen floor – it was that clean.  Glassware and crystal had to be spot-free.  There were never, ever any dirty dishes left in our kitchen sink. Books were ordered alphabetically by the author’s last name, grouped together by genre and subject matter.

My father despised clutter.  He was always reading four to five books at any given time period, so he had them piled perfectly – one on top of the other.  If anyone touched or moved a book, he would know. And World War III would commence.

If he saw a fluff or thread on the freshly vacuumed carpet, he would not rest until he went to pick it up.

Was he OCD?  Just a tad. But that was part of who he was. I could not imagine him being any other way. Nor would I have wanted him to be.

His children – my siblings and I – possess varying degrees of this neat gene. Some are more obsessive than others.

Okay, I confess.

I cannot write unless my desk is clutter-free.

My books are ordered in such a way that would make any old school librarian beam with delight.

Like my father, I always have four or five books piled neatly beside my reading chair. Piled just so.

Framed pictures must be perfectly lined in a row.

Towels, folded neatly on the bathroom rack.

Cooking spices are ordered alphabetically, with the labels facing forward.

Cat litter boxes – neatly lined in a row (with eight cats, cleanliness and tidiness has taken on a whole new level of attention).

My husband likes to shake things up a bit… and every so often, he’ll move some artwork or picture frame – tilting them, so that they’re not linear. Or, he’ll toss a towel over the shower rod and throw his clothes in a pile on a chair.

He is amused by my annoyance.

I quietly place everything in their right place.

Okay, sometimes I’m not that quiet about it.

The way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with being a tad OCD.

I like the sense of order and the smell of a clean house.

So, I thank my father for passing on that neat freak gene to me.

Gotta go now. Remy, one of my youngest cats, just unraveled the toilet paper roll.

My work is never done.

“Certainly it would not be too much to say that the home is the communal embodiment of family life. Thus the purity of the dwelling is almost as important for the family as is the cleanliness of the body for the individual.”

Victor Aimé Huber



New Year’s Revelation No. 1 of 7: Today is Tomorrow

 “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”

― Ann BrasharesThe Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 

So let’s make it count.

Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s a brand new day, day one (of 365)! We’ve pressed the “Refresh” button and now we can begin a new chapter in our lives ― with fresh perspective, good intentions, and positive energy.

There are three basic ways to approach the New Year:

1.  Let the chips fall where they may.

Make no resolutions, no plans.  Just wing it.  See what life brings.  Be reactive, not proactive.  Deal with problems, as they arise.  Live in the moment. Don’t think about tomorrow (or that tomorrow, “tomorrow” will actually be “today”).

2. Micromanage yourself, your time, your life.

Make resolutions, with the intention of keeping them.  Plan every month, every week, every day of your year (because, of course, everything is set in stone and nothing or no one will thwart your plans).

3. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst and, take time to enjoy your life.

Resolve to learn from past mistakes.  Draw strength and confidence from past triumphs. Make a plan, but keep it flexible.  Life has a way of upsetting the apple cart, so be prepared to make some contingency plans (usually referred to as Plan B)… just in case.  You’ll fare much better if you are proactive, rather than reactive. Above all, leave time (each and every day) to savour your life and those around you. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m  taking approach #3.  

Best of success to each and every one of you!

Now, it’s time to begin.



(Photo credit:  via weheartit.com, by Samara Freire)

Outlines, Schmoutlines!

I’ve been on the computer (writing) all day and just noticed that the house is in complete darkness. It’s 9:00 pm and, apparently, I’ve been in writer zombie mode (in the zone) –trying to make up for lost time after my darling feline toppled one of my storyboards and the hundreds of index cards that I had to painstakingly affix to the board (hence the discovery that pins were not a good idea, with four-legged creatures trolling about). Okay, maybe I exaggerate. There were only 76 index cards, but still…. I was mightily “annoyed” (for want of a better word). To those writers who, like me, are a little (ha!) bit OCD, you will no doubt understand that the cat-induced chaos disrupted my morning. Nevertheless, once each card was taped back in its proper place, all was right with the world. And this is where I segue, albeit not very gracefully, into the subject of book organization – namely, outlines. “Seriously?” – you might ask (while rolling your eyes). Yes, seriously. Outlines do work. Promise.

Outlines help to organize your thoughts and develop the message and flow of your book so that it’s not a jumbled, disjointed mess of creative ideas that, although no doubt brilliant, simply do not make sense. I realize that outlines may not be every writer’s cup of tea, but for those who are trying to tackle a book project and are feeling overwhelmed, try writing an outline. Humor me. You might be pleasantly surprised.

By the way, if you’re going the traditional publishing route, both the literary agent and publishing house will most likely want to see a book outline before determining whether your manuscript may be worth their while.

I know it may be tedious, but the more detailed your outline, the easier it will be to write the book. Outlines are truly efficient writing aids.

So, let’s begin at the beginning :

The “raison d’être”

1. Prepare a statement of purpose for your book and, subsequently, for each chapter. This is also part of the “book hook” that will either attract or repel a potential publisher.

Book Outline & TOC

2. Develop a preliminary Table of Contents. It will help to structure your thoughts logically and give you a cursory overview of your book – i.e. The Big Picture. This is your overall book outline.

3. Establish your chapter titles (they don’t have to be exact, and can be revised, as you progress with your book).

4. Determine who, if anyone, will be contributing to your book (i.e. writing the Foreword or Afterword).


5. Yup, more outlines. Prepare a brief outline for each chapter. Each chapter should have its own statement of purpose (which ties to the overall book’s SOP).

6. The chapter outlines should ideally not be in bullet format. “Talking” outlines are best. This is a chapter-by-chapter summary, in paragraph form, explaining the What and the Why of each chapter, followed by points covering the important events (fiction) or areas (non-fiction) of the chapter.

7. Each chapter should have a concluding sentence.

Book Conclusion

8. All chapters should lead to this final conclusion – whether the book is either a work of fiction or non-fiction.

References, Resources, Bibliography, Photo Citations, Index

9. This is a very important (but admittedly tedious) part of the book outline. Gather your sources (primary and secondary). List your photo citations (don’t wait until you’ve written the book …. do this in advance). And develop a cursory Index.

Again, this is an organic process …..your outline(s) will change as you progress with your book. This is okay. The purpose of developing an outline is not just to appease a publisher. It’s much more basic than that. An outline is, in my opinion, an indispensible tool to help you … write your book!

And, one more thing: “mind maps” help you to visualize your ideas. You may want to consider using some mind mapping software.

To each his/her own.

Word to the wise – keep your pets away from your easel or storyboard!!!!

Image via Creewalker.wordpress.com.