Upside Down: Doing Things the Hard Way

Sometimes my best ideas occur in the middle of the night. Sometimes answers to my toughest problems occur then, too.

And sometimes my dream self just says, “You know, it’s a good thing you didn’t want to be an engineer.

upside downThis past week dream self sparkled and tinkled her way into my bedroom and waved her magic “Let’s Get Serious” wand. “Why, in all the years that you’ve had that cute little pocket bulletin board have you been hanging it upside down? I mean, wake up, that’s why stuff falls out! The bottom is really the top. Are the pockets of your pants open at the bottom? Compute. Compute.”

Sadly this is not the first time I’ve had the same problem, so I guess it won’t be the last. The first time? My artificial Christmas Tree. Every year for years I carefully placed the branches into the bottom of each slot on the trunk, which I didn’t realize I had turned upside down. Sometimes they stayed there, and sometimes they didn’t. (Apparently I missed the gravity lecture in elementary school.) Years later when I finally thought about it and turned everything right side up, the branches stayed put. Not as interesting, true, but a lot easier on our Christmas ornaments.

How often in our lives do we just keep doing things the hard way instead of taking a closer look and finding easier ways? How often is your own life upside down?

Upside DownI’ve always been a clutter-is-fun kind of gal. Have you read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? In a simple sentence the book says–or so I’ve been told–that if an item you own doesn’t spark joy, thank it for its time in your life and chuck it.

If required to follow the Marie Kondo school of organization I would probably start by opening a bottle of wine and then, if I’m trying hard, chucking the cork. Or possibly not, since I’ve been saving corks for years to make a bulletin board (yes, another bulletin board) and although I bought everything I need to make said bulletin board, I’ve never quite gotten around to the glueing and arranging, although I’ve been great about accumulating corks. Some are more interesting than others, you know. Or didn’t you?

Then a few weeks ago I saw a how-to on making a bath mat from wine corks.

Will I ever chuck a cork again? There could be an entire cork rug in my future. A whole floor! I have friends who like wine. They will save them for me. We might go into business.

Taking a deep breath. . .

Having just said all that recently, without Kondo’s help, I’ve discovered myself doing the inconceivable. Putting slippers in a special niche in my closet so I can find them. Throwing out clothing I haven’t worn in years. Choosing specific dresser drawers for specific items of clothing. Clearing and cleaning my study. I even bought a giant 2017 erasable calendar so I can make note of all the weeks I’ll have clear to write this year.

I may actually, without giving it too much thought, be changing my life from upside down to right side up. Because I’m discovering that the more organized I am, the more time I have to enjoy myself.

How will this strange thinking affect my books? Well, I’m considering new ways to turn my schedule right side up. I need to work fewer hours, but work smarter. I need more time to plan and think, less to stare at a computer screen. I need more long walks where ideas can bombard me. I need to worry less and write more.

I need to stop reading political posts on social media.

Of course that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Once we get used to upside down, right side up seems almost impossible. But I did turn my bulletin board in the right direction and wow, did it look great. Too bad that in my mad quest for order I’ve since moved it into the kitchen pantry for recipes. At least I won’t find Fifty Ways to Make Yogurt in your Instant Pot on the floor every morning.

So what’s upside down in your own life? Will fixing it be as easy as simple turning things right side up? Let me know if you make any changes. In the meantime, I’ll be clearing and cleaning. And turning things over. You just never know what could happen.


  1. Martha O'Quinn on January 11, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Good morning Emilie. Even though we’ve never met I feel as if you know me, inside and out. Love your post today. One thing you didn’t address is how to let go of sentimental items, items that you know have absolutely no meaning to anyone else. I’ve stashed a number of things to put out in our neighborhood yard sale in the Spring. I’m wondering how much of that will find its way back into my home! ;-). Other “stuff” is designated for thrift shops and trash and it’s like pulling teeth to actually complete the deed. I wish you much success and I love the pocket bulletin board. Would an old house shutter work? If so I can move one item out of the garage and into the house. Is that progress or what!!!!

    • Emilie Richards on January 11, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Martha, I have to laugh. My next book, The Swallow’s Nest, is among many things about an interior designer who blogs and give tips to her readers. One of them is to hang a shutter on the wall and use the slots for greeting cards. So yes, I know this will work beautifully. Lots of beautiful examples on Pinterest. And how do we make ourselves let go? I like that you’re stashing things for a sale in the future. By then maybe you’ll know if you’ll miss them. I have a large bag of clothes to give away and I add to it. Occurred to me yesterday that I haven’t missed a single item and, in fact, don’t even know what’s there. This is progress for me. Good luck!

  2. Nancy Lepri on January 11, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Had a good chuckle over your post, especially about your bulletin board and Christmas tree. My mom (also named, Emily–I know different spelling, but still…) used to tell me I did things, “Ass-end backwards!” Do you think we may be sisters????

    Now that I’m older and retired and one who believes “less is more” I’ve adjusted my ways. In my closet, I have clothes put on hangers backward. If the season changes and I haven’t worn an item (shown by being on a backward hanger), I am now tossing it out. I’m trying to simplify my life to make is less stressful and less work (getting rid of things that gather dust). A

    Anyway, love your cork bathmat. My husband has made cork trivets (what can I say, we like wine!) and I think I’m going to have him make me a corkboard for my office. Thanks for the idea!

    In the meantime, if you get tired of cleaning your home, you are more than welcome to come to mine and do some cleaning! LOL

  3. Kate on January 11, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    I took the bottles back to the return centre, today. The number to return was rather embarrassing, since they are beer cans and wine bottles. Perhaps if we did this more often, it wouldn’t attract as much attention.
    BTW The Instant Pot was developed in Ottawa, by a group of engineers who lost their jobs when the biggest high tech employer in town declared bankruptcy. How’s that for turning things upside down!

    • Emilie Richards on January 13, 2017 at 8:38 am

      God bless those folks in Ottawa. I made Beef Burgundy in mine last night for guests and it was so good. It’s a great invention, as is the crockpot. I used that to make applesauce to go along with the beef. I may get rid of my stove.

      Hope you left the cans and bottles and ran.

      • Kate on January 18, 2017 at 1:41 pm

        No, I didn’t drop the cans and bottles, and make a quick get away. I had to get the deposits back.
        Another customer, behind me, asked if I would recommend any of the wine. I told him I couldn’t help because I don’t drink wine, or beer.

  4. Linda Topp on January 14, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Forget the cork project. I had all the fixin’s for two bulletin boards and then got down to making one. Turns out all the corks are different widths and lengths. (And never even think about using the plastic ones.) I’m not sure how to saw down a cork, though I’m sure there is a tool for that. And thus endeth my cork projects. We’ve found wine retailers who will recycle corks so they go to a good home and I am not tormented by an awaiting project. 😉

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