Sarah-Kate Lynch stumbles upon gratitude while procrastinating from work

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1 January 1970

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A touch of tidying leads Sarah-Kate to forgotten treasures from holidays past.

It’s a sure sign your workload is getting on top of you when you decide to tidy your home office instead of working in it.

We renovated our small house two and a half years ago to get my workspace out of the bedroom and into a lovely location of its own. It does help to have a bed less than a metre away if you get snoozy in the afternoon, but it can also mean spending 23 hours of the day in the same small space. Even prisoners get out for longer than that.

So now I have a dedicated office, but I never got around to organising it until my early 2021 deadlines started piling up to a point where I couldn’t face even thinking about them. So instead I Marie Kondo’d my bad self into some semblance of logistical coordination.

First, the bookcase. Did I really need four copies of the Polish version of one of my novels? I don’t speak Polish. I had to open the book and search for character names before I could even figure out which book it was. Did I need weekly magazines going back 20-something years? Did I need a guide to Irish slang? Or Turkey? Or Spain? Or Portugal?

I was more or less on my way to Portugal last year when the coronavirus hit the fan. At first I was devastated that a trip which had been a year in the planning was flushed down the gurgler. But then I started to see it in a different light – one of the upsides of a pandemic is that you’re forced into looking for the upsides of a pandemic. For me, it was gratitude that I had taken so many opportunities to travel internationally when I had the chance.

One of the upsides of a pandemic is that you’re forced into looking for the upsides of a pandemic

It wasn’t easy on the bank balance, and the Ginger was constantly being something of a handbrake on that front. “We could have a garage if you’d just stay at home for five minutes,” he once mistakenly whined, because what use do I have for a garage? As far as I know my car is waterproof, so I’ll take a stroll along the Seine or a cocktail in Manhattan instead, thank you very much.

Or I would have. When I could. Now, as editor of New Zealand-only travel magazine Scout, I’m upsided up the wazoo. I may never go anywhere else again.

But oh, how the memories came flooding back when I combined two mismatching filing cabinets into one colour-coordinated one. There, stuck down the back, fallen out of a file it probably never belonged in in the first place, was a tiny little notebook bought from a stationery shop in Venice for the purpose of recording “ristoranti”.

I don’t remember buying the book, let alone filling it up with “Alla Madonna: ancient funny waiters, no bookings” or “Do Mori (cantina): 10am not too early for a tipple!”

But as I read through it I started remembering the food, and the fun, and the sights and the light. I may never again eat wild duck at Trattoria Maddalena (“Roasted on its own and with tagliatelle!”) as I did back in 2003, but I’m glad I got the chance.

Warm memories, clean surfaces and a new pot plant certainly add up to make my workspace a happy place.

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