Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Bermuda Triangle

If you're thinking it's been a while since I have posted, you'd be right. I've been trying to invest my free time and energy firstly into surviving the hectic days, and secondly beginning the process of deep cleaning my house, which is admittedly in pithy condition. We have got a three-pronged problem here at our house, one which I will go into in just a minute. But before I get there, let me illustrate how out of control things have gotten around here: each night, I sit in my certain spot at the kitchen table and I pump milk for Van's rice cereal. Beginning three weeks ago, each time I did this I just happened to look down at the corner tile of the dining room floor and notice a fallen grape---the same grape. Each time I would think, 'I need to remember to pick up that grape when I'm done pumping,' and yet each time I finished pumping, I forgot all about the grape until the next night. So the story continued, and over the course of two weeks I had a front-row seat in watching that plump fat grape make the full transformation into a shriveled raisin. Yes, that is to say that I did not sweep my floors for over two whole weeks. Yikes. And three nights ago when I finally did, the large collection of debris within that dustpan looked like the kind of place where large animals go to die.

It's gotten that bad, folks.

So here is the three-pronged problem which is currently being addressed in our home:

1. We have way too much stuff.
2. We don't consistently spend time teaching our kids how to clean up their toys.
3. I spend so much time picking up a ridiculous number of toys at the end of the day that I fall exhausted on the couch to watch The Colbert Report and eat a bowl of popcorn without having any time to upkeep cleanliness in other parts of the house.

This is insane. I can't live like this any longer.

The sudden cognizance of our three-pronged problem, which I might as well name the Bermuda Triangle, was made particularly clear by spending a week with BJ's family in a lovely cabin on the side of a mountain in Colorado earlier this month. For a solid week we lived in the most fresh-smelling, pine-tree laden, deer-visited, cozy cabin, of which our little family occupied two small rooms. We took minimal clothing with us, thus enabling us to do a fresh load of laundry each night. We took only a small box of toys, which was plenty for the boys. We kept our place tidy, we were not inundated with stuff, and most importantly, we enjoyed ourselves and had fun with the simpler amount that we had. It was truly a breath of fresh air when compared to the cluttered chaos of our everyday existence. In sharp contrast, on the day that we came home we went grocery shopping and bought several days' worth of baby foods for Van. When I realized that there was absolutely no pantry or cabinet space in my kitchen for a meager supply of pureed baby foods, I about hit the ceiling. "WHAT," I bellowed, "ARE WE DOING?" Now I'm using my kitchen counter as storage because the 27 cabinets I have just aren't enough?? We don't have a storage problem in this house! We have a collection problem!

That evening I sat down with BJ and had a heart-to-heart with him. I reminded him of our simpler times, about backpacking 60 miles of the John Muir Trail carrying all that we needed on our backs (did yall know we did that?). About the way we used to be poor and we saved for nearly every purchase we made. About the way that we entertained ourselves by walking Tex to the library and taking turns going inside, and playing frisbee golf or tennis without relying on gadgets (besides frisbees and racquets). About the time that I got a tattoo of a cute little pine tree to always remind me to get back to the basics and never lose sight of what it means to live simply. How did we let ourselves get to the point that we have forgotten what color carpet we have because of all the toys laying around on it, and we can't even find a shoe-box sized space to put some baby food packages in because we have to have every kitchen gadget known to man- and womankind? No, I said, I'm done. The clutter of this house is sucking my soul right out like dementors, Harry-Potter style.

BJ and I set a Friday and Saturday on the calendar for a garage sale and decided to roll up our sleeves. We don't have a lot of spare time as it is, but this effort will be worth the sacrifice because I think it will give me a greater sense of inner peace once we have more breathing room in this house. We're attacking Prong # 1 (the way-too-much-stuff one) first, as I think that our other problems stem from this one. We began with the attic, which we completely revamped on Saturday. Everything came down and got sorted through. Much of it got tossed, much of it got set aside in the garage to sell, and the rest was consolidated and organized back into the attic. Much of it was total crap that I can't believe we ever thought we should keep. Just days ago the attic was the kind of place that one plowed through and hoped for the best, but now things are neatly pushed into small piles with tons of space in between. The idea now is that we can go through the house room by room doing the same process--trash, selling, or keeping, with the option of putting some things up into the now-spacious attic (to of course become the crap that I lament about in five more years). I began with the inside of the house last night after everyone went to sleep and I single-handedly tackled the beastliest closet in our house. The A/C was out for two days and it was hot, so by the time I wrangled the beast I was covered in sweat and my hair likened itself to Maria Von Trapp's, but I didn't care. Half of the contents got put in the sale pile, a quarter got thrown away, and a quarter of it was kept. Room to spare! I only wish I had taken a 'before' picture.
Honestly, before I tackled this closet, the mess began at the ground level and extended nearly to my waist. You could go wading into a clutter-bath of towels, candles, batteries, and command hooks if you so desired!

Now that's some bad hair!
 With each room I expect to see improvement, and we will finish with a grand finale of toy downsizing.

Once we complete Prong # 1, then Prong #2 should be easy to implement; when the boys (and we) aren't so overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of toys, then knowing when and where to put them away when they are finished playing with them should be much simpler. Staying on top of the boys about keeping their play space (AKA my living room) tidy is something I can be consistent about, particularly once we've all gotten used to it. Thereby naturally should follow Prong # 3, which is that I will then have extra time to focus on, say, sweeping the floors every couple of days and perhaps even mopping them once in a while!

Following this post, I'm sure no one wants to visit my house ever again. I'm figuring it out, though, and I'm making necessary adjustments to enrich our lives as individuals and as a family, so that we might be less tied to things that we think we need but really don't. Just think of it this way: Margaret Thatcher once said, "Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country." By that token, I'd make an awfully good Senate candidate this fall! Vote for Jenny, Bermuda Triangle District, 2014! Kind of makes you want to be my friend a little more, huh?

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