Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Confessions of a Clutter Junkie

Every parent has moments when they feel like the worse parent on earth. Some of these moments are monumental, like the time my husband sat helpless a foot from our daughter as the tricycle she was riding tipped and broke her leg in two places before he had a chance to react. In the vast scheme of things that I will encounter as a parent, my recent plummet into crappy mother regions was not on par with the first broken heart, but it still left me feeling inadequate and useless. You see, I lost my daughter's report card for swimming, and had to send her back to a new session without her report card to prove that she'd graduated from Bubblers to Floaters.

We had the report card before Christmas. My in-laws remember looking at it just before Christmas when they babysat so that we could attend my husband's work social. My husband and I clearly remember a conversation about stashing the report card in our daughter's swimming bag so that it WOULDN'T get lost in the pre-Christmas panic to hide the clutter. I vaguely recall placing said report card in said location...and now have no idea where it is.

I have always been a stacker. From the time I was small, I filed my things in piles. It drove my "packer" mother crazy (Packer-noun-someone who places things away in drawers or cupboards. Whose desk and dressers are pristine, coffee tables free of magazines, mail, bills or clutter...she starts to twitch after about 20 minutes in my home) and she once threw out all the notes for an essay that I was working on because she thought it was junk, because it was in a pile on the floor near the garbage. Like any stacker, I can lay hands on anything on my desk in seconds because I know what is in every stack on my long as no one moved them. The company I worked for instituted a "clean desk" policy, so that all the piles of paper had to be cleared from our desk every night....Packers rejoiced; stackers cleared out the bottom drawer of filing cabinets, lifted our stacks FROM the desk TO the drawer at night, and then reversed the procedure in the morning, complying with the spirit if not the letter of the dictate...My stacks were under control...until I married the Clutter King.

My husband is an Uber-Stacker and has a genetic predisposition to hang onto things. When 2 stackers marry, chaos and clutter can result, and factor in a small house, a small child, 2 cats and a ton of toys, books, crafts, yarn, tools and other miscellaneous stuff...and the results aren't pretty. My husband will move my stacks to look for things that should be in his stacks...the cats will knock OVER the stacks...the kid will move the get the picture. I no longer know what is in the stacks...and chaos results.

The added piece to this is that my daughter must have been a squirrel or a magpie in another life. She loves to stash her treasures...but never in the box that they orginally came in. The Mr Potatohead case became the new home for the plastic menagerie. The Barbie box holds the tea-set, and who knows what treasures I'll find in her Dora backpack...She also moves her treasures periodically, so even if I think I know where to locate's often been relocated when I go looking for it again. I've put a moratorium on removing game pieces for Shoots and Ladders or Candyland, after Backpack went AWOL for a number of months and we had to substitute Lumpy. Diego went missing 3 times in 12 hours..until Mommy dropped the boom and issued the moratorium.

Our house has been out of control for a few months now, and persistent health challenges have sapped my strength and allowed the dust bunnies to stage a coup and take over the house. My husband arrived home on Boxing Day with a Grind and Brew Coffeemaker...and a Robot Vaccuum. He was wise enough to give me the coffeemaker first, because the vaccuum was "to help me keep the house clean"'s one of those vacs that drives around the perimeter of the room in concentric circles, sweeping as it goes. It's a wonderful plan in theory...but you have to pick UP all the stuff from the floor first, and that's a full time job in our house. "Spot" as I have called the vaccuum, and flat out refuse to learn how to operate it, is no match for a 4 year old with playdough and Barbie shoes...

I know I have to get a handle on the clutter and the chaos. I'm overwhelmed by the enormity of it...but it has to be done. The mere thought of tackling my daughter's room leaves me shaking...but it's a small room with too much stuff and it needs a thorough sandblasting. If I approach it from the standpoint of a treasure hunt, maybe it will go better, or I'll try the "set the timer for 1 hour and see what you can accomplish" method of clutter busting. That MIGHT get me in the door...about a foot.

I know the report card will materialize eventually. I have to tackle the clutter shortly because I need to find all my tax documents, which are currently in hidey holes because I didn't have time to file them before Christmas. If I tackle the clutter, it will make things easier on all of us, so I need to square my shoulders, take a deep breath and if I can only find the broom and dustpan.

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