Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Reply to Mom

I'll preface this by directing you first to my mom's post here. Then come back.

I don't think I function well when the house is cluttered. I was going to say that I don't think I function well in chaos, but I'm not sure about that. I think back to when I worked for a catering company and a lot of it seemed pretty chaotic most of the time. I will admit that it threw me for a loop at first--the first banquet I was in charge of could have gone better--but I picked up on things pretty quickly and actually really enjoyed most of my time spent at work there. So I think I do okay in chaos, especially if it's exciting and full of fun people, but clutter is different. Clutter is debilitating.

Sure, I can function with the day-to-day clutter. A lot of times it's probably necessary to have a few things out of their designated place just so I don't go insane opening drawers and cupboards all the time. But here's what I'm trying to get to: I'm most motivated to do things when the house is clean. Ever since the end of last week when I was busy working on things to sell at the farmer's market, the house has been a disaster. There were even buttons strewn all about the living room floor for an entire day until Lisa came over to visit and started picking them up. (God bless sister-in-laws.)

I practically sat around for the first two days of this week, not motivated to do anything except sit at the computer where the mess couldn't get on me. Then, well, I'm not really sure what happened, but yesterday I came home from running errands and found myself sorting through papers. By the end of the night I had completely reorganized our back storage closet (again) and emptied out two big drawers and re-filled them with other things and, in general, played tetris with at least 30% of everything we own.

I was hot and sticky when I was done, but looking at all of our things in their organized and more celestial state made me feel calm. I feel especially accomplished about the rearranging I did yesterday because I wasn't just stuffing things in boxes (except for the fabric) and pushing things under the bed. I was very careful to put things in places that made sense. My goal in organizing our home was to make it so that things would look nice and be able to remain orderly long after we had pulled things out and then put them away again and again. I sorted colored art paper and felt into hanging files. I put the box of gift wrap in the front of the closet since we'll need to get to that box a lot more often than our winter coats or the holiday decorations. I put the small things on the small shelves and the big things on the big shelves. I put the toolbox on a shelf where we have enough room to open it right there on the shelf to get out the tape measure and the screw driver, which is mostly what we do with the toolbox. I tried to make the things in our apartment make sense so that our lives could make more sense.

Because I don't believe that a house is liveable just because things are picked up. I think a house is peaceful when I can think to myself, "Hmm. I think I'll do this or that," and it doesn't require me to pull twelve boxes off of a shelf in order to get to the one box I need. If that is the case, I've talked myself out of doing whatever it is I wanted to do just at the thought of having to take the twelve boxes down. Working around the house shouldn't feel like a constant chore. It should at least be as simple as it can be.

I said I didn't really know what got me started cleaning, but that's not true. Thinking back, now, I realize what it was that got me sorting those papers in the first place. It was the baby. We rearranged the apartment once already--moving the big desk out and replacing it with a crib and other baby furniture--in anticipation of the baby girl who will be joining our family in about three months. There were, however, still a few boxes and other things left in her room which I wanted to try and move to other places in the apartment. I kept thinking to myself that her nap time will likely be the only time I'll be able to work on projects and it would be hard to work on projects if the materials were being stored in the room where she was sleeping. It didn't make sense. So I started by emptying out the one last drawer of random things and ended by declaring her room truly baby-only. Well, it is baby-only enough, at least. She's just going to have to learn to share a room with the ironing board for now.


  1. I really really like organization. I can't really breath at work or in my room unless it's organized. To me. Organized the way I need it to be organized. And that changes a lot. I look back at different places I lived and realize I live differently now and the way I organized my life then it completely different than the way I organize my life now. And I think that's good and expected. Kind of like your baby. She's going to add a whole other person to your family and I can't even imagine having a husband with his organizational needs. But I know that my life and my style of organizing will change yet again when that happens.

  2. Sometimes I secretly organize Bryan's clothes in our closet. And one time I hung up his backpack on a hanger in the coat closet so it would be up off the floor and he thought I did it was a joke.

  3. inspired me...and the fact that Eric (and me) have wanted it done for months...I cleared off our desk. The clutter was killing me. It still looks cluttered, but is much better than it was...and I know that Eric's glasses are not on it, so now we'll have to look elsewhere for them.

  4. I really did think that hanging my backpack on a hanger was a joke. Oh man.

    I remember that Dad always organized the cereal boxes according to height.

  5. Katie, this is true and it makes me feel peaceful to read it. You have always been a whiz at organizing and making your living space lovely and comfortable. What I'm struggling with is trying to organize a living space with so many autonomous people in it. It was actually easier to tidy and organize when I had a bunch of young children, than now, with five adults, three children, and one baby in the house. It's the superfluity of adults that I haven't figured out how to work around yet. We all agree in the principle of organization. But then life intervenes...times five...and we're still not there yet.

    I always love it when you come home and tidy up. Not that I'm trying to put my mess on you. Just that you always leave a place better than you found it.

  6. PS - I am REALLY really honored that you made a link to my post! Even if my post was lame!! :)

  7. Haha. At first I thought you were going to say, "What I'm struggling with is the closet under the stairs." :)

    I've decided there are some things that are just plain hard to keep organized since you finish off one and then buy another one in a different size. Here are a few of those things:

    -wrapping paper
    -games (Not that they are often disposed of, but they are always coming in stupid different sized boxes that do not always line up nicely.)

    I feel like I simply cannot keep up with our kitchen pantry. It always looks like a mess since we don't buy the exact same food every time we go to the store. I think it's just what happens when you live in a small apartment.