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Cutting through the clutter

So the guest today on my friend, Kristen Rzasa‘s radio show at ftns.co, “A Matter of Balance,” was Julie Stobbe, owner of Mind Over Clutter, who was offering tips on how to get organized.

It’s a good idea. If you’re organized — if everything has a place and you know were to find things — you’re bound to be more balanced, less stressed, less concerned about the time and space things can manage to usurp in your day.

Most of us, however, never practice that ideal, and I found myself doing that smh thing while Julie talked.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m pretty organized. I rarely have to hunt for papers, kitchen utensils or other necessities.

I know people at both ends of the organizational spectrum — a former co-worker who regularly had to devote a half-day of office time to find the top of her desk (after she found her glasses, which were almost always perched atop her head) and a good friend I met in college who was so organized she had her colors done (remember when people did that?) and carried the swatches in her wallet at all times. Naturally, she always looks stunning.

I strive to be clutter-free, starting out with things nice and neat. Like most any girl, I love the thrill of a color-coded closet, shoes all heel-toed next to each other; the delight of cutlery \lined up like soldiers, the desk files all neatly labeled.

Somehow, over time, it all falls apart. however.

Julie says that in their spare time, folks can pick a week’s worth of recipes or organize family photos by event. Frankly, I think “people with spare time” are a myth, like Atlantis.

Right now, the kitchen drawers need an overhaul; the closet is practically begging for its summer changeover and the desk — well a match might do. I’ll tackle each task on its own, in bite-sized pieces, but before I know it, it’ll all be a jumble once again.

I grew up in a family where everything had its place, and if you weren’t using something it was to be put away. Mom was a stickler for neatness — even once dumping my entire rat’s hole of a desk out in the middle of my bedroom floor.  I got the hint, or at least tried to.

And when I lived alone and even when we were first married, I did a pretty good job of running a tight ship.

Time has been my nemesis, though. I listened to Julie talk about how the key to getting kids to neaten up lies in starting early, making a game of it, making sure they have the right, colorful shelves and baskets and boxes to separate their belongings.

And I laughed.

I did all that with Catherine — made a game of picking up after ourselves to that stupid “Clean up, Clean up” song. We made the bed every morning, purged the closet and toy chest on a regular basis, made a show of sending something out for each new thing that came in.

And still I have a teenager who uses her floor and bedroom chair as a closet and who piles papers and books like a packrat. Her room is a huge mess (although not as horrifying as that of the daughter of a good friend who once found a petrified bologna sandwich under said child’s bed).

I’ve decided it’s all Basil’s fault. He has a very laissez-faire attitude about “stuff” and is more apt than not to leave things lying around, pretty much wherever he drops them.

And so, I’ve gotten used to tripping over piles of shoes in the doorway, moving collections of mail and magazines, watching the leaning towers of laundry list and slide. And I guess if Dad doesn’t bother, why should teenager? I’m just a lone voice in the wilderness.

I do my best — I really do — but cleaning and straightening up is an endless, thankless task.

And I can’t fight them both.

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


4 thoughts on “Cutting through the clutter

  1. You need to thank your kids. Who else gives you the opportunity to wage war with chaos and occasionally come out the victor? The title of supermom is hard-won and rare, and that’s why every once in a while, when the house actually IS orderly (even if you have to shut the bedroom doors), the papers are filed, and everyone is dressed in clean clothes, you can revel in the fact that you did it all, and then some.

    And you’ll congratulate yourself (because surely no-one else will.) At a minimum, you’ll deserve a “way to go” sticker, a medal, a nap, and a big red cape for those days. And really — without that slovenly family, would any of that have been possible?

    Posted by Tammy | May 18, 2012, 12:07 pm
  2. Can’t even begin to describe what my girls rooms look like! Glad we are in this together. Waiting for the college stuff to go somewhere besides the playroom floor after a week of sitting there.

    Posted by Jacquie | May 17, 2012, 11:44 pm

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