Like many other moms I work in a situation that I call “full time plus”. I pull down forty hours a week plus a whole lot more. Come to think of it, sometimes those forty hours are complete by late on Wednesday. Any time I’m away from work for a significant amount of time I am generally on the road in some way. And unfortunately what that that means is that the Tall Family home doesn’t always get the attention it needs.
As in, sometimes it looks and feels like we are just opening the front door and slinging the stuff inside the entry. Around mid-week you will generally find piles of mail, random shoes, clothes washed but not yet put away, and the dishwasher will likely need unloading (meaning the dishes have also piled up in the sink). It’s not a good scene. And that doesn’t feel good.
I often have significant guilt about my clutter challenges because I do understand that we are very fortunate people and that home upkeep is the price to be paid for home ownership. But when I get home late in the evening, I’m tired y’all, and I frankly need a moment to “regroup” before the next work day.
On top of this because I do have to address wanderlust on a fairly regular basis I aim to keep on hand the “essentials” Tall Family needs. One closet, in particular houses an absolute stockpile of random items such as sunscreen and shampoo. When I make the effort to get those standard items, I do it in a big way so I don’t spend my weekends shopping for the essentials.
But that closet, like some of the other spaces in our home, has gotten out of control due to the lack of attention given. And from time to time the clutter bothers me. I know I am better off without a load of “stuff” around me. I’ve even taken to adding “clutter-free” reading selections to my literary playlist. Last year it was the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and well, it was less than magical in my case. Most recently I’ve been “listen reading” to Eve Schaub’s Year of No Clutter for inspiration and even though I don’t have dead mice in my house like Schaub a little tidying up is always in order.
Schaub’s book has me reflecting, again, on the psychological aspect of clutter. No, I don’t have a mountain of items covering every inch of my home. But it also isn’t as pristine and organized as I would like for it to be, a fact especially difficult because my mother has always been nothing short of a Betty Crocker/Martha Stewart clone. I was raised by people who taught me not to waste and that lesson is reflected in a lot of the things I do – closets and otherwise.
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, and this Tall Mom has a tall clutter problem. While I am not willing to give up my adventurous ways to live a life of perfect arrangement, taking on some projects between travels would probably help to declutter my mind. With a world of responsibilities whirling around in it, my brain could always use some streamlining at home.
I recently took the first step of what I am certain will be a never-ending process and cleaned out the stockpile closet. In some ways, I’m a bit like an alcoholic. I may stop binge drinking but the challenge remains under the surface with the ability to creep back up at any moment.
How on earth did I ever have all of those items squeezed into a tiny hallway closet?
Once I dragged all of the items out to the hallway floor to start with a bare closet, that question monopolized my thinking. I dumped an entire trash bag full of items I reluctantly convinced myself I would never need.and still had a challenge getting all of the remaining items back in the same space in an organized fashion.
As I sweep through the clutter of our home I aim to reflect on the “key takeaways” of the experience. At the conclusion of the first project there were two.
First, most of the trash bag was filled with items that people had gifted to me over the years. I certainly appreciated the kind, generous gestures behind those items and many of the gifts had sat in the closet, unwrapped but unopened and unused for years. I had held on to them because as Dierks Bentley says, “I Hold On”, and those gifts had somehow represented the people who gave them. I was wrong about that but still felt a twinge of pain when I tossed something someone I cared about had given me even it the fit wasn’t quite right.
Related to those gifts I had never used the clean out experience also forced me to think about the kinds of gifts that I give to people and the importance of utility. Think experiences rather than things.
And the second key take away was that getting the job done – spending a few hours on a Saturday morning to knock it out – felt good. Yes, I had a slow start and when I looked around at all of those items surrounding me in the hallway floor I wanted to throw in the towel. (And as an aside, I did toss out a kitchen towel that had been hidden in the closet but didn’t really “go” in our kitchen.)
I stumbled for a few minutes while cleaning thinking that I wouldn’t be able to get the job completed properly without the right “tools”. What if I had a plastic crate for this set and a closed container for these? I did take a quick breeze through the house and found a few containers to use to keep things together in the closet but in the end I am not sure that that was not an initial mental excuse for the situation. If I needed to go to the store to buy things to organize, I could put the work off – maybe indefinitely. So I had to push through that inclination.
Getting all of those boxes and bottles organized by “like things” brought me genuine pleasure and some sort of sense of relief. The stockpile can now return to its purpose of supporting a busy lifestyle without being a messy burden and one more thing that needs to get accomplished.
The truth is since completing the closet “declutter” I’ve stopped a few times walking by to open the door, look in, and check things out from top to bottom. I wish the door to the rest of my life felt as peaceful!