In the spirit of self-improvement, self-awareness and other things that sound impressive, I’ve selected the word “lighter” as my word for this year. I am striving to be “lighter” in several aspects of my life, including (but not limited to): belongings, attitude and of course, my physical weight. As of late, my primary focus has been on the belongings category. And by belongings, I mean “things” – the mountains of items that find their way into my home by way of school paperwork, fast food meal toys, clothes, trinkets, craft supplies, junk mail and coffee mugs. Okay, the coffee mugs thing, I own. I created that problem. But the rest? Ugh.
I have managed many challenging projects in my life and my career. I have coordinated national tours, I have chaired and emceed a black-tie awards event, and I have launched a new national benchmark program. I rocked them all. But when it comes to managing the “things” in my house, I fail. It’s not easy, friends, to manage things.
The cycle in my house goes something like this: stuff piles up gradually, I shove stuff into every possible storage device or cabinet, then stuff overflows, then I get cranky and throw nearly everything away (recycling or donating what I can, judgers) and then the whole glorious process starts all over again. It’s akin to shoveling with a spoon during a blizzard, only less fun.
Shockingly, the humans who share this house with me don’t care. I CREATED three of them – how can they not care?! I hate clutter and I have created three humans and married another – none of whom care in the least about piles and piles of stuff. I love decorating and therefore have lots of pretty tables and dressers. My family doesn’t view these items as decorative, however: they view them as opportunities – dare say I challenges – to pile stuff on top of every available horizontal surface. Why put two gloves on one table? Spread the joy and put one glove on ONE table, and then, inexplicably, put the other glove on ANOTHER table, in an entirely different room! Brilliant! Let’s watch mom’s head explode! You see my problem.
For those who are going to unhelpfully suggest that I read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, spare yourselves. I’ve read it. You have not lived with the beasts that I do. This book’s principles are about as realistic as me giving up carbs. Plus, this system would suggest that I do not need the approximately 500 Sharpies that I’ve accumulated, and anyone who would suggest that is dead to me. SHARPIES ARE LIFE. Plus, getting rid of things that don’t “spark joy” only resulted in me getting rid of some cleaning supplies and the scale in my bathroom.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I too, am part of the problem. I like shopping, and I like pretty things. This is a challenging combination. That, along with newfound free time (youngest just started kindergarten, see previous blog post), and I am in a dangerous predicament. Shop, buy, decorate. This has not helped either the amount of stuff in our house, nor my already egregious coffee mug collection.
So, this brings me to today, where I find myself in a clean, yet continuously cluttered home that simultaneously brings me joy and drives me nuts. What to do?
A friend of mine suggested that instead of shopping, I go to the gym, and now I have one less friend.
Another friend, whose kids are grown and gone, unhelpfully said “one day you will miss this mess.” Friends – here’s one thing not to say to someone in the thick of it – “one day you will miss this.” My kids? Yes, I will of course miss my kids. Their slovenly ways? No. Once my kids are grown and gone, I will bound gleefully around my clutter-free home that actually STAYS clutter-free. I will then go to their homes, bring piles of things, and leave them on every available horizontal surface. Payback time, kids.
Yet another friend said that every time I feel like yelling at my family about the mess, I should drink some wine and find my happy place, and then she and I became best friends.
The moral of the story? I have no answer. Like every complicated problem, the causes are varied and so, likely, is the solution. And so, I take baby steps to have a “lighter” life – slowly getting rid of things we don’t need that I’ve hung onto for years, shopping a little less, ignoring “sale” emails, and helping my kids have more respect for their many belongings. The husband, dashing and handsome and charming as he is, may be a lost cause in this department, but I’ll still keep him. He buys me Sharpies.