I used to be obsessed with neatness—a strange sort of child who, completely unprompted, would devote an entire Saturday to the rearrangement of my bedroom furniture, organizing drawers and eradicating dust with wild abandon. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I’d lug large and unwieldy dressers across the floor in fits and starts, nonplussed by the unremarkable nature of my progress, the uncooperative penchant of my carpeting and the very real possibility that the dozen or more wooden legs involved would weaken and eventually snap like Mom and Dad had warned so many times. But I was driven (read: impulsive), filled with an overwhelming desire to bring order to my world and a fresh, new look to my 10×10 foot haven of personal space—a canary yellow cube I called my very own.
What’s more, there was something deliciously liberating—perhaps, even cathartic—about wrestling with a chest of drawers that sought to undermine my every effort to muscle it, ever so deliberately and in embarrassingly small increments, without a bit of assistance. I was ambitious (read: daft) if nothing else.
Needless to say, untold hours were spent drafting floor plans and analyzing my decisions—as if the placement of each and every souvenir-inspired trinket, shoebox stuffed with collectibles and cumbersome piece of furniture mattered. Because it did. Never mind that I knew next to nothing about feng shui or its inherent wonderfulness. Apparently, I was born with an innate appreciation for the spatial relevance of objects that surrounded me. Or maybe my curious obsession with moving furniture and shuffling the contents of drawers in a quiet state of panic was fueled by an intolerable degree of boredom and/or a desire to avoid stubbing my toe on the way to the bathroom in the dead of night. I don’t pretend to know what spurred my impassioned efforts; however, I am wholly convinced that that industrious soul is nowhere to be found today.
Decades of amassing that which I clearly couldn’t live without (to include an irreplaceable, yet hoard-happy, family) has resulted in a hideously cluttered existence. That said, virtually every corner of my home has been sullied to some extent—a byproduct of living with people who are physically incapable of returning anything to its rightful place in the universe, much less, throwing it away. Lego villages, like clumps of crabgrass, creep into crevices and occupy tabletops for weeks on end as do legions of Barbie dolls that lie about the place, shamelessly nude. And let us not forget the shoes (oh, my hell, the SHOES!) and the train-wreck-of-a-dresser that a certain someone has refused to purge since kindergarten. Not to be outdone, my husband marks territory with coats and hats and, of course, the trappings of projects in various stages of completion, all of which I find patently unforgivable. Furthermore, the unsightly mass atop his dresser is only slightly less offensive than the one detailed above. I wish I were making this up.
No longer do my Saturdays involve frenzied cleaning missions, the reordering of an otherwise obscure set of drawers, or a compulsion to move my coffee table somewhere else…just because. I simply don’t have that kind of luxury, never mind the initiative required to act upon it. Instead, my days are rife with failed attempts to keep all the plates spinning (i.e. the psyches nurtured, the homework vanquished, the inexorable bickering at bay). That is not to say that tiny bursts of inspiration never occur; but my domestic priorities have shifted markedly since the advent of motherhood and my tolerance for household squalor has risen to an unprecedented (read: disturbing) level.
Basically I clean, purge and/or organize for three reasons: When someone spills something and that something is categorically vile, when the laws of nature regarding storage capacity have been irreparably breached, or when the arrival of guests is imminent. Indeed, necessity is the mother of clean closets and tidy drawers, while shame is the mother of purged refrigerators. It’s a far cry from my neatnik days, but for the most part, practicable.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably not cleaning my refrigerator). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.
Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel