Tag Archives: clutter

Beautiful Mess

dandelion_canvas_gallery_wrap_canvas-r4f47808710544c519e1462fbeb5dbfdc_z3geq_8byvr_324Sometimes the stuff we need to hear from our children is muddled or falls to the floor, silent as snowflakes. Other times, those gems of communiqué are deafening, delivering messages that are both unfiltered and unapologetic. Still other times, the meat of the message is sandwiched in-between layers of fluff, artfully disguised as something unimportant. As a stunningly imperfect parent, I’ve been on the receiving end of each of these, although the sandwich-y variety is especially popular with my motley crew.

“Mom, please don’t sing in the car. You’re ruining Ed Sheeran for me. And by the way, I had a horrible day at school. Don’t even ask. Now you’re ruining Adele. Please stop.”

Occasionally, I’m thrown off course by such commentary (i.e. harsh critiques of my musical abilities, or the lack thereof) and, consequently, fail to attend to the nugget of truth nestled within the statement: “I had a bad day, ergo I will pummel anything and everything in my path to relieve my pain and angst.”

Thankfully though, messages of that ilk usually snake their way through the tangle of thoughts crowding my mind and I actually address what’s bothering the daughter in question. It’s only taken me 27 years of parenting to figure that out.

If I’ve learned anything at this post, however, it’s that the learning never ends. And that more often than not, the most valuable lessons are the ones taught by the children I’m attempting to raise.

Case in point: Not long ago, at the close of a very long day, I was in the thick of admonishing one of my teenagers for the disgraceful state of her bedroom—which is more like a burrow than anything. Over the past few years, I’ve grown accustomed to keeping her door shut in order to avoid a rage-induced tirade, since it’s a battle I’d rather not have.

That said, her clothes are nearly always strewn like carnage, the dirty ones rarely making it to the hamper, the clean ones arranged in tired heaps on the floor, almost never finding the drawers or closet because that would make entirely too much sense. In all honesty, I can’t remember the last time her bed was made, nor can I accurately recall what the top of her dresser looks like without the hodgepodge of stuff piled on it—an avalanche in the making.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been known to unearth remnants beneath her bed such as discarded bowls, Starbucks cups and the earbuds that had been MIA forever. Admittedly, and on occasion, I break down and mate the socks I stumble across and pair the shoes that I might have hurled into the aforementioned hovel because I simply can’t stand that they aren’t together, let alone in their rightful place in the universe.

So when I discovered her rain soaked hoodie, balled up in the corner of the dining room AGAIN, I began to seethe, marching upstairs to deliver it in person. And since she was standing in the doorway of her lair-turned-shrine-to-epic-disorder I couldn’t resist the urge to chide her about that, too.

“Your room is a DISASTER,” I spat, completely fed up with having to have the same conversation. Again.

“Yes, but I’m not,” she answered as she looked me straight in the eye—then hugged me tight and headed off to bed for the night.

It’s what I needed to hear—a tiny reminder that the really important things in life aren’t disastrous, one of whom was standing squarely before me, growing into a remarkable human being, one who is loving and kind, joyful and generous, hopeful and bright. It was a message both loud and clear that helped me remember that the ultimate goal (mine anyway) is to embrace parenthood and to recognize it as the beautiful mess that it is.

One day, not long from now, she’ll leave that room behind, box up her favorite treasures and cart them someplace new. And I’ll help her pack—sure to salvage a lone sock or something to remind me of the days that were filled with chaos but with joy as well.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, mastering the art of defective parenting. Spectacularly. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, In the Trenches of Parentville, Love and Other Drugs

If the Sock Fits, Marry It

IMG_0175I’ve been married some 27 years, 19 of which to the same wonderful man. In that span of time I’ve come to the conclusion that a successful marriage doesn’t have as much to do with an abiding love as it does with an ability to tolerate a disordered sock drawer.

That said, my husband’s socks are in a pitiful state of disarray much of the time. Again and again, I’ve tried to bring a sense of order and uniformity to the unruly heaps in his dresser by employing a variety of tactics (i.e. ditching the socks with holes, pairing those without mates and grouping them according to style or color), to no avail. Somehow the huddled masses return in a less-than-tidy fashion, yearning to breathe free. And because I’ve grown to understand the psyche of the disordered male, egregiously flawed as he might be, I’ve become a more compassionate mate.

By the same token, my husband accepts my flaws, and the fact that my sock drawer is a ridiculously organized space—complete with separate compartments for sweat socks, woolen socks and dress socks, nary a rogue in the bunch. The only thing it lacks is a coordinated cataloguing system inspired by Dewey Decimal. Needless to say, I recognize how difficult this must be for him, coming to grips with the sad reality that he lives with a closet neat freak. Of course, no one knows I’m a neat freak because there are no outward signs, unless you happened to be present on the day I purged our linen closet, hurling a disturbing number of blankets, towels and obscenities into the yard during a brief yet memorable fit of rage. Most of the time, however, I suffer in silence, allowing the tide of paraphernalia that comes with marriage and a family to consume me.

Admittedly, since the advent of children I’ve drifted from my well-ordered life and neatnik tendencies, much like growing apart from the distant relatives we stumble across at a funeral, decades later, squinting hard to try and remember who they are and how they once fit into our lives.

That said, everything in my world used to be neat and tidy. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. Even my food was logically aligned, tallest to smallest, labels facing out. To this day a tiny part of me dies whenever I peer inside our supersized refrigerator, the contents of which rest on shelves indiscriminately, as if they had been violently launched from a cannon across the room. But I digress.

Getting married and having kids changed everything. After years in the field, I’ve determined that about 90% of parenthood involves finding lone socks in obscure places. Plus there are even more sock drawers to deal with. Indeed, there is more stuff in general—stuff that is piled in our attic and garage, beneath beds and atop closet shelves, in cedar cabinets and the musty basement. Stuff that has no business being stuffed where it gets stuffed. Apparently appliance garages aren’t just for blenders anymore. They’re for lunchboxes and dog vitamins, too, leftover popcorn and tubs of butter that may or may not be encrusted with the remnants of a week’s worth of toast. And let us not forget the crumbs that gather there en masse. The ones that no one wants to clean.

What’s more, it’s been so long since we could park two cars in our garage I’ve forgotten what that even feels like. I suspect it would feel wonderful, much like it would to put china and only china in my china cabinet. Instead it houses prized artwork from my kids’ grade school experience and a decade’s worth of snapshots. Likewise, my refrigerator holds newspaper clippings, report cards and pictures of my favorite people and pets in the world. It holds vacation keepsakes and magnets with phrases I find particularly meaningful, too. Because that’s what families do—they fill their homes with tangible reminders of the love that lives there. And they tolerate the disorder, sock drawers included.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, with way too many socks. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Family Affair, Home for Wayward Toys, In the Trenches of Parentville, Love and Other Drugs, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Necessity is the Mother of Clean Closets and Tidy Drawers

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

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Filed under Home for Wayward Toys, Welcome to My Disordered World

Pottery Barn Lust

Stop it, Pottery Barn. Stop making my kids drool over that which I cannot afford and would never buy anyway. Have you no shame?! My children now hate me. Yes, HATE me—not for demanding that they close your four-color rag at eleven-fricking-fifteen in the evening and get ready for bed already, or for failing to “ooh” and “aah” appropriately as they flip through its pages delirious with wanton desire, but for not dropping everything to order this and that foolish bit of tripe splashed across the landscape of your wondrously opulent magazine. Grok!

Just so you know, I’m on to you. I am. I really am. I’m not even remotely beguiled by your clever little ruse: that of seducing domestically challenged moms everywhere with your pristine layouts, color-coordinated ensembles, outrageously organized living spaces and exquisitely charming patterns that make me weak with desire. Sheez, the uncluttered environment alone makes me shudder with unadulterated pleasure.

Further, you’ve seized upon every mom’s woeful lament: Oh how I long for everything to be in its place, which is utterly disgraceful, you despicable opportunists. And I find your agenda (hidden or otherwise) to be rather disturbing—one that smacks of trickery and the dastardly element of mind control. Your abundant use of muted hues, tasteful explosions of color and the artsy flair you brazenly display is likewise, contemptible, luring us deeper and deeper into your lair of deception. Indeed, your deliberate (yet smartly subtle) arrangement of children (i.e. the self-indulgent little twerps you commission to frolic hither and yon, dripping with good cheer, an obscene degree of decorum and perfectly coifed hair) is absolutely sinful. Sinful, I say!

Yea, page after page of gloriously bedecked bedrooms and bathrooms and play rooms, awash with extravagance to die for, makes me ill. Yes, physically ill—because I can’t quell the beast within that shouts, “You’re a horrible mother! If you really loved your kids, you’d buy that monstrosity of a bunk bed with its adorable little study carrel tucked beneath it, and those delicious-looking Adirondack chairs for the lawn and deck! OMG! Don’t deprive your dear children a minute more, you miserly hag! Order this instant, lest the world should stop revolving!”

That said, the ruinous voices inside my head are slowly but surely making me crazy—one insanely heinous syllable at a time. “Where, oh where will the madness end?” I beg of you. “Begone now, exorbitantly priced beach towels, backpacks and bedding! And take your foolish monograms with you! Don’t forget those pricey jungle-inspired, flower-power-ish, skateboard-esque, pretty-in-pink, ocean-and-surfboard-riddled bedroom themes either. I’ve seen enough already! My kids HATE me, remember?! They loathe the Wal-Mart-ish budget to which I am a slave and will soon be talking trash about me to their nose-mining cronies. Oh, the horror!”

“But before you go, dear Pottery Barn folk, please answer me this: what’s with the legions of baskets, buckets and boxes with which you festoon seemingly every page? Do you actually KNOW children who would willingly place their beloved schlock in a receptacle so intended simply because it is labeled as such?! Are you completely delusional—or do you just revel in your ability to make parents feel pitifully inadequate, as if they couldn’t train a dog to bark let alone instruct a child to put something away?!”

“Never mind,” said the pitifully inadequate mother. “I already know.”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (amidst an abundance of clutter, chaos and cheapass décor). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home for Wayward Toys, Rantings & Ravings

Clutter is the Bane of My Existence

Recently, I experienced one of those deliciously thrilling EUREKA moments in which I discovered the root of my debilitating problem with clutter. Archimedes would be proud. Needless to say, I was duly impressed with myself as well and have since celebrated by arranging to meet with the legendary Fly Lady herself, author of Sink Reflections www.flylady.net. Not really, but I’d like to think that that domestic goddess would be mildly astounded by my important findings and most certainly abuzz about the implications for all of mankind. Naturally, such a noteworthy accomplishment required that I take a long, hard look at myself, at my shamefully counterproductive housekeeping habits and at the dysfunction with which I am surrounded.

Firstly, I am married to someone who is physically incapable of throwing anything away—hence, the scourge of clutter currently sucking the life out of me. Always and forever, it seems, the Keeper of All Things Unnecessary defends his position: “But what if we NEED (insert virtually any tool-ish device of which we own three, documents that date back to the Paleozoic Era or a less-than-functional yet slightly adored heirloom harvested from the bowels of someone’s attic) in the next century?!” Making matters worse (read: FAR WORSE), our brood manifests many of the very same neurotic hang-ups irksome tendencies with respect to the concept of purging beloved treasures like ratty toothbrushes, chintzy toys and rubbish gleefully retrieved from beneath bleachers and whatnot. Woe is me.

Secondly, I keep buying stuff (i.e. obscenely frivolous crap that beckons to me from afar). That said, I am weak, I have voluminous quantities of time to fritter away in stores and I have plastic. WAY more plastic than someone with my far-from-frugal penchant ought to have. Mind you, such fiscally juvenile behavior continues to take place despite being painfully aware of the dearth of available storage space in my home and of the disturbing nature of my problem.

Thirdly, I cannot (for whatever reason) will my pathetic self to put anything away (for Crissakes) at the precise moment in time that it SHOULD be put away. Nor can I deal with whatever begs to be dealt with in a timely manner—namely, bank statements, muddied soccer cleats, folded laundry and anything even remotely related to the WRETCHED MAIL. As a result, hideous-looking piles of this and that lie about like carnage. And yet, I lamely argue the point that said stuff is simply en route to its rightful place in the Universe.

It’s in limbo, as it were; a twisted sort of purgatory for household goods. It’s a sinful reality here in these parts—a reality that is entirely imprudent and completely preventable. “But,” I insist to anyone fool enough to listen, “I have, shall we say, some slight ‘issues’ with follow though. Besides, it’s perfectly normal to paw through one’s laundry basket for clean socks, to trip over heaps of that-which-is-destined-for-the-recycling-bin and to race to the bus stop while yanking the tags off new clothes that have yet to see the inside of anyone’s closet. Perfectly normal.”

June Cleaver would be horrified.

But it’s not as if I’m a complete failure. Even June would have to admit that a modicum of what I do smacks of success. More specifically, it’s the baby steps I take on that eternal quest for order that truly matter. The successive approximations (a la B.F. Skinner) that I realize over time. Little by little, I shift and shuttle things to where they belong, knowing that EVENTUALLY clutter will leave me.

So there’s that, at least—the promise of order. Here’s hoping I’m not senile by the time said order arrives.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (forever ferrying stuff hither and yon, to its rightful place in the Universe). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Guilty as Sin

I felt terrible. Horrible. Guilty as sin. Responsible for a wicked and truly deplorable deed. A gruesome atrocity. Perhaps one of the worst in my ill-famed toy-wrecking career.

The victim: Ken (as in Barbie’s Ken). Mr. Mattel himself. Of course, there have been others that have gone before him—abused and slaughtered in cold plastic, at the hands of a madwoman bent on “cleansing and purging” the existing toy-scape. Secretly disposed of in a horrifically callous manner; their lifeless, twisted bodies and assorted appendages wedged and crammed in among spongy tomatoes and moldy cheese. Tuesday’s trash.

I don’t know what drives me to do it—to clandestinely rid my home of dilapidated Barbie dolls and other playthings that annoy the hell out of me.

They just push my buttons, I guess—the Barbies especially—scads of them littered across my living room floor, lounging around like they own the place, mocking me with their perfect little painted-on smiles. They don’t even dress half the time.

Heathens.

Maybe I need therapy. Something to help me cope with feeling as if I am suffocating beneath a mountain of toys, many of which happen to be those blasted Barbie dolls. Perhaps I should peruse the Yellow Pages for available services (like Inundated and Lovin’ It!).

The circumstances surrounding Ken’s grave injuries were quite unlike those surrounding all the others’. There was no motive. No anger. No fit of uncontrollable rage. I didn’t even curse—except for after the fact. Honestly, I had absolutely no intention of causing good ol’ hand-me-down Kensey-poo any undue harm when late one evening I lobbed him in the vicinity of his home in the drawer—where he would sleep for the night. Good grief; he had been a part of our family since my oldest was still undressing him—six years ago! It’s obvious, however, that I had caused irreversible and unconscionable damage. I’ll be the first to admit it.

No one on earth could have been more surprised to discover the severity of Ken’s condition, following what I considered to be a modest mid-air excursion—a mere puddle-jump. It was the length of our coffee table. Not an inch more. I swear. And it was an easy, underhanded pitch, a toss really—in marked contrast to the more typical frenzy-induced toy-launchings I so enjoy.

Imagine my utter shock—the abject horror—when I learned of Ken’s fate. His entire left leg, from hips to toes, was completely DETACHED from his body. It laid there next to him. Askew on the carpet. A separate entity. I felt as though it might come to life at any moment and hop around the room on its own. Strange but true.

The guilt I felt was beyond comprehension. The girls were sleeping peacefully upstairs, likely dreaming of all the skirts and stilettos with which they’d adorn Ken the next day. (What can I say—they’re easily amused). How would they handle his dismemberment? His lifelong handicap? The depression that would surely follow?

Perhaps we could get a group rate on therapy. The girls, Ken and myself, of course.

To be continued….

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction