Tag Archives: disorder

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

Advertisement

Comments Off on Necessity is the Mother of Clean Closets and Tidy Drawers

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

The Beauty of Mismanagement

As I type this, it is two-thirty in the afternoon on a weekday and everyone in my household is still wearing pajamas. No one has brushed their teeth, not one hair upon one solitary head has been coifed and thus far, exactly zero sit-down-at-the-table real meals have been served (although three rounds of Whac-a-Mole, two puzzles and an entire game of Aggravation have been completed). All concerned parties have opted to graze through the day like a bunch of brainless cattle, wandering hither and yon, raiding the fridge and cupboards at will. Myself included. That being said, dishevelment abounds and lethargy has rained down upon us like a scourge.

Indeed, the Nanny would be disturbed if not completely horrified. And because I recognize the magnitude of my deplorableness, I can easily envision her disapproving glare. The way she’d scowl and shake her head at me, tsk tsk tsk-ing me to death. Like a merciless taskmaster, she’d stand amidst my chaos and clutter with a big, fat marker in hand, fervently filling an enormous white board with bold and bountiful solutions for dealing with the disorder and mismanagement that together permeate my world. It’s likely that a complete overhaul of my parenting skills and system (or lack thereof) would be recommended if not demanded, necessitating the summoning of nanny reinforcements. Legions of them, quite possibly.

Naturally, we’d invite them all in for imaginary tea—to be served within the confines of the not-so-imaginary blanket fort now consuming my living room. The one I allowed to be constructed. The one littered with Cheez-Its. The one from which we viewed the antics of Tom & Jerry because I just couldn’t bear to listen to one more Palin rally, her Marge Gunderson-esque spiel ringing in my ears, reminiscent of that twisted yet humorous Fargo flick.

Granted, there is no school today, so the sleeping-in thing (which felt deliciously decadent) and the death of structure (which I condoned and perhaps orchestrated to my benefit) could, in fact, be deemed appropriate. Maybe even welcomed in some circles. Okay, tiny circles. Few in number. But quantifiable circles nonetheless. Even still, I ought to be ashamed of the sorry state of my domestic affairs. My ducks are undeniably in disarray. And that cannot be good.

I suppose it’s no secret that I don’t run a very tight ship. Admittedly, I pilot the Titanic most days; struggling to avoid the icebergs that pepper my hectic mornings. The women in the school office could attest to that fact. The ones who see me traipsing in to deliver forgotten lunchboxes and misplaced jackets—telling indicators of my ineptitude as a parent. Helen knows the score, too. She drives the big, yellow bus that we race to meet each morning—backpacks bouncing, shoelaces flapping and bellies sloshing with breakfast as we dash through the wet grass, my mind flying through the anxiety-driven Mom Checklist at warp speed: is everyone wearing shoes and clean underwear (yes, they’re on the list!)…did they brush their teeth…did they actually eat something…did I remember to pack their snacks…their library books…their homework…is everyone equipped with a stinking wad of Kleenexes just in case a monster sneeze strikes and none are to be found??! Oh, the horror!

The high schoolers sitting in the back of the bus know the awful truth, too. The ones who’ve forever peered through the clouded panes and watched me schlepping around the same silly book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane—a wonderful story, I’m sure; but one I’ve failed to finish reading aloud since last Christmas. I planned to share this literary gem with my brood at the bus stop, where we’d sit together on the curb and devour page after page as the gray morning skies surrender to the sun. I suppose I lug it there because I’m holding out hope that somehow we’ll find time to move past Chapter Three.

For whatever reason, I think I managed mornings better when my charges were kindergarteners. Back then we actually finished books together and even had time to discuss colorful characters—proof that my time management skills were at least reasonable and my mornings, less hectic. I hardly ever had to deliver a lunchbox or a coat to school because someone forgot it and I honestly don’t remember racing across the lawn to catch the bus—ever.

Then again, my memories of blanket forts and of lazy days spent in pajamas are a bit fuzzy, too (i.e. maybe I embraced the notion of disorder back then more than I’d care to admit). Perhaps that is the beauty of mismanagement—we conveniently forget the less-than-perfect-looking stuff of parenthood, yet savor every disordered moment while deeply immersed within it.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

4 Comments

Filed under Welcome to My Disordered World

Nightmare on Mom Street

Sunday afternoons are my respite in this harried place. The sanity cocktail from which I draw sweet sustenance. That said, I lounge around the house doing as little as humanly possible, embracing my inner sloth. Old movies, blanket forts and naps rule the day. That is not to say that I haven’t, on occasion, become inspired enough to throw something meaty in the crock-pot, to haul my sweeper from the bowels of its dusky lair or to plant my sorry self in the laundry room for a time despite my aversion to the insufferable place. Even on a Sunday afternoon. But for the most part, ambition is nowhere to be found in my house during that glorious wedge of downtime—sandwiched deliciously between the madness that was and the madness sure to come. Last Sunday, however, was decidedly different. Havoc rained down on my world, obliterating my precious corner of calm.

Oddly enough, what led to the aforementioned began weeks ago while traipsing through a store, my cart piled high with a bunch of schlock I didn’t need. At every turn, it seemed, I stumbled into EVEN MORE SCHLOCK and felt compelled to ogle it, to finger its veneer of worthiness and to toy with the notion of adding it to my ever-growing mound of that-which-I-would-one-day-regret-purchasing. And on the days during which I allow the guilt of motherhood to consume me, the mound is markedly higher. Needless to say, it was one of those days.

Indeed, the voices that drive much of my irrational behavior relevant to Thing One and Thing Two were especially persuasive that day, whispering words of admonishment in my ear and regaling in my grand ineptitude as a parent: “You’re a HORRIBLE MOTHER…you don’t SPEND ENOUGH TIME with your children…you MUST ACQUIRE this ten-dollar nugget of wonderfulness which promises to erase weeks of botched parenting.” All the while I considered said nugget of wonderfulness (i.e. a two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House Kit, complete with 47 bats, dozens of little green candies I would later damn to hell, enough gumdrops to coat eleventy-seven teeth and an expander, a defective ghost—or rather, segments of insanely sweet candy, suggestive of something that was once intact and specter-like—and a cauldron full of powdery mixes that were sure to deliver hours of goo-inspired, edible fun and to yield the most perfect hues of orange and purple icing on the planet).

In the end, I was shamed into buying the box of foolishness. Because that’s what moms do. Just like all the other project-y stuff I haul home out of sheer guilt; never mind the games and books and techno-gadgetry thought to engender this or that brand of awe in my children. It’s all about the Is-it-as-remarkable-as-a-pony factor and Will-it-expunge-from-the-record-my-screw-ups-to-date?

So I shoved the stupid thing in our pantry (good intentions and all) and forgot about it till the Halloween craze struck with a vengeance. And since the celebrated costume drama in this household was officially over, a sinful quantity of sugary treats had been stockpiled already and virtually every corner of our home had been festooned with all-that-is-Halloweenish, there was but one thing left to do—build the stupid house. So that’s what we did—the three of us, while Dad cheered exuberantly from the sidelines.

Several hours, two meltdowns (both mine) and a hellacious mess later, we had our two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House. Of course, the orange and purple mixes wound up adorning everything kitchen-ish but the inside of the refrigerator, those reprehensible, little candies rolled near and far much to my chagrin, fistfuls of trimmings were consumed with wild abandon and the icing was less than compliant as I shoveled and smeared gobs of it into pastry bags and then squeezed the reluctant mass onto the house as instructed. Translation: The cussed gloppage in question delighted in its schmutziness and its droopiness, defiantly sliding down walls, windows and slanted rooftops, leaving hideous-looking blobs everywhere. Even the spider webs I made sagged to the point of looking not-so-spider-webby. But because the gods of kitchen fiascos were smiling upon me, my brood took it all in stride, “…the droopiness makes it even SPOOKIER, Mom! You’re so AWESOME!”

Well, it certainly wasn’t as grand as a pony might have been; but the awe factor of this nightmarish project was evident to at least two somebodies on the planet. And perhaps that’s all that matters in the end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (admiring our droopified Halloween house).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

1 Comment

Filed under "G" is for Guilt, Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

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

2 Comments

Filed under We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Great Expectations

In the dark of predawn I lay in bed, tucked snugly beneath my downy comforter, sleet pinging against the windowpanes in soft yet fitful waves. Against all odds associated with parenthood, no one under the age of eight burst into the room to announce that the sky was falling. Translation: my husband and I had had the presence of mind to skip setting the kids’ alarm the night before, in anticipation of inclement weather almost certain to arrive by daybreak. So for a time, all was silent in this good house—except for the ticking of clocks and the tiny taps at the window.

As the not-so-surprising news of yet another school cancellation reached my ears in the wee hours that day, I was filled impossibly with hope. Hope that I would enjoy a morning devoid of the madness I had known all too well since September. Hope for a day abundant with hot cocoa, kindness and good cheer. Hope that I might finally summon the strength and ambition to take down the blasted Christmas tree. The one that has been standing very nearly straight in my living room for the past 63 days, mocking me as I addressed my cache of shamefully belated holiday cards.

The tree had to come down. It would come down. It was January 28th for Pete’s sake. Besides, I was tired of its condescending glare, as if it were looking down its boughs at me, judging my every deficiency. Shaming my inadequate core.

Moreover, with my army of helpers that would likely be at my disposal ALL DAY (since no one wanted to frolic in the freezing rain), I banked on being able to pack up and stow away each and every jingle bell, snowman, Santa likeness and string of garland-y foolishness in the entire house. To reclaim my space. At least until Easter.

Needless to say, lots of people here agreed that it was high time. “Mom, you know we’re going to get arrested, don’t you?”

“Arrested? For what?!”

“Because January’s almost over and we don’t even have our Christmas tree down yet! We’ll all be thrown in jail!”

“Whaaaaat?! Who’s going to throw us in jail?”

“The Holiday Police.”

“The Holiday Who?!”

“The Holiday Police. They arrest people who don’t do stuff right—like taking Christmas trees down BEFORE Groundhog Day. Helloooooooooo.”

She had a point.

All I had to do was glance at the calendar and then at the muddled mess surrounding me. Remnants of the holiday season were everywhere. The Christmas lights were (and still are!) completely shrouded with ice and fused impossibly to the trees and shrubs outside. The stockings were still hung—and shockingly, still laden with beloved items that had been tragically forgotten since Santa’s celebrated arrival. Gifts of every size, shape and hideous stage of disarray lay like carnage throughout the house and under the aforementioned evergreen, gloriously bedecked with enough ornament-age for a forest. Legions upon legions of festive-looking dishes, alarmingly bare except for the smarmy trail of cashews and the red and green fleckage of holiday M&Ms, still rested upon my tabletops, whispering without end, “Cleeeean meeeee.” Santa’s cookie plate begged to be returned to the cupboard, the crèche longed to be back in the attic and quite frankly, the mistletoe was tired of hanging around.

What’s more, I noted that the kids had been swiping stuff from the tree for weeks—like the reindeer, now chummy with Barbie’s horses and sharing a corral, and the snowmen, warmly adopted by a family of Lego people. I even discovered a few sparkly ornaments dangling precariously from the rooftops of doll houses. Icicles maybe?

That said, it was way past time to begin the arduous process of un-decorating. Clearly, the snow day that had been bestowed upon us was a window of opportunity and perhaps the spark that would ignite my drive and determination to succeed in spite of myself. At least that was the plan.

But it was not to be. My great expectations for the day were shot by 10 am and my hopes for a tidier living room were all but dashed. For all intents and purposes, the thorny pine had become rooted there, a glaring reminder of my ineptitude as a putter-away-of-holiday-wares. Instead we frittered away the time, putting six puzzles together, littering the house with Barbie dolls and dresses, devouring books, stuffing ourselves with chocolate-chip pancakes and lounging in our pajamas till it was almost evening—at which time I sent my brood outdoors to play in the snow that had FINALLY begun to fall in big, feathery flakes. A consolation prize for my efforts.

Then again, maybe my reward was the delicious chunk of time I spent fishing for puzzle pieces with my kids, eavesdropping on their Barbie powwows, listening to the ice hit the windows—safe and sound in this good house.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and where the Holiday Police are destined to arrive).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

6 Comments

Filed under We Put the Fun in Dysfunction