Friday, May 9, 2008

My House is a Metaphor for my Life

The other day, my husband asked me a simple question. “How much money do we have in our checking account?” This is a question that I can typically answer in one keystroke but this time, it just wasn’t that easy. Trying to answer that one question was more like opening a Pandora’s Box of ATM receipts, deposit slips and bill statements – all stowed in several piles but with each pile spread around like kitty litter around the cat box. I dove into each mound of paper like I was playing “Go Fish” only to come up without a match and having to draw again.

There are few places left in my house to put things out of Logan’s reach – or at least make it harder for him to reach and buy me some interception time. We have one stretch of kitchen counter, the buffet table in the family room and the closets. Wait a minute, scratch the closets – he can open all the doors now. The problem is that these spaces are becoming uncontrollably cluttered. They have become the default homes for the laptop computer, bills to be paid, business receipts, school memos, the camera, art supplies, sharp things, etc. The delicate balance of organization that used to be a source of pride for me has disappeared, presumably under that stack of folded laundry. Things are getting lost, or restacked, or carried off to an undisclosed location and the disorganization is driving me to distraction. But pruning back the piles as if they are overgrown hedges takes TIME. It’s not just the piles themselves but also the question of the items’ rightful homes. The top of the desk is too accessible to little hands and if I file them away in the drawer, will they be un-filed only moments later? Does the overflowing recycling bin really need to be where I have to see it? And since obviously, it is no longer safe to stow the coffee grinder in the same drawer where it has lived for the last five and half years, where should we put it?

In short, what Flylady would call my “Hot Spots” have turned into raging infernos and the only thing I have to tame the blaze is a spray bottle of lighter fluid. Minutiae that once had it’s own space and time – chores that were routine are now special events. Too much time and effort are required for anything more basic than the daily schlepping of dishes, toys and laundry. What, you might wonder, makes it so hard suddenly? It seems too easy to blame the third child – blame the fact that there is simply more of everything to do. Adding to the extra laundry and To Do’s is the complication that comes with a little person who has no impulse control or sense of safety. He also has his own ideas of what he wants to do and how he wants it done. (And did I mention that he does not sleep?) It’s frustrating because sometimes I am stuck wondering why it has been so hard to incorporate this busy toddler into our house full of little kids.

And then I have flashbacks of feeling this way once before – probably about three years ago when Jess was a toddler. That was about the same time that I left my job and became a full-time stay-at-home mom. Then too, I wondered if I’d ever get my groove back. Once I figured out that it wasn’t just about the house being messy, that it was about me trying to redefine my role, I was able to enjoy my new lifestyle. When I stopped working, I assumed that I would finally have more to time to do the things that I wanted to do for myself and my family. It took a long time to learn that just being a mom and doing all the things that I had always done for my family was enough. And eventually I incorporated that new role into my sense of self and found that I hadn’t lost my self at all – not even under that pile of folded clothes.

So when will the balance be restored to the Force? Perhaps when we have a Democrat in the White House again, I’m not sure. But if memory serves, it will probably happen slowly, in small ways each day, until I can’t remember how hard it has been. Small changes here and there (like more sensible locations for some items or locks for cabinet doors) will help fuel the mental energy it will take to make larger ones. And until then, I’ll settle for a few minutes to sweep up one or two of those piles. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t take much to make Mom happy. A full cup of coffee and a clean kitchen counter is sometimes all I need to make my world right. Now, has anyone seen the remote?


1blueshi1 said...

I'm clutching my warm mug o' worshipful caffeine right now!
Good luck with your hot spots, I feel like my whole house is one. In fact, I just posted on little miss blackwell, and you can click on the pictures there to see them fullscreen, which I have noticed provides a wonderful closeup view of just exactly how smudgy the white fridge has gotten, to say nothing of the filthiness of my baseboards.
I need a wife to cook and clean and take care of the kids for me.
Thanks for your comment on my struggles with Zac and his school. My email addy is and it's on my profile as well. Would love to hear from you!

Kristi O said...

oh my gosh.... why on earth would a husband want to know how much money is in the checking account? what a silly ?.....

My housekeepers makes piles for me each week if I don't take time and go thru them, its gone the next week, its my version of the flylady. teehee. good luck!