Tuesday, February 6, 2007

new beginnings

I love January and February: the beginning of a new year. I have always thought of the beginning of a year as a time for a fresh start; time to think about doing things differently; time to get rid of the clutter that has built up in my life over the last year. January can seem rather sterile and dry after the color and excitement of the holidays. There is sometimes a discontented, empty flavor to the cold, early winter days. I've found that discontent is often the sign of new things stirring under the surface.

There is something to be said for clearing the clutter. Less mess, more order, less stuff, more "white space": a recipe for a restful mind.

I had to laugh when I started reading the book, Put Your House on a Diet. In the chapter called "Are You A Pack Rat?" there are seven small questionnaires, and you get to add up the points you accumulate, and use the total points to figure out your clutter quotient. I'm afraid I could tell already without doing the survey! Yikes! But I thought I would share an example.

Your Toothpaste Habits

_ You always put the cap back on the toothpaste and put the tube back in the medicine cabinet. You never squeeze from the middle. (4 points)

_You put the cap back and leave the tube on the bathroom counter. You sometimes squeeze from the middle but immediately regret it and contritely squeeze the tube back into shape. (3 points)

_You often squeeze from the middle, forget the cap, and leave the tube on your bedroom dresser. Toothpaste gets on your socks. You wear them anyway. (2 points)

_You always squeeze from the middle, lost the cap a month ago, and left the tube on thekitchen counter beside the toaster, where the toaster's heat melted it, gluing the tube to the counter. Rather than pry it up, you now brush your teeth in the kitchen. (1 point)

Okay, I got 1-1/2 on that one. I'm not saying where the 1/2 point is from.

The humor is best in the beginning of the book, and soon the reader will find practical point after point for each area of the house. It gets a little dry, then, and it talks about how boring clutter maintenance can get to be. How about some techniques to spice up your clutter patrol process?? Yippee. Okay, it's a bit much to chew through in one mouthful. I think it's a potty room book--one that I keep in the bathroom and only read one or two snips each sitting. Or I could use it to cure my insomnia.

But I've come to the conclusion that clearing out clutter is the cheapest way for me to remodel, or at least to feel like I have. It creates such a fresh atmosphere in the house when I go through and streamline the junk that is collecting in various corners and pockets in the house. I feel like I can breathe better when I walk through the house and my eyes don't have to stop on every misplaced, mismatched, misshapen piece of STUFF to figure out where it should go and what I should do with it for now. I wonder if God says anything about clutter. He made me this way so there must be some reason I collect the stuff I do.

I have this infamous "black hole" of assorted stuff in my room. It grows and shrinks with the seasons. Occasionally it threatens to overtake the entire room. I have seen it try to swallow up small dogs and children right before my eyes. Sometimes it even grows out into other rooms, much to my family's dismay. It is perfectly good stuff, stuff that someone could use. Obviously I can't throw it away and waste it. Much better to continue to save it for the right moment to generously distribute it to that someone. It makes perfect sense, doesn't it? My children do not trust it. They will not give me important papers when I am sitting next to the black hole. They take their papers and run.

Right now, however, it is at its lowest point since I last gave birth. I almost want to have a parade about it to celebrate, but I might jinx myself. In no time at all, it could be overflowing again. Right now, it's down to 1-1/2 laundry basketfuls right next to my closet. In fact, it looks like the closet may have just spit up a little, burped up a few clothes and such, just like a baby urps up on its bib. If I deal with it quickly, it may disappear entirely.

Of course, then I will still have numerous "safe places" in my home, all of which I have yet to locate with any consistency. You know how that goes..."Okay, give it here. I'll put it in a safe place where I won't lose it." Ha! Those words should come with red flags and warning signs. A "safe place" in my house is almost as much of an oxymoron as corporate efficiency or governmental frugality. Every time I say I've put something in a safe place, I'm usually looking frantically for it. My hubby just rolls his eyes and we both laugh. We know better.

Well, how dull my life would be with no untamed frontiers of clutter. There's nothing like the challenge of a dusty pile of miscellaneous frim-frams and toast crusts. I think I hear one calling me now.


Faith said...

Funny post. I am the exact opposite. I'm a neat, organized freak! I like things in their spot as soon as they are done being used. My husband drives me crazy at times because he will hang his coat up on the chair or put his hat on the counter, grr...put it where it belongs. haha.
I like my house cleaned and picked up before I go to bed. I hate waking up in the morning to even a little mess. Boy will I be in for in when I have children, hey. I will have to let some of it go I'm afraid.
I don't have clutter anywhere except in one of the bedrooms we don't use. Stuff kind of piles up in there, so I just shut the door so I won't have to look at it!

daisyaday said...

Okay, you scare me just a little, faith. :) I don't think you'll have any problem when you have kids, because I was like this long before I had kids.

You either have it, or you don't.

I think it has to do with the whole sidetracked thing, too. You probably have no trouble finishing one thing before you start another, either, do you? Brat.

We should hang out together sometime. Maybe it will rub off of you and a little of it will stick to me. We just can't meet at my house, because it would take me too long to perfect it before I let you see it. LOL.

Faith said...

LOL, you crack me up! No I'm not anal, j/k. I am kinda. I don't think I'm too extreme though. I've seen lots worse!
I was organized as a kid too, I'd clean the kitchen, my mom would have a stack of bills and i'd put them away somewhere out of sight. She wouldn't be able to find them, she'd always have to ask me what I did with them! =)
Also when I have kids, I'm going to get a bunch of see through little bins and put labels on them for their toys. Like group them together, one for blocks, one for cars, dinosaurs, etc. (for the smaller toys). What do you think about that? LOL Your probably pulling your hair out. ahhhhh..... this woman is freaking me out.
No, I don't think differently of people who have disorganized houses, but I do think, hmm,,,how could I organize this. I love it. It is fun to organize. When I planned my wedding, I had an absolute ball! So much fun. I had a big binder with all the different categories in it, like food, entertainment, decorations, clothing, etc. Such fun!

daisyaday said...

Hey! I'm laughing as I'm reading about your wedding, because I think it would be a stitch to make a movie with you getting married and me being your wedding coordinator. ROFL. We would never get to be friends, then. You probably didn't even need a wedding coordinator--you were it, it sounds like. My wedding was more haphazard. But it still was fine. Very serendipitious. Casual. Relaxed. Reasonably inexpensive. Do you like how I said that without saying cheap??

I know. You can open a business as a professional organizer and I can be your practice house. The funny thing is that I like to be organized. I just don't like to maintain it for other people. I love having containers to keep toys together, containers for shoes by the front door, cubbies for backpacks, hooks for coats, containers to hold my scrapbook stuff, containers for the cat and dog food, containers to organize my closet...I'm a box, bag and tote freak myself. I love to rearrange and organize big picture-wise. But the details, the everyday clutter? Pish posh! But I think I like to collect the boxes, bags and totes even if I don't know what I'm going to do with them yet.

For example, when I get all the necessary bathroom miscellanies put away and organized, I just want it to remain that way. I don't want children to leave things out and fill up the trash basket. I would like it to look like they never brush their teeth or wash their hands in there! I want it to just stay clean. I can hear you thinking -- there's a disconnect somewhere in there--oh, never mind with your logic. Logic schmogic.

I think I just use new organizing methods to clean up unmaintained stuff, though. For example, take my purse. I'm sure I'm not the only person who collects things in my purse like old receipts, used up checkbook registers, gum wrappers, junk mail that you pick up at the mailbox and stuff into your purse so you don't drop any of it, half a dozen mangled post-it notes, shredded Kleenexes in every corner, sixteen dehydrated raisins that fell out of the box I put in there last month, and "important" papers that I should have filled out and mailed at least three weeks ago. I put them in my purse so I don't lose them. (Wait! That means that this is one of my "safe places!" Eureka!) Anyway, I also have in there the usual things that go in a purse--keys, wallet, etc.

Well...I would rather pull the keys and wallet out of the old purse and buy a new purse to hold them, than to try to clean out the old one. I'd rather hang the old one in my closet and wait to go through it "sometime when I have a minute."

So maybe you can start to see my dilemma. All of this "stuff" has to be gone through regularly, and I'd rather not do it now because it's really BORING! Hmmm, I could probably apply some daily discipline techniques here, couldn't I? Probably some of the same concepts I've been reading about in relation to spiritual discipline. Well, maybe next week. I have too much to do today. I have to finish my lunch before it gets cold.

Faith said...

Funny stuff! Someone I know organizes there kitchen cupboards with labels. No kidding!! Now, thats extreme. The Lazy Susan is labeled with crockpot, toaster, bowls, etc. Everything has a spot. And the pantry is labeled too, spices, cereal, pasta, crackers. Its hilarious! Now thats extremely anal wouldn't yah say!

sunnyspot said...

This post was hilarious!! I think I passed the toothpaste thing with all the points, but what does the book say about cupboards & closets? I don't like to be visually over-stimulated with stuff, so I have neat & tidy rooms that can be seen, but I wouldn't want you to see my cupbords & closets! They are not for the weak at heart. My husband usually ends up having things fall on him & then he cleans them out! What a plan, huh? I could maybe write a book on that? What do you think daisyaday? Got any title ideas?

daisyaday said...

That is too funny that you should say that. It's like you are my opposite. I would rather be you, sunnyspot, because then I wouldn't have to look at it. :D You're right. Clutter is visually stimulating, and it distracts me.

My closets are organized,however. They are lined up with drawers, totes and shelves. My drawers are usually organized, too, with dividers and containers inside...you just can't get to either of them because there is too much stuff in front of them on the floor! I think my problem is a combination of perfectionism and procrastination. I have the perfect system, but I put off using it.

I usually know the general vicinity of where I put things; they are just buried under numerous other things. My keys are the only exception. I can be inside the door fifteen seconds, I swear, and I will have already lost my keys.

Titles, sunnyspot? I'll have to think about that for a bit. It could, however, turn into a series about disappearing spouses, or mysterious "deaths by clutter", perhaps.

sunnyspot said...

Wow! I always thought that was cool when I would see people's drawers all lined with paper. That's really impressive!!! It seemed like alot of work though. I think I'm too lazy.

When my son was little - maybe like eight or so, we had some important guests from out of town come to our home for dinner. I was busy scrambling to get things ready for dinner, so my son offered to take them on a tour of the house. After a few rooms, I joined them just in time for my son to open up our bedroom closet door & show our out of town friends a piled high, to the top, stack of clothes (they were clean though!), & other various junk that I put in there to hide from them because I was in a hurry! I think I died a thousand deaths at that moment. Of course everyone thought it was funny (but me!) My son even tried to show off the downstairs closet next. That would have been the end of him!

I started putting my keys & my family's keys & wallets in the same exact place everytime - we have a drawer in the kitchen. That way they can always find their stuff when they are looking for it.

A thought for Faith - I think you may have a bit of an awakening when you have kids. They have a way of not caring that you slaved to clean your house all day & it was perfect right before they came home from school! I hate that!

daisyaday said...

I know what you mean...kids know exactly what you least want people to see. Actually maybe they notice that those places get attention, even negative attention, so those must be "important" places, right? It follows, then, that those would be the places that your company would be the most impressed with. I can just see him, loving the reaction, but not quite sure if it's a good thing! What can you do but laugh?

With me, it was when my daughter got a ride home from her friend's mom, and invited the mom in when the house was a disaster and we weren't home. Oh, my goodness. I just walked around the house thinking, "She looked at THIS???" I think I blanked her name out of my mind so that if I ever meet her, I will not remember that she was the one who saw that!

My husband was pleased to offer me that solution once, too. We got a basket to put keys in, and a basket to put mail in. It worked for a week or two, until I forgot to put them there a couple of times, and then I was back to my old habits. Now, sadly, those baskets are both overflowing with household flotsam and jetsam, sitting on top of the mail drawers with not a key in them.

I think the drawers must sound much better than they actually are. :D I think the fact that they're not very useful right now really detracts from their appeal for me.

Norah said...

Ohh, here's another funny thread, gals.. Clutter and 'getting organized' was one of my biggest hangups when the kids were growing up. I bought books, read 'helpful hints' and all of that.. But all of those things only work IF you put them into practice on a consistent basis.. consistency is what I lacked then and still lack now. Anyway, we are what we are and I think I'd be miserable trying to be somebody else. I've tried it!

Faith, I'm going to guess that you are going to be exactly as you are when you have kids. My sister-in-law has always been neat, and my other sister-in-law and I used to say "Wait until she has kids".. well, she had one and everything was still neat. We said "wait til she has another one" - still neat. She then had twins, and her house STILL stayed neat. Never even a dish in the sink, and no dishwasher!

Our kids are grown we are no longer working, and guess what!? We still have trouble with clutter. My main problem is this computer/craft/office room. And I've got all the shelves, totes and containers I need, but for some reason I still stack things here and there, stuff covers nearly every surface. (The only clear spot is hubby's desk - he is now the bill payer and is very organized and keeps everything up to date.)

And it seems we are always looking for something. The other day I had a prescription filled, and when we got home I put the bag into a larger bag along with a coffee cup and the garbage that had accumulated on the front seat of the car. I brought the bag into the house along with the groceries. Hubby went to start a fire in our wood stove, took out the coffee cup, thought the bag was all garbage and threw it into the fire! Later that night we looked all over for that prescription, and the only thing we could come up with was that it had been burned! wahhh.. Luckily it was not very expensive!!

I've always been a saver too "maybe someone could use it some day".. but I guess you could say I'm in recovery. lol. No, NOBODY is going to use it, let it move on lol..

daisyaday said...

Oh, norah, I'm quite sure we are twins, too! And you're right, my clutter will probably be there long after the kids are gone. But it's still fun to check out the organizing clutter books from the library and rearrange all of my "stuff". I like that part of it. It's the maintaining, like you said. I suck at it.

My sister-in-law has twelve kids, and you could walk into her house any time of day or night, and her house was in immaculate order. She LIKES to clean. LIKES it! That is a foreign notion to me. Don't get me wrong--I LOVE having things clean. I. just. don't. love cleaning. And you don't get one without the other, unless you pay someone to do it for you.

Now there's a thought...I have a daughter who is my complete opposite. She is one of the kids who will hold out a pen and her permission slip for me and wait while I sign it for her. Or she'll fill it out and just have me sign it. She knows better than to trust me if I say, "Just put it there and I'll do it in a minute." She'll just look at me when I say that, purse her lips a little, and say, "No, that's okay. I'll keep it in my room." LOL!

Maybe I could talk her into being my cleaning lady, or even the other daughter who is more like me, but has a LOT more energy.