If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that my New Year's resolution this year is to "tame the beast" (see "Taming the Beast," 1/16/13). The beast, of course, being my way-beyond-messy home. Well, like many of you, I suspect, I did not get right on that. Resolutions are resolutions because they haven't been addressed or fully addressed, right? We don't have time to deal with them. We don't want to deal with them. We find it too difficult to deal with them. We have loads of excuses for not dealing with them.
Nevermind. The point is: I only this week -- yes, mid-March! -- got around to beginning the process of tackling the state of my house. I set aside an entire school day, save for the roughly forty minutes it took to obtain a coffee drink from Starbucks (needed caffeine to keep me going!), so I could make some serious inroads. Or that was the plan anyway.
Start Time: 9:10 a.m., Kitchen Table:
The cornerstone of family life, mine had become cluttered with all manner of whatnot. Half-empty juice boxes and bags; a couple of Legos; playing cards; two light bulbs; two bowls of varying amounts of unpopped popcorn kernels; a newspaper; correction tape; several baggies of partially eaten goldfish crackers, tortilla chips, and Ritz crackers; the boys's summer day camp schedules from the past two years; a campground map and clam shack menu from Maine; directions to a state forest in the Berkshires; an appropos Chinese fortune ("Time is wealth."); and Flarp! farting putty. Awesome. After putting away or disposing of all of the above, I discover a small brown spider scurrying across the surface. Eek. The scrubbing down of the blond wood reveals small drops of last year's Easter egg dye in purple, red, and green. I kid you not. Hint: red dye smeared across light-colored furniture gives one serious pause because it too closely resembles BLOOD!
Finish Time: 10:19
Start Time: 10:19, Dishes in Sink
My Kenmore dishwasher detergent compartment won't latch, so I do my dishes the old fashioned way: in the kitchen sink. Far too often the pile spills over onto the counter and then another counter and then the kitchen table (if there's room). Plastic bowls, pots, forks, plates, empty milk and juice containers for recycling, and what have you. Why, you might ask, would I spend valuable time during my big cleanup day on dishes? Dishes need to be done every day. A better use of my time would be, for example, clearing off the dining room table. Well, yes and no. I didn't plan on losing many minutes on them but rather decided to utilize the undertaking as a kind of relaxing transitionary palate-cleansing, like eating sorbet between meals. (Truth be told, I'd much prefer consuming the frozen dessert.)
Stop Time (not finished): 10:35
Start Time: 10:36, Kitchen Chairs
They don't get dumped on half as much as the table, but they can still get mighty grody if not tended to. At least they're mostly out of sight, tucked underneath the sides of the table. I wipe down all four.
Stop Time (not finished): 10:44
As I look over at the digital clock on the oven, I feel a little depressed that I haven't done more. I'm tired and growing sluggish.
Start Break: 10:45
I watch the end of The Today Show and beginning of The View while munching on macadamia nuts and pistachio pieces and drinking water.
Finish Break: 11:15
Start Time: 11:15, Kitchen Chairs
Finish Time: 11:30
The kitchen hasn't been completed by a long shot, but the table and chairs now look lovely. I put a placemat depicting a Chinese painting in the center of the table and an emerald green glass bowl holding paper mache fruit and vegetables on top of it. They don't go together, but who cares?! The table still looks gorgeous. Now I don't want it touched . . . EVER.
Start Time: 11:35 Wingback Chair, Living Room
This piece of furniture is covered in schoolwork and random stuff from (afraid so) last year. More specifically: teacher-reviewed homework, the boys' artwork, and special projects. Color-by-number sheets on rainforest animals, fact pages and maps for a "Where in the World is" section on the seven continents, handwriting practice from kindergarten, a mini autobiography featuring such entries as Christopher's first tooth lost (after being hit in the mouth by a tee ball tossed by yours truly, argh) and first trophy won (for wiffle ball), a gymnastics class evaluation from the Y, opinion pieces on why it's better to be a child than an adult and why Christopher doesn't like school uniforms, and the photographic and written record of Flat Stanley's travels around the globe. There's a signed tee shirt from the bowling alley where Charlie held his belated birthday party last August, texting gloves from my-not-so-mysterious Secret Santa, Christopher's leopard project and his incredible rendition of a lighthouse, a poem about summer ("Summer is not a bummer. . . .", insert smiley face), and a construction paper teddy bear inside a paper bag cave with a cotton (snowy) opening and upside down Do Not Disturb sign.
The waterworks start around noon. Sifting through this precious material might have caused me to tear up anyway, but the tasks of the morning have worn me down and weakened my defenses. Immediately, I recognize these blues as different from my "Tipper Gore Depression" (see "When Things Get Dicey: Part II (Risk-Taking Gone Awry), 2/25/13). This is MY depression caused by feeling overwhemed and unable to keep up or stay on top of everything. In this case, I feel badly that I haven't examined all the beautiful fruits of my boys' labor from their last school year and put it all away or on display by now. I haven't done right by my sons.
How did so much schoolwork from 2011-2012 get tossed on this chair whose chocolate-brown legs I refinished many years ago? Convenience, plain and simple. The chair -- reupholstered in a now-faded cobalt blue fabric featuring a dusty rose and ivory flower pattern -- stands near the door we enter and the area of the floor where school backpacks are left. How does the material accumulate? As soon as we arrive home after school or anywhere else, chaos often ensues. People want snacks. People want to play on my iPhone. People start rough housing with one another. People want things from me NOW. (I can't imagine who these people are!) The demands and ensuing scuffles that invariably erupt deplete me -- I'm fifty-one, don't forget -- to the point at which I become devoid of energy to do anything other than what's absolutely necessary of me for the rest of the day and evening. Time goes by and, before I know it, the clump of papers and mixed-media artwork has grown exponentially. My eyes see the pile, and my mind registers it. The problem: With WAY too much on my plate, I don't know where or how to start. Of course, this mess is as good a place as any, yet it doesn't feel like a high priority to me. My brain is just too distracted and my time too crunched to tackle this particular item on my LOOOONG to-do list.
Start Lunch: 1:20 p.m.
I watch The Chew while downing a turkey sandwich, tortilla chips, and two Oreo cookies (okay, four).
Finish Lunch: 2:00
Start Time: 2:00, Coffee Table
Due to all the papers, books, and other miscellaneous items scattered across its surface, I can't see much of the mottled peach-colored marble slab. It's a shame because I always liked this rectangular table and have kept it since it sat in my childhood living room in Darien, Connecticut, in the early '60s. About six years ago, I had its medium brown wood frame and legs refinished. Now I behold Captain Underpants and The Big, Bad Battle of The Bionic Booger Boy, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Tower Treasure (The Hardy Boys). Two Harry Potter snow globes flank corners. An old framed photo of my boys with Santa faces the wrong direction. And a plastic bag containing last year's Cub Scout badges hangs halfway off the edge. The rest of the junk atop the space includes information from the elementary school Open House last September, a letter from Yakima about my recalled bike rack, prescription instructions for Charlie's eye infection last summer, an A Christmas Carol program and ticket from the North Shore Music Theater's production in (gasp!) 2011, a couple of other playing cards, and Charlie's school picture from kindergarten. (He's now in first grade, duh.)
Handling this stuff (yay, no half-eaten food or insects!) doesn't cause me any more distress. I seem to have brought my emotions in check, and it is now only about wading through the mementos -- putting the books back in the boys' bookshelf in their room and finding a logical home (or the recycling bin) within my home for the remainder. It is going to take MANY sessions like this one to gain control over the "beast." Still, the process has begun. While I am somewhat disappointed I haven't accomplished more, I can say that I am genuinely pleased to have made a dent in the massive cleanup job.
Finish Time: 2:45