Cleaning House

I’ve been cleaning out my house for, well, it seems like forever. The reality is that while my house may be clean, it is cluttered. Extraordinarily cluttered, by my child’s things, my husband’s things, and a lot of my things.

I am claustrophobic, so much so that I cannot even pull the covers up over my head, so much so that if my space is too cluttered, I start to lose it. I like to have my things contained in an organized fashion. I’ve been known to refer to The Container Store as my spiritual home. I have turned The Boy into a convert, and he likes to have his Lego blocks organized either by the complete set or color and lined up on a bookshelf for ease of access. It sounds crazy, but he actually plays with them more if the blocks are organized and he can find them easily.

I came to neatness and organization relatively late in life, only after I’d left home for college. Previously, I had been a slob of biblical proportions; many times during my adolescence I came home to find the items previously strewn across my bedroom floor in a trash bag in the backyard or a bag of stinky trash sitting on my pillow. That all changed when it was my space; I had to learn to deal with a roommate even messier than I was. Fortunately, she found a sucker, I mean boyfriend, near the end of our first semester and moved in with him, leaving me alone with my newly organized and sparkling space. Jess, although you and I never shared a single moment of friendship, I do owe you a debt of gratitude for turning me to the light of cleanliness.

Sure, I had those insane nights when I would try on and reject almost everything in my closet before heading out, leaving a tangled pile of leggings, jeans, silky blouses, blazers and shoes on the floor, but when I returned home that night or the next morning, I cleaned it all, put it all away. A place for everything. I still have those nights, but now it’s dresses and heels usually on the floor of my walk-in closet, which fortunately has a door, for I’m not quite as efficient as I used to be before I had a family. More often than not, the day the cleaning lady comes sends me into a minor frenzy culminating in all of the unfolded laundry landing in a heap on my closet floor.

Recently I pulled out everything and put it into a pile in the middle of my bedroom floor: laundry, pajamas, sweatshirts and yoga clothes, shoes, boots, books, and greeting cards I loved and bought oh-so-long ago in the hope that I would some day have a reason to use them. I now have a bucket full of greeting cards, organized by occasion, so if anyone needs a spare birthday card or Valentine’s Day card, let me know. I also have a pile of stuff to go on eBay, all of it clothing purchased before I was married, and all of it still with tags on. Most of it I’m sure will sell for some nominal amount as it all falls into the category of workout clothing or “going out” clothing, but at this point I just want it out of my house.

At about this time last year, I dedicated myself to organizing the pile of books around and under my bed. I took myself to The Container Store and purchased three baskets into which I planned to put the books I was keeping to read. The rest of the books I donated to my local library because let’s face it: if it had been under my bed for more than six months and I hadn’t read it, the chances of me ever reading it were slimmer by the moment.

So I then had three much smaller piles, separated into categories: pleasure reading, business/reference reading, and self-improvement. Each pile was in its own basket, pushed under the edge of my bed. You know where this is going. Out of sight, out of mind. All those books? Not a single one got read, and all I did was add more to the piles, outside of the baskets because I felt too rushed to take the time and incorporate them into the baskets or decide what I wanted to read when I had a few minutes. A magazine was easier and could be read in smaller bits. Of course, most of the time I never went back to it, and hence I have piles of unread or barely read magazines dating years back.

My book and magazine piles are larger now, but part of my determination to have an uncluttered house and life in 2014 is to go through those piles and either read the books or junk them and donate where needed. Of course, reading the books isn’t so easy, as many of them are “workbooks” and reading them will entail me undertaking a life change. For instance, one of my husband’s Christmas presents to me was an online course with BrenΓ© Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. The course started on January 12, and I haven’t even been able to begin it. Fortunately, however, it is an online course so I can begin and go back whenever I need to. There is a book and a workbook to accompany the course, and I have a lot of those types of items stashed in my little baskets: I call them my makeover books. Apparently, on some level I believe that I need a makeover.

My magazine piles go back years. Ernie Hemingway and I married in November 2006, and just this weekend I found a travel magazine from 2006 with the most romantic honeymoon destinations. We didn’t even thumb through it; despite his ex-wife’s best efforts to ensure that we couldn’t go anywhere (a story for another blog post, perhaps), in June of 2007 Ernie and I spent two weeks in Paris and stayed at a friend’s apartment while he was back in the US visiting family. It was a wonderful, peaceful time for us, and we spent our time just wandering the city, talking and laughing, planning our life together. It was also during those two weeks that we found out, against my doctors’ predictions that I was pregnant with The Boy.

But now I am starting to lose it because my space is so cluttered. I’ve no one to blame but myself. The last three years have been difficult, and it was terribly hard to motivate myself while struggling with depression. After a long road, I finally feel better, but now I realize that part of getting even better beyond where I am is changing my pattern of clutter and holding tight; otherwise, I will simply dissolve into a puddle on the floor and the depression will have won.

So, I am committing to throw out something each day, even if it’s only a pile of outdated magazines that have been sitting on my laundry table for six months waiting for the reading that will never happen. In fact, I’ve become so disgusted with my inability and failure to read my magazines that I have cancelled all but two subscriptions: Time and The Writer. Both Ernie Hemingway and I read them, so even if I don’t get to an issue, at least he will.

Here are the piles I threw into the recycling bin yesterday.

photo 4 photo 3

My task today is to find the surface of the laundry table and then use it only for folding laundry. Here is the before of the laundry table and the laundry pile.

photo 1 photo 2

Wish me luck.

monogram_2013-10-10_12-38-58

42 Comments

Filed under Just Life, Organization, The Writing Life

42 responses to “Cleaning House

  1. Tyna S. Cline

    Let me know how you like the Gifts of Imperfection course. I’ll be starting Part 2 in a few weeks. As far as the clutter, the more you get rid of, the better it will feel and the more you’ll want to keep going! Good luck!

    Like

  2. I totally get the container store! I love having things in bins, and containers! it doesn’t keep them from getting messy, but it sure is pretty to look at when they are clean!

    Like

  3. You’ll get there, one step at a time. When you feel overwhelmed take a step back, enjoy a cup of coffee/tea and regroup.πŸ™‚

    Like

  4. Alena@TheHomemadeCreative

    I was the same – a huge Messy until I left home. For me, it was finally being away from a severely dysfunctional family that finally allowed me to see how much better I felt when everything’s neatly organized. Unfortunately, I lack the tools needed for almost any kind of organization right now, so I’m making due (which sometimes means frantically shoving all my daughter’s toys into the corner when she’s not looking, just to gain some visual space).

    Like

  5. I can relate to hating clutter! I have a problem getting rid of stuff because I always feel like I might need it later lol I recently took a ton of stuff to the thrift store and I feel so much betterπŸ™‚ stopping by from SITS girls.

    Like

    • It’s a great feeling getting rid of all the unwanted stuff, isn’t it? To me it feels like sloughing off a layer of unwanted dead skin at the end of the winter so I can start the spring and summer with a renewed sense of purpose and much lighter. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  6. emmymom2

    I was so messy as a kid and even into college. My husband totally neat- so over the year sod marriage his neatness has rubbed off on me a lot, but I have also rubbed off on him and he is more laid back about it all. This year I am doing the 52 week home organization challenge and loving it! Thanks for your comment on my blog the other day. #Sitsblogging

    Like

    • Ooooh, the 52 week home organization challenge sounds like it would be right up my alley. Can you send me a link or some information? Even if I can’t get involved this year, maybe I can pick up some tips. I can feel my pulse quickening at the thought. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Like

  7. I start out every year cleaning, organizing, culling at full speed. Somewhere around mid-February I burn out, or get too busy with other things to keep it up. And so, the same areas get lots of attention early in the year, but then I flounder on the rest of the house. Like you, I am determined to get things cleaned out this year!

    Like

  8. Keeping a clean house is a constant chore. I recently saw a presentation by a personal organizer. She said something that stuck with me. She said every item has to have a place. If it doesn’t it becomes clutter. Makes sense! #SITSblogging

    Like

  9. Yikes, what an undertaking! Pace yourself and find a ‘home’ for everything you want to keep. Then it has it’s perma-place to always go back toπŸ™‚ #sitsblogging

    Like

    • Oh, don’t I know it! I’ve already quit a half dozen times, but I know it will be worth it in the end, so I keep going back to it. If I could afford to do it, I’d just hire Elfa to come in and put shelves and cubbies up everywhere. πŸ™‚

      Like

  10. Ida

    I go through these crazy purging rants every once in a while and I will always throw away something that I will need in about a month! never fails.

    Stopping by with comment love from the SITS girls!

    Like

    • That’s always the way, isn’t it? I did that last year when I threw away all my fabric markers and paints, and then I found out I needed them for a project with my son’s kindergarten class, so I had to buy them all over again. Grrrrr…. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  11. Good luck! The only magazines we get here anymore are the ones my husband and son read (and they actually read them…) and I don’t buy books, except on my kindle. Makes a huge difference in the paper clutter around here. (And a professional job interview recently that required me to go through nearly my entire pre-kids professional wardrobe before I found something that wasn’t outdated resulted in a huge dumping of out of date clothing…) But I hear you on still need to keep working on it… Stopping by from SITS.

    Like

    • Oh, I can only imagine what would be the result if I had to do that! I’m laughing just thinking about it. And the books … oh, if I could get rid of my husband’s books, I’d have the whole thing in hand. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  12. I’m also needing a clear out. Books are my downfall, I have them everywhere – they do get read, but slowly at the moment, although I do give them away once read. Clothes – need a big clear out too so I can get back some space for storage rather than piling the ones I wear regularly. My husband despairs, I think baskets or storage under the bed is a great idea – then I could put all my crochet stuff under in one basket, all photo albums in another, and upcoming gifts/wrapping paper in another.

    The worst thing about decluttering, is that however good I am with putting things back in their place, I get new clutter, and there’s never enough storage. Then having a child adds to that clutter as well Never ending.

    Like

  13. I am so NOT an organized person! I can relate, though, to the de-cluttering thing. A year or so ago my husband and I realized that we were constantly wading through a mess that couldn’t be cleaned up because there was simply nowhere to put it. We looked at all that STUFF and thought, “why do we have all of this?! We don’t even use half of it!” Now we try to take a bag of donations with us every time we go to the city (we live in the boondocks) and we are slowly whittling away all of that extra clutter.

    Like

  14. I’ve been here and it’s taken many years to get a handle on clutter vs. my guilt and other issues about all of it. Be careful not to be so hard on yourself. Give yourself a reasonable goal (mine is to purge 3 things every day) and just hold yourself to that.

    Like

  15. I love organizing and decluttering as well. Clothes are my biggest downfall. I always think I might require them in future and as a result I have lot of clothes which needs to be organized. Thanks for following my blogπŸ™‚

    Like

  16. Gabby

    Good for you!! Depression is HARD. i have been there. You’re so smart to take it one day at a time with cleaning. The cleaner environment will be great for your emotions too.

    Like

  17. I can totally relate to this! I seem to find comfort and almost a protective feeling from my piles of organized chaos! Good luck-so impressed!

    Like

  18. anne @ wit wisdom and food

    I have started getting rid of piles this year too. Magazines seem to be my biggest problem. Good luck #SITSBlogging

    Like

  19. I would totally pay someone to come and clean out my house. My closets are full (with nothing to wear)πŸ™‚
    I had hoped to start cleaning out my pantry this week but that didn’t happen either. One day!

    Like

  20. I’m so with you. I am a clutter bomb that is constantly going off. I am on a journey this year towards organizing and it is slow going.

    Like

  21. We moved a little over a year ago and used that opportunity to clear out almost everything that was superfluous. (notice I said almost)πŸ™‚
    easy and delicious sounding…my favorite type of recipe!

    best,
    diane
    red or green?
    Dropping by from SITS girls today.
    #SITSBlogging

    Like

    • Definitely red. πŸ™‚ I have no desire to move, but maybe I could pull an April Fool’s prank and convince my husband that we need to, and then we’d have to clear out everything. Perhaps a genius idea… Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

      Like

  22. Good luck! I hate cleaning and clutter is public enemy #1 over here. If I see random legos or crayons lying around, I just throw it away otherwise it’ll take over my life! Stopping by from #SITSBlogging

    Like

  23. I have always struggled with keeping clutter under control and fidning an organization system that works for me in my home. And it’s even harder now that we have had to downsize to a house that is half the size of the one we left. I am learning, but it is not something that comes natural to me, for sure! You are not alone in your efforts to declutter and simplify! Right there with ya! Stopping by from #SITSBlogging!

    Like

  24. I’m such a bin girl. I’ve always had a hard time with organizing! You’ve inspired me!

    Like

  25. This is a constant battle in my home. I did find that if I use http://www.itsdeductible.com I actually get more back in the form of a refund than I get selling them in a garage sale or on eBay and I love the feeling of giving items to local charities like woman’s homes and the homeless take ins.

    Like

    • That’s a great idea. I always donate my “gently used” items, but eBay was sort of the my default for new items with tags still on them. I will definitely look into that website; thanks for the tip! And thanks for stopping by!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s