Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Arch-Enemy: Clutter.

I have always had a weakness for clutter - papers, books, memorobilia.  My mother's favorite childhood comment attributed to me is supposedly once when she asked me to clean up some mess in my room, my response was "but I like to have my things around me." Ha ha, Mom.

In college, my desk was always heaped with stuff.  Added to my tendency to light candles and leave the room, I'm surprised I didn't ever burn the place down, but that's another story.  In adulthood, it took over my kitchen counters and dining room table.  Even when I declare war on clutter, there always is a small pile of stuff that needs to go somewhere - to the filing cabinet, in the mail, to someone else, or to someplace I haven't figured out yet - and then that little pile soon procreates into enough paper to side our house all heaped on my kitchen counter.  I'm a pretty organized person and I've often wished for the Samantha Stevens (you all remember Bewitched, right?) ability to twitch my nose and magically direct the next step of making things go where I direct them.  Without that magically ability, my human tendency is to leave the nicely organized pile of things to be filed or moved or donated or whatever until I get around to that next step ... which often will be a long time (or even never) before I get back to it. 

We now live in a two story house with a finished basement.  By "we", I am talking about 2 adults, 2 pre-teens, two dogs and two cats.  While we are not going to be chosen for hoarders or any other similar reality show, the clutter is killing me.  Don't even get me started on the basement because that is where piles of "I don't know what to do with it" go to die.  But every flat surface in this house is covered with unbalanced piles of stuff.  It isn't dirty and it isn't garbage, but it is stuff that needs to get off those surfaces and into it's proper place. 

I have learned over the years that reducing clutter reduces my stress.  I am far from the kind of person that finds peace and serenity in scrubbing a bathroom or vacuuming the house every night before bed, but I know I tense up if I walk into a room and am struck by how much crap is piled up and stuffed into every visible nook and cranny.  I also know I am much more likely to cook the kind of food I want to eat, if can actually have a kitchen counter to work on.  I have also learned that I am completely on my own in my quest against the clutter demon in my home. 

In an effort to combat this demon, I have periodically chosen a room, or a given flat surface, and cleared it off.  I put things away, I donate things, I reshelve books, I shred unnecessary papers, you get the idea.  I clear it and clean it.  And I hope every time that others in my home will respect that clean surface and keep it clean, so I can move on to the next area.  Never happens.  The clutter is back within days.  Yes, sometimes I contribute (one particular table next to my chair is frequently where the odd-sock-pile ends up, as I fold laundry), but most of the time when I clean off a surface, it is of items I have never touched. 

Just in writing this, I have found my goal for 2014 - identifying and declaring my personal "no clutter zones" in the house and challenging myself to keep those areas clear instead of trying to take on the whole house.  Like many things, perhaps if nothing else finding my own sanity in the midst of this clutter will set a good example for my kids. 

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