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Sanity Check by J.G. McGlothern July 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — heartwriter @ 8:37 pm

Sitting on the beach this week, my new friend suggested I write a blog about controlling clutter. When I said maybe she should write it, she balked and in so many words said, she’ll come up with topics, if I write them.

That is how I feel about house cleaning.  I know what needs to be done and I know how I want it to all look and where I want it all to go…..I just want someone else to do it. Since I’m the only “live-in-maid” and we don’t hire someone else to clean our toilets, I’m the gal. My husband is actually better at the deep cleaning, dusting and vacuuming than I am.  But that’s not the stuff I notice.

I notice the clutter. The four pairs of shoes in the hall.  The pile of mail on the kitchen counter.  The unfolded laundry on my bed.  The overstuffed desk drawer. Quite regularly I can let myself get overwhelmed by it all.  Frustrated by the disorganization, I start folding, only then to get distracted by the shoes in the hall as I open the closet to put away the towels.  In the kids’ room putting away the shoes, I see that the fish bowl hasn’t been cleaned in….awhile.  So the dance begins. Going from one room to the next, making no noticeable progress.  The bed still has clean clothes on it waiting to be folded, the mail still needs sorting. 

My environment helps dictate my mood, my feelings about myself, definitely my attitude.  I have always kept a tidy living room.  It is a small room and the first you enter from the front door.  It is the room I know I can go in for a sanity check.  I can sit and read, play the piano, or just simply look at the orderly pillows on the couch, see the clear-of-clutter coffee table and feel a sense of calm. I do freak out when my husband leaves the Sunday paper scattered in “his” piles all over the living room.  The ads pile.  The already-read pile.  The don’t-want-to-read pile.  The want-to-read later pile.  But after years of living together I know come Sunday evening there will only be one small pile in the reading basket next to our armchair and the rest will be in the recycle bin.  My one room back to how I like it, giving me peace of mind.

If there is a lot to do to reclaim my environment in the manner in which I prefer it to be, I find ways to bring about order without spending hours and without going insane deciding where to start.  One counter. One corner.  One room. One step at a time.  I clean off the smallest counter in the kitchen which is the first one I see when I enter the room.  I keep the coffee pot, utensil container and my small yoga frog on it and that’s it.  The small green statue a symbol of how I want to be. Calm. If I use that space to make a sandwich, make a pitcher of lemonade, then I can quickly clean off that mess and reclaim my small orderly space.  Instead of thinking the entire kitchen needs to be spotless before I can be “happy” or “calm”, I am learning to be sane with a smaller expectation. My husband knows to put his dirty coffee cup on the other side of the sink.

It sounds anal. Perhaps insane.  But rather, this simple change in behavior keeps me from going totally nuts by expecting to have a spotless home. I am still honoring my need for order but learning to accept one counter instead of all of them, one room instead of the whole house.


3 Responses to “Sanity Check by J.G. McGlothern”

  1. Linda Fillley Bentler Says:

    Well said! If I could write, that’s what I said.

    I think I’ll go clean ONE counter and then retreat to the basement for a movie with the kids. Calm. Good mantra for me too.

    Loved it,

  2. Jim Clark Says:

    A few years ago I read about a conflict between the Lummi Indians and members of the dominant culture who had purchased property from the Lummi people and built their houses and maintained them according to dominant culture standards. (The Lummi reservation is near Bellingham and includes portions of Lummi Island.) The Lummi people didn’t seem to be concerned about the appearances of their own homes and surroundings. One of the Lummi people was quoted as saying something like, “You people value what you can see. What we value, you can’t see.”

    Memory of this perspective returns to me when I hear stories like yours. Please understand: I do not intend to discount the real feelings you have about clutter vs. tidiness. I understand the feelings of calmness you experience in your living room. It’s just that it’s eye-opening to me to also understand that there are other perspectives.

  3. Damn, that sound’s so easy if you think about it.

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