Saturday, October 12, 2013

On being messy and what that means

So, I am sort of a messy person, married to another non-neatnik, with three active, busy, packrats of children, in a smallish-medium-sized open plan house. I'm also, while not quite a *hoarder*, certainly reluctant to throw stuff out, because you never know when it might come in handy, right?

And let's not pull any punches here - I am quite lazy when it comes to the category of housework best summarised as "the creation of order and management of clutter". I find things like filing paperwork, putting away clean washing, putting away books and knickknacks and stuff, boring and pointless. I'm not like this (mostly) about tasks that involve making things actually clean - I will vaccuum and wipe benches and scrub toilets like a good hausfrau (although, happily, less often these days, as I have a weekly cleaner at the moment). But things that involve clearance? Yeah ... there I struggle.

Partly this is because it seems to me to involve a monumental amount of continuous effort and energy to maintain - my family brings a never-ending stream of detritus into this house, forms and papers and crafts and books and shoes and clothes and *stuff*, all of which has to be shoehorned into the ZERO remaining storage space we have, or else left on surfaces. When I put in the effort and find it a home, my clear surfaces last a day, maybe two or three if I'm super lucky, then they get filled up again. This turns clutter reduction, and tidiness achievement, into a Sisyphean task that saps my will to live in remarkably short order.

Mostly, therefore, I have learned to slide my eyes over the piles of papers, books, clean clothes, toys and whatnots filling up every corner of my house. I keep the loungeroom pretty clear, and retreat in there when the effort of ignoring the rest of it gets too much. This kind of works, except for three things:

1. I lose stuff way too often because my house is a linked series of black holes into which papers, books, clothes, crafts, material, and other things disappear, never to be seen again. This gets maddening and farcical when you are up to the FOURTH lost kids' birthday party invitation in one term, or realise that you have bought not one, not two, but THREE housewarming gifts for a friend because you have successfully managed to lose the first two before delivering them.

Losing stuff wastes time, wastes money and creates stress. This is bad.

2. I dread - DREAD, I tell you - the blowback of birthdays and Christmas in terms of more stuff to try to find a place to put in the kids' bulging bedrooms. I have flat-out told my family that no one is to give me, personally, an object of any kind ever again - books are always acceptable (of course), and if they feel they must, vouchers or tickets are nice, but any additional THINGS will actually make me burst into tears when I think about trying to find somewhere to put them.

Dreading the inevitable flow of new stuff creates stress, and is ridiculous because a good 30% of the stuff we *do* have is useless, outdated or no longer in good nick. This is bad.

3. I have some very good friends, and one very good mother, who are neat people. And by neat, I mean show-home-pristine style neat. For these people, my home is too cluttered to be comfortable, and I know they feel that way, and it embarasses and shames me when they come here. Part of what happens then is that I end up trying to whip my family into helping tidy up, but this ends in frustration and shouting and tears, because, to go all Dr Seuss, "this mess is too big and too deep and too tall / We cannot clean it up / There is no way at all!"

Feeling ashamed and embarrassed makes me not want to have anyone over, and as I am a social person, this is both bad and sad.

The truth is, I would like my house to be less messy and better organised. I would like to have a place for everything, and everything in its place. I would like to be able to have people over without predictable family trauma being occasioned by the melodrama that we have to go through to make things presentable. I would like not to lose things, and to have clean surfaces and not to feel depressed at the sight from my doorway.

I don't really know how I can actually accomplish this, though, within the parameters of my life. I work fulltime, and I prioritise activities with my kids when not at work. I also read and write a lot, and am frankly unwilling (and apparently unable - I have actually tried but it never sticks) to sacrifice my book time to house clutter busting. I have tried that FlyLady thing which worked for me Not One Whit, and I've looked at a few other methods but none have been sustainable for me.

Of course, I realise that I live in a house with 4 other people, all of whom contribute to making the messes. My partner, like me, makes attempts to sort and clear, but for similar reasons (although in his case, substitute computer games for reading) his efforts are sporadic and limited in their success. My daughters don't really understand what "tidy" looks like, which is down to us, really, as we haven't modelled it for them. And we all keep bringing things home - more things, with no more space...

I don't know what the answer is. I do know that this is something that drags me down and causes me stress, but that I feel almost powerless to significantly change.


  1. I feel a bit embarrassed to be so heavily focussed on "decluttering." But I struggle organisationally at the best of times, so for me I become dysfunctional very quickly with mess. Lost party invites is one thing but missing the "special days" at school and sending my kid in the wrong clothes etc. is the sort of bad chaos I end up with.

    I think if clutter does not personally bother you and doesn't cause "serious" organisational fails, it is far better to prioritise your poetry, reading etc.

  2. thank's for your share i really like your post