The messie one

I’m taking a break after spending a few days trying to declutter.   Well, rather, my body simply stopped working after 2 days of intense attempts at de-cluttering and lugging laundry baskets up and down stairs.

One of the “joys” of being me is being a little bit disorganized.  My older and younger sister inherited my mother’s cleanie gene.  My middle sister who wasn’t really that bad to begin with, inherited a live-in mother in law/housekeeper/cook.   My brother was always well-organized too and so is his wife.

So what WTF happened to me?  Apparently I’m the only one to inherit the messie gene.

I don’t understand it.  I crave order, I can GET some parts of my home organized, I just can’t seem to maintain it.

I read someone married a neat-nik husband and she learned great things from him.  I didn’t.   I inherited a messie techno-geek husband and we passed along our messie genes onto our daughters.

I’m trying to be better about it.  I’m trying to pare down.

So many clothes for 5 that need washing (I should count the number of t-shirts my husband owns – probably along the lines of about 30 or 40 – I really think he’s got more clothes than I do).

So much junk mail (yes, still, after I thought we were on the do-not-solicit list).  So many stupid school homework sheets times 3 (so at least 9 sheets a day/5 days a week).  And of course, since they want the two younger ones to practice their last names, they make the girls put that on the page.  So now I have to waste time shredding the pages.

So many projects in my mind I want to get to and it makes it hard to let go as I think “but we could use this for a montessori/craft/science project” for the girls or for me.

And speaking of the girls…they are like tornadoes sometimes.  Craft projects, writing stories, picture drawing, creating make-believe scenarios using almost every toy they own (okay maybe that’s a stretch).  And I had a very carefully organized system for the 5 and 7 year olds’ toys, each type in a lidded clear box with labels.  They manage to mix and match their sets anyway.  And right now, it looks like a tornado has gone through their room.  I get upset every time I walk in there.  All that careful organization gone to waste.  All those toys I lovingly bought for them now tossed about.  Truth is, I love and care about their toys more than they do.  They have too much and I have trouble taking them away even though it would be better that I did.

But it’s not all their fault either.  I have my books and my craft materials too taking up space.  I have my writing and blogging taking up time and the girls ask me to spend time with them playing and learning about new things and I have some plans to do more science projects with the girls again for The Exploration Station Blog and reading and we go on lots of field trips together.

I suppose I could take to heart this article from ADDitude: Living Well with Attention Deficit and stop feeling bad about clutter.

The inevitability of disorder

“It’s chasing an illusion to think that any organization — whether it’s a family unit or a corporation — can be completely free of disorder on a consistent basis,” says Jerrold Pollak, a neuropsychologist at Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, whose work involves helping people tolerate the inherent disorder in their lives. “Even if you could [control disorder], should you? Total organization is a futile attempt to deny and control the unpredictability of life.

I should take comfort that the girls are thriving and seem to be, for the most part, happy children and they feel connected to me more than I felt to my mother.

But I can’t help feeling bad. I can’t stop looking at the messy areas of our home and just feel so overwhelmed and want to cry or throw the adult version of a temper tantrum (or both).  I don’t know what to do about the endless cycle of mess and being unable to be ruthless about the stuff that needs to go.  I hate being a messie, but I can’t seem to stop being one either.

I like this too from the above link

[David H.] Freedman is the co-author, with Eric Abrahamson, of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder (Little, Brown & Company). The book is a meandering, engaging tour of the benefits of mess, and the systems and individuals reaping those benefits. One of them is California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose mess-for-success tips include never making a daily schedule…

In their book, Freedman and Abrahamson describe the properties of mess in loving terms. Mess has resonance, they write, which means it can vibrate beyond its own confines and connect to the larger world. It was the scumminess of Alexander Fleming’s laboratory that led to his discovery of penicillin. It bloomed in a moldy petri dish he had forgotten on his desk.


I spent 2 hours deep cleaning my kitchen yesterday.  Here’s a picture of it when it’s tidy

Guess how long that lasted?  About 3.5 hours, until the girls came home and dinner came and went.


Well, the dryer’s probably done and I have about an hour before the kids come back from school.  I could at least go back into the kitchen.


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7 Responses to The messie one

  1. Craig Maciolek says:

    I had a sign on the door of my room when i was young. It said, “Neatness: A sure sign of a sick mind.” 😉

    These days I am only half neat.

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    I was going to try and come up with something witty, but my 7 year old is trying like mad to climb into my lap while I type….

    Ugh…I’ll try again later tonight…

  3. How much can I relate to this? I go to friends or neighbors homes and they just don’t seem to have the issues that I do with paper, books, clutter, etc. I really feel like a freak when it comes to home organization…I’ve got nothing. Don’t even get me started on laundry. I have a mountain on the floor by the washer. It mocks me. I think I’ll grab another cup of coffee and continue ignoring it.

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Just Margaret –

    You made me laff.

    In general, I AM a freak. My latest obsession is with Po Bronson’s Newsweek articles on the science of parenting. I suppose if I took the time to clean instead of read his stuff, things would be cleaner around here. But I can’t help it. I’m like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors – Feed me, Seymour. Except instead of people, it’s information.

    But I learned something from his articles about motivation –

    In Why Dumb Toys Make Kids Smarter – he writes:

    “My previous book, What Should I Do With My Life?, was a portrait of a generation that had spent the first two decades of life ignoring their intrinsic motivations. They were bright and talented, but had spent so many years doing what was expected of them, and studying what society told them they should study, that they were no longer in touch with their natural desires. They’d been praised endlessly, told they were smart, and had no internal compass when it came to making career decisions. Learning to recognize their own passions was incredibly difficult and stunted. It had been drilled out of them as children.

    It’s important to underscore that this isn’t a philosophical argument—it’s a neurological argument. Motivation is experienced in the brain as the release of dopamine. It’s not released like other neurotransmitters into the synapses; instead, it’s sort of spritzed into large areas of the brain, which enhances the signaling of neurons. The motivated brain, literally, operates better, signals faster.”

    And I would add, would enable one to DO the boring necessities of life if we found something intrinsically motivating about it.

    I’m going to pick up all the random little things dropped all over the floor in the living room, pick up the art supplies on the kitchen table they used while eating breakfast this morning, and run the vacuum quickly, then get out to the bookstore for some journal writing. Maybe I’ll do the flylady trick and set the timer for 15 minutes.

    On a positive note, I’ll have the kids gone for 2 days at Camp grandma, so maybe I can tackle their room while they are gone and not making 12 other messes.

  5. I have a love-hate relationship with the fly-lady. I do find it difficult to motivate myself for housekeeping tasks. Usually my motivation is borne of my fear of being embarrassed! I could sure use a dopamine boost, if it meant I’d be more inclined to do housekeeping chores…

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Yeah, I tried the fly-lady emails once…it got real annoying.

    But I must say what gave me a boost today was interspersing my cleaning with having another guest post submission about selective mutism and having someone inquire about it that caused me to research some more and find out some updated information about selective mutism for a future post. I’m really excited about that.

  7. Spacemom says:

    I am always the mess! Let it flow…

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