Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Misuse of Pretty Much Everything

I have a confession. I am not using my furniture for what it was intended. I have a dining room table. It is rarely used for dining. Rather, in my house it is Command Central. It is the staging area for things that must be done, calls that should be made, forms that should be filled out and all things deemed important. Like many people, out of sight is out of mind for me. I do understand the concept of filing cabinets, but for me, they are akin to garbage cans. Once I put something in them, I will probably never look at it again. And so, in my remedial attempt at organization, I have decided that my dining room table is the place where I display the stuff that runs my life and my children’s lives.

It’s really not that I’m a slob. It’s just that I need things staring at me in the face for weeks on end before it occurs to me: “Oh my gosh I need to get that medical form filled out and sent in by this Friday!” I realize that I received that form, oh, about 4 months ago. But honestly, would my life be any better if I had immediately acted upon it? I like to think not.

Kitchen counter backsplashes, those vertical planes of granite, Formica or Corian that are perpendicular to the counter, are terrific places upon which to display notes such as “Pick up Suzy from school on Friday,” “Veggie tray in basement fridge” and “Urine sample to M.D.!” If I’m particularly aggressive in washing the dishes, sometimes these desperate reminders become muddled and smeared. Eventually, if they do their job, I will get sick of them and simply finish that task so I can get rid of the note. Therein lies the beauty of my so-called system.

For some people, this same type of system can be found on their refrigerator door. I have been in houses where you can hardly find the door handle to open the fridge because of art projects, post-it notes and monthly calendars. I feel most at home in houses such as this. Because I do not have a metal refrigerator door, I can't utilize such a system in my house. What a shame.

I used to have a pantry in my kitchen. When you opened the door, you had to lean back so as not to become victim to a paper cut due to the 35 pieces of paper taped to the inside of that door. There, you’d find school calendars, field trip reminders, choir schedules, dental and orthodontist appointments and anything else that would be referred to multiple times by multiple people. When we remodeled our kitchen, I moved that system to our bedroom closet door, where it stands today. It’s not attractive, but it’s functional, and it’s amazing how everyone has come to depend on it.

The tricky part is when we have a party. Then, for obvious reasons, we need the dining room table. This is when I invoke what my sister-in-law calls “box cleaning.” Box cleaning is where you take everything important, shove it into a box and then hide the box. Your guests don’t have to know any better, because unless you’re living in the governor’s mansion, you’re probably not having company every day of the week. This system fails when you’ve hidden the box too well and your child is in danger of being kicked out of camp because their medical form was never submitted.

I also use entire rooms for box cleaning. We have a nice guest room on the first floor of our house. I try and keep it in decent shape, in case we have unexpected overnight guests. (I will tell you right now, this has never happened, but I like to think that it might.) When I can be sure that my guests will never enter the guest room, you will sometimes find the contents of the dining room table neatly laid out there. This helps me avoid the hidden box scenario and makes for an easy transition back to normal operations.

Where my so-called system fails, is when I go on a cleaning rage and make an attempt to remove all loose items from countertops and tables. I start out methodically putting things in proper places until I just want to be finished and give the appearance of being ridiculously organized. Then I start stuffing things in random drawers. This bit me in the you-know-what this past weekend when I couldn’t find my daughter’s graduation card that I had hidden in a panic. I’m hoping to unearth it before her high school graduation, giving me a good 4 years to start looking. We’ve lost passports, ID cards and even eyeglasses when I felt the need to stow and go. You’d think after several near-disasters, I’d have cleaned, organized and somehow made sense of it all. I haven’t and it’s unlikely that I will.

And so, our life will go on and our children will probably not think it’s strange that the list of weekend church services is taped to our closet door or that the box of batteries is stored next to the cooking oil or that everyone that walks in our house can see every party invitation to which we have not yet responded. It’s my flawed way of doing things and I’m sticking with it. After all, what fun would it be to use the dining room table just for...dining?!


At 9:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a long wall of floor to ceiling cupboards that serve as our pantry. However, it also serves as our "community" bulletin board - on the outside. Our lives are posted for the world to see...but that is okay. So is not eating at the dining room table. I prefer eating with my daughter at the bar - the one in the kitchen not down on the corner :)
I always enjoy your take on life as a parallels mine and many others who don't have the fabulous writing ability you have. Thanks for keeping us not only entertained but also saying "this is my's your going, any better?"

At 11:50 AM , Blogger Rene said...

My dining room table is for folding laundry. As I do 2 or 3 loads a day, it always has laundry. I live with Mr. Anti-clutter, so I can't have staging areas. Hence, I have to find places to put things.

I used to have this great magnetic calendar on my fridge but my girls kept using it to "snowboard" across the tile floor. I finally trashed it and keep my date book open by my laptop.

At 6:06 PM , Blogger Star said...

I am somewhat better organized, but I do have a piano that no one has played in years. I can't get rid of it because we would have no place to put all the framed photos that are on it.And I forgot the extra bedroom wasn't a closet because we were just opening the door and throwing stuff in and shutting the door. Then we had long term company move in. What a job to clean that out!

At 8:31 PM , Blogger HappySlob said...

Yay, I've found others just like me here! lol I wanted to ask you to drop by my 'happy slob's housecleaning' blog. :) A bunch of us share ideas on how to clean and get organized.


At 11:01 PM , Blogger kontan said...

you can see your dining room table? congrats! my house is a wreck. I've come to accept it and have reserved July for intense cleaning. first I have to survive summer school.

At 7:23 AM , Blogger kenju said...

I once knew some people who couldn't eat on their kitchen table because it looked like your dining room table. Their kitchen counters were full of cookbooks and papers and the fridge had 4000 magnets on it, each holding some yellowed scrap of paper that had been there for months, if not years. I could not live like that at all. My kitchen is sacred, and no one leaves anything there that I don't approve. I do have boxes like yours - and a big closet like your guest room, though......LOL

Michele sent me this time.

At 8:44 AM , Blogger ƒåυνέ said...

Can so relate to the "box cleaning". I use laundry baskets instead though. Sturdier then cardboard and handles make them easy to carry.

At 12:42 PM , Anonymous Amy said...

Wow, I feel like I just took a tour through my own home..hanks for putting such a humorous spin on it!

At 8:07 AM , Blogger Miss Cow is a Cow said...

HAHAHA I so understand this method.

Here from Michele's.

At 8:15 AM , Blogger shpprgrl said...

Wow, it's like you were peeking into my soul....I have a variation of box cleaning, except I don't use boxes. I have a huge closet that I just stuff full, minus the boxes. Memorial weekend I cleaned that closet, I was so happy I even blogged about it. My closet is empty now, ready to be filled again.


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