(Originally posted at The Mess That Is Me on April 1, 2011)
I totally get it. Really, I do. Furthermore, I agree with them. They want their friends to come into the house and not have to apologize for me. “I’m sorry. I know the place is a mess. You see, well, Robbie’s been home.”
I’m not new to this. I grew up with it. My mom refused to leave my bedroom door open because as she said, “It looked like an atom bomb went off in there.” We had the age old fight about making the bed, which absolutely made no sense to me because in twelve hours time I was going to be back in it. I still don’t make my bed. Char does that and I think she takes great delight in tucking the bottom of the sheet under the mattress at the foot of the bed so that when I crawl in I feel like Gulliver pinned down. Of course, the first thing I do is kick like a wild man, sending the sheets everywhere. It looked like a wadded mess but at least I can snore in comfort and not bondage.
Growing up I watched my dad going around the house putting coasters back in their holders, straightening cushions and picking up my toys or books. Nothing could stay out of place long.
“Where are you going?
“To my room to do my homework.”
“And you were going to leave that glass just sitting there? I know you think your mom’s the maid around here, her existence merely to serve your childish whims but how about a little help? Take that glass to the kitchen. Or is it too heavy?”
I would come back into the room at times and my homework, which had been spread on the coffee table, was missing along with the sandwich I had made. “Who moved my stuff?”
“I did. You weren’t in here.”
“I went to the bathroom. I was coming right back.”
“Obviously you didn’t come back fast enough. The bread had turned hard.”
“It was toast.”
People wonder why I carry everything with me from room to room. It’s because I don’t want it to vanish. I spend hours searching for my shoes when I know I took them off by the front door.
“What are you searching for?” asks one of the girls.
“My shoes. They were right here. I came home and kicked them off by this tall vase thingy-bob.”
“They’re in the closet.”
“What in the world are they doing in the closet?”
“Um, because that’s where they belong. We don’t want piles of shoes by the door. Remember?”
Obviously not because the closet was the one place I never thought to look. I had even checked the fridge thinking Zac was playing a joke.
I’ve been called a pack rat, clutter bug and junk collector, mainly because I love knick knacks. They’re cute and remind me of more innocent days. I get the urge to collect honestly. My parents are avid collectors of, well, stuff. My father collected steins and Avon decanters, baseball cards and McDonald’s toys. I say “collected” because they have since found their way into my garage. Now, I’m the collector.
I don’t mind a picture on every wall or some piece of furniture tucked against it. I love the oddly shaped bookcase or cabinet. Jessica hated it. She lived with us for a year and a half and she loved empty walls and vacant rooms.
“Space. It’s all about space and not cluttering that space up. It gives it a clean feeling.”
“It gives it an echo,” I said. “It doesn’t look open; it looks like you’re poor.”
She didn’t like knick knacks and hated my Disney figurines. I was flabbergasted. How could anyone hate Disney stuff? “I like Disney, just in boxes.” So, I kept them on a shelf in my closet that didn’t really need “space’.
And maybe that’s part of it. People who keep everything tend to have grown up poor and are afraid of losing everything. Not that I ever lost anything that wasn’t simply due to my forgetting where it went. Still, I understand wanting nice things and for the house to look good while also homey. That seemed to be the balance my parents always struggled with. Homey. My mom would go into a house that had children and say, “It just doesn’t look lived in. There are no toys around the place. It’s too clean.”
Then, I would glance at my dad and think “See, my homework laying about makes your house look lived in.” I discovered that my mom’s view was good for other houses but not my dad’s.
I understand, though, that the girls want real furniture and not camp chairs and TV trays. I like the house to look clean, as well. So, we’ve come up with a compromise. Our home has eleven rooms. That can be argued because some tend to bleed into another, but for the sake of this essay we’re not going to dispute boundaries and say there’s eleven. If we count the garage there’s twelve and when it comes to cleanliness and organization the garage counts. As does the back porch, so our total is now thirteen. Thirteen rooms. Now, this is the compromise – out of the thirteen rooms, I get one. That’s it. One room. That’s all I ask for. They even get the garage and back porch. Close the door, pull down the drapes, and encircle it with crime scene tape. Hide it from the rest of the world, but leave it alone.
This room is my office, my creative sanctuary. I even share it with them. They each have a desk with their own computer and they are free to clean their desk all they desire. But the rest – including the closet – is mine. And it is an organized disorganization.
I know the theory that for a more productive work experience you should keep your desk tidy. That wasn’t a psychologist that said that but a frustrated mother.
“You’ll be more creative if you have an organized, clean work environment.”
My mind doesn’t work that way. A crisp, sterile environment kills me because there’s nothing for my mind to play on. My study is swamped in assorted paraphernalia of days gone by, books on my craft as well as books for research and files, hundreds of files. There are three desks, five shelves and crates where I store my manila folders full of written dreams. It may be chaos to the girls but it’s creativity to me.
I have OCD – Overflowing Chaos Disorder. And I mean overflowing. Files are crammed in and spilling out of every drawer possible, books are tucked into every crevice and Darth Vader rests against my Grumpy mug over-seeing my word count. Wizards decorate one set of shelves while unicorns roam the other. On top of one bookshelf sits my dad’s collection of steins while on others rest lighthouses, an R2-D2 bank and pirate ships.
I have three small paintings, which I purchased in Haiti, that hang on a wall and remind me to think outside my borders. A shadowbox sits filled with tiny little figures that can be a starting point for a story. A figurine of a girl lying on her stomach, feet in the air as she chats on the phone is from a cake decoration when I was sixteen. There was a matching boy as well but I tossed his ass out of the picture a long time ago. There’s a pewter typewriter, old fashioned telephone and a mouse. Each can be a jumping off point for a short story, novel or even this essay. (Actually it was because the girls wanted me to clean the room up for a party.) A window-like wood shelf now holds all of the ceramic Disney figures that have come out of hiding.
A drawing Nathan made is taped to the back of the door while a small beachy lighthouse painting hangs on a small corner wall. The closet is full of books, pictures and excess writing supplies that would allow me to open my own branch of Office Max. It’s my oasis of chaos out of which I create organization of thoughts and imagination. It may very well be a cleaning nightmare, but I really don’t do horror.
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Until next time, keep chasing your fantasies!