Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confession time -- I was a slob

My office companion, Vincent Van Gogh
As a young mom, I was a total and complete slob. So much so, that after she'd spent the night with me in the hospital as my husband was dying in the burn unit, my friend, Kathy, drove back to my place and cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned. We knew I'd be getting a lot of out-of-town guests for the inevitable funeral and my house was... well, let's just say it was a mess. I can never repay her for that. It was an incredible gift to me, matched only by the gift of later introducing me to my current husband. But that's another story.

When my kids were little, I lived by the mantra, "Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow, for babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep."** It started getting awkward by the time they were in their teens.

Living in disorder is bad for your health, on many levels. A mess leads to stress. Period. 

My favorite mode of cleaning up was running around the house with paper grocery bags and throwing everything into them, then stashing them in the laundry room and closing the door. Voila! No more clutter. Visible, that is. Just because it's hidden doesn't mean it isn't there.

I can't count the late payments I shelled out simply because I couldn't find the bills. Stress.

I spent hours cutting out coupons, thrifty mom that I was, but couldn't find them when it was time to go to the store. Wastefulness.

The kids' "widowed sock" bin was overflowing, not because the dryer "ate the socks," but because the mates were buried under the coupons and bills I couldn't find. Stupidity.

I was a slob. 

So much so, that on occasion, someone would knock at my door and I'd tell the kids to be quiet and pretend we weren't home. After all, I couldn't expose my pigpen to the outside world. So many missed opportunities for fellowship for a young stay-at-home mom who, quite simply, should have taken the time to clean her house.

Oh, the regrets. The many times the kids wanted to go swimming or to the park, but I said we had to clean the house first. It didn't get done and neither did the outings. (Confession: tears are making their way down my cheeks right now. Tears of deep, deep regret).

Why am I sharing this with you? In hopes you don't make the same mistakes I made. If you can't seem to control the clutter, figure out a way to do so. I know that's easier said than done. I spent quite a lot of money on books and magazines full of organizing tips. I bought more than my share of decorative boxes and baskets, certain they were the answer to my clutter dilemma. And, quite honestly, I still struggle with this issue, mostly in my office. 

Back in November, when my workspace started filling up with clutter, I vowed to clean it before Thanksgiving... before Christmas... before tax time... before I left for the conference... before company came for a week... before.......... Yeah, I still struggle. 

I am happy to announce that I finally got it together in my office (for the most part). Of course, it involved another purchase. I found a wooden bookshelf at an estate sale during the last hour of the half-off sale. For $7.50 and a fresh coat of paint, I had the motivation to clean up the mess. I resisted the urge to "box" things (my new version of the brown paper bag trick). Nope, I actually went through things and organized them. I even found some receipts for last year's taxes. Good thing I filed an extension in April!

Living a life of clutter and disorder can lead to a lot of stress for a family. My office clutter affects only me, so I don't have the "mommy regret" I experienced in my earlier years. But it does affect my productivity and is a real time-waster. How many hours have I spent looking for things I needed? I shudder to think of how that time could have been better spent.

Do I have advice on how you can break the slob cycle? I wish I did. I do have a friend who is a psychologist-turned-professional-organizer. Joyce Wilde has an organizing blog and a book coming out (hopefully soon). Her focus is on the psychological aspects of clutter, etc. I wish I'd known her in the 80s! I recommend checking out her blog to see if there are tips you can utilize to break your own slob cycle.

One tiny bit of advice I can give you is to make the beds every day. Seriously. It makes a difference. I only started doing this on a daily basis within the last year or so (I know, for those of you who are bed makers, you're appalled by that confession), and here's what I learned: a made bed looks out of place in a messy bedroom. Therefore, after the bed's made, I tend to clean up any clothes or clutter laying around from the day before. And I can't tell you how good it feels to walk into a clean room at the end of the day. Well, yeah, I can tell you: it feels so good.

So, here's my question to you: do you make your bed? 

** While many attribute this poem to an unknown author, some sources note the poet to be Ruth Hulbert Hamilton.


  1. Decluttering is important, if you have a special needs child it may be even more so, as clutter can be distracting, confusing, or even scary. As I type I'm taking a break from my yearly clutter-clearing, ready with boxes to donate things to people who are in need. Thanks for a reminder about why I'm doing this - perfect timing!

    1. You're welcome, Ina. Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment. Good luck with the yearly decluttering! Bill and I are going to be hitting the closets and cupboards soon and getting rid of things we no longer need or want.

  2. My hubby hates clutter and I have never cared. But as a wife and mom I understand the need for order. We have a few "clutter" piles in the house. One is the family clutter pile on a table in the living room. It clean it at least once a month. The other is my dresser in my room. It gets cleaned less frequently, but I know that I'll find things there if they aren't anywhere else.

    My son hates cleaning as well. I put on his favourite song and have him race the song to get one spot in his room cleaned (floor or desk) and then have him race the song again to clean the next part. It makes it more fun for him. I suppose I out to try it for my own room...

    1. There's something wonderful about order, Wanda. I wish I could fully grasp that.

  3. I struggle with this issue. My mom did as well until she died. I wish there was an easy fix for it, but I will definitely be checking out the blog you suggested. Thank you for posting this!

    1. You're most welcome. It's a tough cycle to break. Good luck!


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