Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Holiday Mess

'Tis the season for many things, and from what I gather, one of those things is despairing over the chaos and mess inside one's home. I am not picking on any of my dear friends. This is a theme I hear, read, and even see commented upon in Facebook photos of Christmas carnage. I think there are several issues in play. Let me enumerate, in list form, because I loooove lists.
  1. The holidays are a busy time, thus we have less time to devote to cleaning and organizing.
  2. The children are everywhere, all the time.
  3. We tend to have company, which also adds to the chaos.
  4. There are piles of presents to and from loved ones, plus wrappings galore.
  5. We also engage in other messy projects like baking, cooking, writing cards, etc. This equals projects spread about our spaces.
  6. It's wintertime, which means coats and snow pants, boots and hats, mittens and scarves.
  7. It's wintertime which means being cooped up inside four walls a lot.
  8. Did I mention the kids are on vacation and are underfoot all.the.time?
This can lead to ugliness, I am here to tell you. It may mean you find yourself laying on your bed having a good cry instead of a long winter nap. It may mean you see this transformation from "carefully and lovingly chosen gifts" to "all this crap overrunning my house". It may mean you end up yelling at those children that are in the house, under your feet...did I already say this? ALL THE TIME.

Now I don't mean to gloat, because I have had my share of trials this past week (not limited to a poodle who tried to kill herself with fudge, and the resulting mess and vet bills), but I think after twenty-four years of marriage, I am finally getting the hang of this thing. My house is fairly orderly, even in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, and I don't feel superior. I feel relieved. The hard work and discipline is all worth it.

If you are a person who makes New Year resolutions, and sincerely means to follow through... if you are a person who chafes against the structure needed to whip your house into order, yet hates the chaos too... let me encourage you to stop rebelling against your own best interests. Button yourself down to the task of setting things in order, and discipline yourself to make new habits. Force structure upon your reluctant self. Your weary self will thank you all through the New Year.

By all means, if you are completely happy and relaxed in relative disorder, don't let me boss you around. I actually have secret envy for people who don't feel the need to alphabetize their DVDs or organize their sock drawer by style and color. I've had friends gently tell me, "They have medication for that." But when all is said and done, my sock drawer makes ME happy. I have no desire to mandate sock drawer protocol, or judge you for tossing them all in a basket, unmatched no less. It's about comfort level. And I'm hearing a lot of people saying their houses are making them very uncomfortable right now.

A lot of people look at me, and they think, "Oh well of course. You are THAT SORT of person." You know, the person who is super organized, always thinking and planning ahead, scheduling and making lists. But I wasn't always like this. It has taken years of practice, and mostly self discipline, to transform myself and my thinking. In the past I thought of myself as a creative person, thus excusing my creative "stuff" being scattered all over our living spaces. I also used this excuse to "create" during times that I should have been caring for my children, cooking meals, and generally keeping up my home. I would always, always choose a good book over my domestic duties. This was before the days of computers, with email and Facebook and blogs. Thank goodness, I might never have come up for air.

We also had young children. I homeschooled, and had school "stuff" everywhere. I crafted and sewed, and cooked and baked. We had small spaces and a small income. All of this is to say, I hear you. I hear every excuse you are spitting at the screen right now. They are all the reasons I fought getting organized myself. But in the end, it was the most gentle, kind, loving thing I have done for myself. Yes, for me. It isn't drudgery and the death of my creativity. It has been freeing, the lifting of a huge weight. I have slowly found ways to pour my creativity into the process, and I do it with my own sense of style. The careful keeping of my home and family employs all my imagination and personality. I enjoy it, and I'm not ashamed to say so... though I do get some funny looks at times.

Check back in the next few days, and I'll share a few ideas that have been extremely helpful to me. It's too big a subject to address in one post. There are great books and websites devoted to the subject. I'll be sharing the ideas that really made huge changes for me. The important thing is finding the ideas that resonate with you, and implementing them to improve the quality of your life.

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