22 March 2017

Organizational Frustrations

I woke up yesterday morning ready to start our next Spring Break organization project and soon found myself quite frustrated. As I was making our bed I started tidying up the room and while I was putting away a half unpacked suitcase that has been sitting next to my bed for two weeks I got really mad at myself. You can't have organization if you don't take the few seconds or minutes it takes to put things away after you use them.

I put everything from the suitcase up on the freshly made bed and started putting things away two by two, one item for each hand. It took me only about three minutes to get that suitcase cleaned out and put away and I felt so mad at myself for letting that go for so long. Life is so much easier when everything has a place and is put back into place after it is used. I've let that slip, my family is terrible about that and it just hit a breaking point with me yesterday.

Next I quickly cleaned up my bedside table which had gathered an assortment of essential oils, lotions, pens and hairbands and put all that away in the drawer not more than one foot away where all those things have a place. Then I cleaned off my dresser which had gathered an assortment of small recently laundered items that needed to be put away, shopping receipts and dust. This all took me less than 10 minutes to do and that made me even more annoyed that I wasn't doing a better job keeping it tidy.

It's amazing how much lack of organization can wear on a soul, how cranky one feels to be around it and how the solution can be so simple. "A place for everything and everything in it's place" is a motto to live by! I have lived like that in the past and, as I have many times, I credit a dear friend for teaching me this. I was already part of the way there but when I saw her system it changed my life and made my life so much easier and organized. Then I went and got a family and things started eroding.

I had the luxury of living alone for long enough to really settle into that motto and I knew where my things were. Everything had a home, I lived with only what I needed and I could easily put things away and find things. That is not nearly as easy when you are dealing with a family's worth of stuff, have people moving things around, not putting things away and just a ton more stuff. Compound that by the fact that you married someone who finds sentimentality (like tee shirts from high school, 90s jeans, Sunday comics) and "I might need this in the future for something" (like bits of 550 cord and  advertisements for things he might need in five years) to be constants.

I keep thinking that if I can just set the example by keeping all my things tidy that it will serve as an example for the family and that will spread throughout the house, but I have yet not been able to keep my stuff together to a noticeable level. I have talked to enough moms and wives and working women with and without families to recognize that there is only so much time in a day and there has to be some logical realization that you can't do everything perfectly every day and there have to be priorities and that those can change fairly regularly or with changing needs.

Keeping a house tidy all the time with a family is a big challenge. Just upkeeping the kitchen throughout the day is challenging enough, let alone other main living spaces like living rooms, family rooms and bathrooms. Don't even get started on attics, yards and garages. Then there are jobs, church and civic work, family activities, needs for quiet time and attention to family members, doctors appointments, groceries to buy...it seems to never end.

I admire a family who can keep that all organized and together. And then I wonder sometimes at what cost that comes. Do we make our families completely miserable and make them feel unwelcome in their own homes because of our obsession with tidiness and order. Do we just become constant "cleaning police" and lose ourselves in cleaning hypervigilance. Some women just wear themselves out trying to do it all by themselves at the sacrifice of their own mental and physical health. I know that is the pendulum swinging the completely opposite direction but I do think that with each family it is different. Perhaps my situation is a bit unique because I gained a family instead of starting a marriage with one spouse and not much stuff. We already had two full lives of belongings and started with a young child. Some habits at midlife are pretty hard to change.

I don't know exactly what the solution is but it looks like I'm either going to find it or bounce around somewhere near the solution or make myself crazy trying to find it. Ha! How do you manage this and stay in your sane zone? What have you learned to let go of and what have you enforced that helped make your life less crazy and more organized? I'd love to hear your insights!

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