I refuse to say that my house is a disaster; it’s “lived in”. With four children, Brian and myself stuffed into a three bedroom cape cod, how could it be anything other than that?
Even still my way of dealing with messes falls into one of three categories:
- Clean it (meaning put it away, fold it, wash it)
- Ignore it until Brian threatens to clean it himself (which translates roughly to throwing whatever it is away)
- Throw it in boxes and hide it.
I have a lot of boxes. And totes. Because they look nicer and more organized.
And yet, I refuse to say that my house is a disaster. Because the messes come and go, they shift from room to room and vary in size depending on the day, the week or the month.
But I can’t tell you that it’s not cluttered. Because it is. Painfully so. The moment I walk in the house I’m immediately dragged into the piles of clean clothes that need folded, the dirty ones that need washed, the mounds of school papers waiting to be dealt with, bills, things that I claim must-go-to-Goodwill-someday-but-not-today, and every ounce of it makes my head and body ache.
I used to be able to ignore it, pretend it didn’t exist. Once I accepted it, I almost reveled in it. I’ve made excuses for the clutter, called it disorganization, I’ve let clutter take me over mentally, and even poked fun at my inability to be clutter free (I still think being a visualizing surface abuser has an awesome ring to it).
But just because I like the ring to my title, or even claiming that creative people tend to be cluttered doesn’t mean those are good excuses for it. The clutter is starting to eat away at my home, my life, my work, my kids’ lives, and it keeps Brian from me in many, many ways.
In short: I think it might be killing me… or at least my ability to think clearly and function (not to mention be creative).
So I vow over and over again to strive for a simple, less complicated, less cluttered existance. I started reading books, lots of books on Home-Ec, Living a Simple Life, Organization… you name it, I’ve probably picked up and thumbed through it only to discover that those books don’t describe me or what I want at all.
That’s where Pesi Dinnerstein and her new book A Cluttered Life; Searching for God, Serenity, and my Missing Keys comes in. While I don’t know that I’m searching for God (I couldn’t find him in the piles of stuff if I had to anyway), I immediately identified with Pesi (and her search for her keys (funny story about those. Remind me to tell you later).
Since I’ve started reading Pesi’s book, I find myself nodding, smiling, and giggling. She’s in my head, in my closet, in my minivan, and yes… even in my project pile(s) and yet, I understand what it means when she says, “the abundance that stimulates my imagination also clutters my path; and when my path becomes cluttered, my imagination shuts down.” In the same token I also understand and identify so passionately with the concept that the abundance is necessary to keeping my imagination moving (much like Pesi’s). It’s an insane circle to be caught in; both deliciously wonderful and stifling at the same time.
There are attachment issues involved with the clutter and as I’m reading, I’m beginning to think that I could benefit from a good therapy session or two; Because I have issues ya’ll.
I’m not finished with the book and there are about a dozen more books on my to read list but I’m finishing this one first. I promise to come back and update you when I’ve completed the book along with my final thoughts but as of right now, I’m page turning and reading as fast as I can. Pesi has convinced me that I’m not alone and I’m not crazy for the way I think or deal with the clutter that has built up around me. If you’re looking for a book to help you understand the control clutter has over you then I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
And now, an excerpt from Pesi herself:
MY COMPLICATED SEARCH FOR A SIMPLE LIFE
by Pesi Dinnerstein
I’ve always wanted to live a simple and orderly life—or, at least, I thought I did. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder.
The problem with simplicity is that, for someone like me, it’s extremely difficult to achieve and almost impossible to maintain. Keeping life simple requires planning, prioritizing, discipline, careful management of time and space . . . all the details of daily living that I’ve never quite been able to master. Most of all, it requires a willingness to pare things down to their bare essentials—even when less takes greater effort than more.
This seems to be the idea behind that frequently quoted comment that has been attributed to everyone from George Bernard Shaw to Mark Twain: “I’m sorry this letter is so long, but I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.”
Brevity does indeed takes time and effort. It’s why I write prose rather than poetry, and why preparing a three-minute speech is harder for me than developing an hour-long lecture.
Life is inherently complicated; and the attempt to make it simple seems to meet with opposition at every turn. Left to their own devices, most systems tend to drift toward chaos. My closet is a case in point. Without constant vigilance, the forces of entropy inevitably prevail. Shoes vanish without a trace; hats and scarves slide from shelves; belts become tangled, shawls unravel, and moths nibble holes in my favorite shirts. Behind those louvre doors, a self-destructing universe seems ready to implode at any moment. And no matter how hard I try to defy these laws of nature, the mess continues to multiply.
Nevertheless, I would love to live a calm and organized life. I never stop fantasizing about it. However, the amount of time and energy it takes to keep things on track and moving smoothly is more than I can handle on most days.
So, it looks like my life will probably continue to bump along in its usual overcrowded and mildly unmanageable way. Weeds will grow, and laundry will pile up; the mail will go unanswered, and dishes will remain in the sink. Things will get done sooner or later—but, more likely, later.
Now, if I could only use the time I don’t spend organizing my life to simply enjoy living it—step over the weeds and smell the flowers—I might just stumble upon the right balance. And, in the end, a complicated life may actually prove easier for me—and more joyful—than a simple one.About the Author: Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak) has written selections for the best-selling series Small Miracles, by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, and has contributed to several textbooks and an anthology of short stories. Dinnerstein recently retired as a full-time faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years. She has been an aspiring author and self-acknowledged clutterer for many years, and has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well. For more information visit: www.aclutteredlife.com or www.sealpress.com
*Disclosure: This is part of a Virtual Blog Tour that I’m taking part in with the Author and WOW! Women on Writing. My participation in this book tour was rewarded with a copy of the author’s book. All opinions of the book and content are my own*
I love how Pesi says, “If I could only use the time I don’t spend organizing my life to simply enjoy living it…” Personally, I’d feel a lot better about overlooking the avalanche of papers on the kitchen table and the spread of craft projects on the dining table if the time I don’t spend clearing up the place was spent gardening, hiking, and having fun (instead of frantically searching for the Internet bill so I can pay it before they cancel me)
I’m always happy to find a kindred spirit who looks at the world through a similar lens. Thank you for your sharing your thoughts—and for reminding me to pay my own Internet bill!