I saw this book title when I was wandering through a bookstore one night not too long ago, waiting to pick my daughter up from a concert in the city. I meant to come home and look it up on Amazon to see if it was something I wanted to buy, but forgot about it. Until this morning. As I made my way through the maze that constitutes my "living area" at the moment to let the dogs out and make my coffee, and suveyed the herculean task that lay before me this morning, the title popped back into my head. The timing could not have been more appropriate.
I am not a housekeeper. At least, not a very good one. There are, more often than not, dishes in my sink, dog hair on my carpet needing to be vacuumed, laudry baskets overflowing with clothes waiting to be folded. It is bad enough that my house really makes me embarrassed and I would die if anyone just "stopped by." In addition, my carpets need to be steam cleaned because I have not been able to convince Bramble that peeing outside, CONSISTENTLY, is much nicer than peeing on my carpet, so my house even smells bad. With 4 children, 4 dogs, too many cats to mention, a bunch of chickens (not IN my house - well, only as peeps in the brooder in the bathroom), a full time 8-4 job that requires several hours of evening work as well, and a dad to be visited in the nursing home at least every other day, AND a husband who is out for his job more evenings than he is in, it leaves very little time to be the kind of housekeeper I dream of being. So many people say "it's ok - your house is LIVED in; not a show house," or "your kids are more important than how your house looks," or other well-meaning words meant to take the burden of a clean house off my shoulders. It doesn't help. The problem is in my head. I can't LIVE this way. Well, I do, but I'm miserable. I WANT a perfectly clean, picked up, neat, tidy house. It matters to me. It makes so much difference in my mood and my feelings. A messy, cluttered, dirty house depresses me. If my house is cluttered, my mind is cluttered, too. Part of the reason our house IS so cluttered, besides the kids and the dogs, is that both my husband and I have a lot of hobbies. And his hobbies take him away from home many weekends when we could be working on the house or the yard together (Civil War Re-enacting) and my hobbies just simply ADD clutter. There are three bags of various chicken feeds in my front hall. The sewing machine is set up on the end of the dining room table. I have a tub full of craft stuff to work on for next year's Christmas presents also in the dining room. Both of us have books, books, books all OVER the place. And newspapers that don't get picked up when they should. And magazines that, once read, pile up because he does not like to part with A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G. For years, I have been living with this delusion that I will SOMEDAY be able to get my house exactly picked up enough to my satisfaction so that I can start LIVING in it, instead of always CLEANING it. So far, that hasn't happened, and thankfully, it isn't really bad enough to need a Hoarder's Intervention yet. However, the mess does prevent me from actually working on my hobbies, because mentally, I can't sit down to sew if the kitchen sink is full of dishes. And I can't enjoy a movie with my kids if there is laundry to be folded. I just CAN"T do what I want to do until my house is not such a disaster. And it always is, so I am always, always, always stressed.
It has been better this year, and a little easier to keep up with, because two of my 4 kids have been away at college. And yes, I know that with kids MY kids ages, THEY should be doing a lot of the work around here. Unfortunately, that is also a part of parenting that I suck at - forcing my kids to be responsible. For too long I "let them be kids" and picked up after them, to the point now where when I ask one of them to vacuum, take out the trash, or empty the dishwasher, they whine and moan and complain so much that I end up either doing it myself because I can't stand the stress of the arguing, or I have to nag twenty times before one simple chore gets done. I hate that about myself, that I didn't teach them responsibility when they were little - it sure would make my life easier now. I haven't given up. I don't think it's ever too late. I have come up with a few "Rules for Summer" - things like, Pick up after yourself, Keep the kitchen clean (my REALLY big bugaboo area - if the kitchen is at least clean, I feel like there is hope for the rest of the house...), DON"T BACKTALK (seriously, can you belive that with kids 21, 19, 17, and almost 15 I have to have a rule stated that says "Don't backtalk"? For heaven's sake, you would think my kids were still in gradeschool!), help out around the house when asked ("without being asked" would be my dream - but yeah, THAT"S never going to happen...)
At any rate, my son who just returned from college a week ago has brought home more "STUFF" than any 21 year old should own. Good GRIEF, I don't know how it all fit in a dorm room and common area. It SURE doesn't fit in my house. THOSE would be the majority of the piles I was winding my way through on my way to make coffee today. THOSE would be the piles, along with my stuff he has displaced, that made me think again of that book title. I am thinking of challenging him, and definitely myself, to THROW OUT 50 THINGS. I can do it. Easily. My whole goal in life is to reduce the amount of "stuff" in my life and to just live simply. That's really all I want. To have my dogs, my chickens, a cat (not 6), my crocheting, my sewing, my books, a house with no clutter, no mess, and to live simply. What a challenge. It's one I still feel up to; it just gets frustrating to feel that it constantly remains a challenge.
And, how frustrating that I look forward to my summer vacation from teaching, not to do all the things I enjoy, but to be able to be home daily so that the dishes get done, daily, so that the laundry gets folded, daily, so that my house does not constantly look like squatters occupy the rooms here. I WANT my summer vacation to be full of leisurely hours of coffee on my front porch while I read, watch the chickens dig for worms, and maybe sew some new pot holders. I WANT my bedroom, especially, to be a quiet, cool haven at the end of the day, without boxes of the kids outgrown clothes, my husband's no-longer-used Boy Scout Leader clothes sitting in a pile, my daughter's bedframe leaned up against my wall, and everyone's extra blankets tossed on the cedar chest under the window. Maybe THAT would be the place to concentrate on "throwing out 50 things." Times 10. Is it ok if I count a HUGE pile of old, already read, Civil War Times magazines as 1 thing?
If you can't imagine having 50 things that you could throw out, count yourself blessed. You are already living my dream, the simple(r) life!