Thursday, June 30, 2011

Help for a Hopeless Hoarder

Mike finally had it with me the other day.  The house was beyond crowded with baby things strewn about.  In an attempt to stock up on food for the coming year and to take advantage of the prices of fruit in season, I had the entire kitchen table filled will bowls of fruits and vegetables and our counter lined with jamming jars.  Not that I planned to fill them with jam.  I’m too afraid I’ll end up making a mistake and poisoning my family somehow with botulism. Instead, I dehydrate using electricity to slowly draw the moisture from food to prolong its shelf life and trap in nutrients.  I read Dehydrating with Attitude while in the early stages of labor and during my stay in the hospital.  Now I have all these great ideas to prepare for the tough/tight times ahead as my foremothers once did on the frontier in preparation for winter. This excites me-the clutter doesn't thrill Mike.

It is my stocking up that drove Mike’s patients to their limits.  “I can’t live like this any longer, Jamie!” “I just can’t stand it!” “We live like those crazy people on that freaky hoarder's show!” I shot back, “I’m not a hoarder- I’m a preparer!” “You’ll be grateful later when there is no money to buy out of season mangos and we don’t have money left over to have any!” But later I looked around and realized I could no longer see the pattern on my dining room tablecloth, the bench near the front door was spilling over with those reusable canvas bags I never remember to take with me to the grocery store, and Jenna’s bookshelves were spewing piles of literacy onto the living room floor. 

I reasoned that things weren’t like this before the baby. I’ve been exhausted, distracted, busy- but then I shook myself to face the truth: I’ve always been like this, periods of organization and chaos-a bipolar condition not of mood but of living and working conditions.  Things build up until you can’t stand it any longer, you clean like crazy, and a week later it’s gradually getting terrible again. I can remember my mom saying, “Jamie your room is a mess again! If you don’t learn to keep things organized your house will look like a pigsty one day!” Was she right? “Am I a pig?”
“YES!!!!” Mike shouts.

I’m organized sometimes. So I guess I’m just a part-time pig. My father is exactly the same way.  My mother won’t let him live that way in their house, but at his shop….it looks a lot like my desk in my classroom.  Piles of papers and files are strewn about, post-it notes plastered to every stick-able surface, the calendar riddled with details and reminders in case the post-it notes are lost in the clutter, and if it is super important-calling and leaving messages on the work answering machine as plan c in case the first two fail. Amazingly he and I can still find exactly what we need when we need to- knowing good and well that invoice is located about halfway down that stack to the right of that empty box of envelopes. I like to think the clutter is simply part of my father and my inherited artistic creativity-our process-the way we work.  Still….it does clutter the mind and it’s not very fair to some who has to live in it other than me.

Mike was right. I didn’t want to live with the clutter anymore either. So I am turning over a new leaf and lifestyle.  I’ve decided to call my mother-the queen of organization.  She redid my dad’s shop from top to bottom at least 10 times in their last 30 years of marriage before she gave up.  I know she can help me. So prepare yourself world-a cleaner, better, more orderly Jamie is on the way.  Now only if I can find the phone!

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