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Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Did It! (Mostly.)

My goal for November, you might recall, was to get my house in order.

I have realized that that is a rather big task. I'm not making excuses here, just explaining. I have two children under five, a full-time job that I do with part-time daycare and a lot of late-nights grading papers, and plenty of other more fun (also read: easier) things to do when I'm home with the kids than sort papers or scrub walls.

In my first installment of "kick the clutter," I managed to clean up the top of the fridge, the extremely dangerous catch-all cabinet in the kitchen, and our walk-in closet. The good news is that all three of these spots, which have a tendency to catch clutter of all kinds, are still as pristine as they were three weeks ago when they were first declared clean.

I had grand plans to tackle the living room and dining room and family room, several other clutter catcher spots in the kitchen, AND my office this month. In my secret heart of hearts, I also wanted to bomb the tops of the dressers in our bedroom, clean out under the bed, and sort the linen closet. These, however, have proven to be part of the maniacal Bite Off More Than You Can Chewism that afflicts all members of my family.

It appears, you see, that everyone in our house WILL insist on wearing clothes every single day -- which someone then has to wash. And people keep getting hungry, which necessitates doing dishes daily. And so on. Basically, the business of living life seems to get in the way of cleaning. However, that is precisely how we got into this mess in the first place, and I swore to myself (and promised my sanity) that there would be improvements by the end of the month. So, although it's not quite as much as I'd hoped in my grand dream, here's the rest of what I accomplished this month:

1. The corner counter by the fridge. This handy spot tucked between fridge and microwave was long the home of the colander that held drying baby bottle parts. When we retired the bottles, we used it for sippy cup tops and snack pack cups. Basically, it has sat on our counter for nearly five years, completely unusable for draining spaghetti. And because there was already a cluttery object on that part of the counter, other cluttery things were drawn there as if by magical magnetic force, leading it generally to look like this. (Note the detritus threatening to jump off the microwave and swim freely in the rest of the mess.)

But now, it looks like this:

and it has for over a week now, so I have high hopes that it will stay a gleaming surface appropriate for food preparation. (Yes, that is a knife magnet on the wall. It looks scary, but it's much safer than having a drawer full of Chinese cleavers and good Japanese blades at toddler level.)

2. The Pile. I forgot to take any photos of The Pile before I sorted it this time, so I am using this photo from ten days ago. The Pile doesn't change, only morphs its shape slightly, so this is reasonably representative, although you need to imagine that there is no kleenex box there, and instead the Pile has grown to overtake that portion of the counter too.

This is the most heinous spot in the kitchen for gathering junk (art projects, bills to pay, handy prepaid plastic envelopes to recycle your old cell phones--if only we could find our old cell phones--small toys that need to be glued with that "special really really sticky glue that only grown-ups can use that can glue your fingers together," and so on). The Pile is my nemisis.

Right now, the spot where The Pile normally lives is completely clean. I just did it today, though. And I think I need to fill it with a plant or something else useful in order to discourage future piling. For now, ta da!

3. The dining room. It looked like this two weeks ago.

Now it looks like this.

The table is still expanded from a recent dinner party, but the costumes are all put away, as are the sewing projects, random clothes, and whatnots. It has stayed clean since the party was over last Saturday, so I count this as a success. (Except that I obviously need to vacuum again.)

4. The living room. There is still a play tent in one corner, an easel in another, and a puppet theater in a third. But until we have another room to house these large items, they have to live here. At least the clutter of objects that don't belong in this room (witness below) has been renovated.

I discovered when I was writing this post that apparently when I ran around the house taking photo proof of our horrifying untidiness, I neglected the living room floor in favor of the top of the china cabinet. Rest assured, however, that the two looked quite similar. As they do now. Only now, you can actually see the floor you are walking on and do not risk deep bruises on your feet from Geotrax parts.

5. The grand finale: My Office. This room is small and ostensibly lovely. I painted the walls a soothing soft lavendar, got a thick burgundy rug, and filled the shelves with my books when we first moved in. It is a downstairs room with a door that closes, though, and so it has long been the dumping ground for things we didn't want the little ones to get into (electronics or presents that needed to stay hidden) or that we didn't want company to see. One easy way of cleaning, we've found, is simply to sweep up all the detritus that accumulates in other rooms and dump it somewhere else. Which leaves my office generally looking like this:

Be horrified. It's horrifying. But before you get completely disgusted and think "how can anyone LIVE like that?" do recall that the whole point here is that this is a small room behind a closed door, which simply invites trouble.

It took me several days of hours of work each to kick the mess. I sorted through a mortifying quantity of paper, shredded the things that contained any important information, and bagged everything else. I made numerous trips down to the basement and up to our bedrooms to store things that really belong elsewhere in their proper places, and I organized the things that actually belong in my office. This is the pile of paper that is getting recycled:

I still have this small pile of things to file.

I have a stack of carefully selected children's art that I want to save and that lives under the table until I get a portfolio box for it.

And I have a small pile of boxes and items that are currently listed on eBay that are awaiting auctions' end to be shipped out.

But overall, the place is useable and comfortable, and I am pretty pleased with how it's turned out:

And I've made myself a promise that now that my children are old enough to know better than to try to climb the bookshelves, this door is staying opened at all times as an added incentive to keep this a lovely workspace instead of a dumping ground.

Now, for December's projects: the guest room and bathroom upstairs, which have to be finished before my parents arrive in three weeks, the filing and odds and ends to take care of in my office, and the toynado* in our family room that must come under control before more things arrive courtesy of the old guy in a red suit. At least now, I feel inspired to keep going.

*Props to BusyDad for inventing this excellent term, which describes (perhaps obviously) the state of one's family room floor after all the toys have been dumped out of all their boxes and stirred mightily by several preschoolers' hands.


BusyDad said...

HAHA Toynado lives on!! Next step: Urban Dictionary :) I have to say I love the knife magnet. I have one too for the same reason. Of course my mom always freaks out about it whenever she comes to visit. Maybe it's because you can see the blades and it just looks so dangerous. But I say at least they are out of reach. And oh, your fish looks really thirsty ;)

Fawn said...

I am not even worthy of reading your blog anymore. I am in awe of your clutter-kicking ways. My house looks much like your office and has for months. It's ever so slightly better since we moved some things out to the shed, but there's still a lot to work on. And even with my mom here, we haven't managed to tackle it... yowch.

Karen said...

Color me impressed! Your kids had clean underwear and you got all that done last month! Have a seat and a drink and pat yourself on the back. You deserve a break today!

LceeL said...

I am so in AWE!!

Caffeine Court said...

WOW!!! You are incredible! I am so impressed. Truly, you put me to shame.

As soon as I look at what my other contestants have done I will declare a winner. I wonder if anyone will top you???

I seriously doubt it!

All Adither said...

Hey, nice work. We have spots in our house that accumulate clutter too. It drives me insane.

Rachel said...

Wow! I must admit to being slightly horrified at the before pics of your office! It makes me grateful that I don't have any small rooms with doors downstairs, because I just KNOW what would happen!

You did an amazing job, though! High five to YOU!

Mind if I show this post to my husband next time he complains about toys on the floor??? ;)

Hairline Fracture said...

It looks wonderful. Sometimes the hardest part is getting started, so you did great.

Daisy said...

I'm impressed! I like to call this process "reclaiming" rather than cleaning because it's just outrageous in the "before" pix. Sometimes I'm too embarrassed by the "before" pix to post them. You did a great job, and it looks like it'll last!!

tironis said...

Congratulations on a job well done !
I have been reading up on reducing clutter and this post was very inspiring.Thank you for sharing.

Ree said...

You rock. I want your office.

(And just think of all the exercise all of that up and down the stairs got you!!)

OHmommy said...


I am trying to imagine what my mud room would look like, after a visit from you.

High five. Nice work!

Auds at Barking Mad said...

Wow! Major props to you!

My house...well, head over to my place if you want an accurate description of the "Shrekness" and disaster, then my house is it. I can't even consider cleaning it until we finish the "kitchen from hell" project we're working. I have no hope at this point, of a sane, or tidy Christmas. *lol*

You give me hope though!

Kara S. said...

Wow! I'm really impressed! Would you like to come organize my house? :)

Tara R. said...

Great job!

Mrs F with 4 said...

Golly, MT, you get the Martha Award for the month!

I reached the peak right before Mother arrived, but now we're on the downhill slope. I'll probably hit the bottom just before the in-laws arrive for Christmas.

Could you possibly come and visit? Not to DO anything, just to stand there and crack the ringmaster's whip?

MommyTime said...

Fawn, you are silly. You have a brand new baby. You get a free pass for MONTHS as far as I'm concerned. Just enjoy the new little one. There's always time later to clean.

Tironis, thanks for the moral support. I'm glad my mess could inspire someone else. It's nice to know it's good for something.

Tara, thank you.

Mrs. F, Martha would absolutely run screaming from my house like something in a bad horror movie. Honestly. Even when it looks reasonable around the edges, open the linen closet and *poof!* the towels are all wonky and things are generally a little less organized than one could prefer. Still, even the illusion of clean is better than we've had in some spots for a while, so I'm happy with that for the moment!

Jaina said...

Hi five!!!! This is seriously impressive. I love it! Awesome work, you've been a busy beaver.

Busby SEO Test said...

haha I'm impressed! I call it "rebuilding" hehe. You're so great. let's say, Two thumbs up for mom!


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