It ain’t easy being clean, and green

Last week I was watching an episode of the sitcom “The Middle” (Patricia Heaton, formerly of “Everybody loves Raymond”, essentially reprises that role as Frankie, married mom of 3 kids in Indiana). In this episode, the family has gone on a weekend vacation and their neighbor, who has taken their mail into the house, calls to tell them their house was ransacked and robbed. They come home to the police in their living room, and it dawns on them that their normal, “Hoarders”-caliber clutter and disorder looks to more objective eyes like the house had been turned upside down by burglars. Frankie snaps into action, and they cannot rest until the house has been thoroughly de-cluttered (to comic effect, of course) while Frankie spouts Oprah-isms and yells “Be ruthless!” when her daughter gets verklempt at the idea of throwing away the box her first high chair came in.

I thought for a moment about the greater-than-normal chaos that has erupted in our home recently – our very old dog had surgery, and has required an exhausting level of care, which after work and the other demands of life left us with no energy to do things like laundry or load the dishwasher, and even taking out the trash was an afterthought. And then I thought, who am I kidding? Sick dog or no, I feel like I am on Crap Patrol every day, I don’t have that peaceful feeling that comes from knowing whether you have, say scotch tape (because you keep it in a specified place, so you can tell when it’s depleted) before it’s time to wrap a gift while you’re late for a party.

Taking advice from the organizing sages, I decided to start small to build momentum – just organize one drawer. This happened to be the one where I believe the scotch tape should be kept – the “junk drawer” in the kitchen. I went to the Container Store and purchased little mesh drawer organizers (credit to the issue of “O” magazine that showed this). I shudder to write this, because my desk at work is so clean and devoid of stuff it should be in a magazine – but it literally took me an afternoon to organize that junk drawer, and when I was done perhaps 1/3 of what was originally in it went back in. The rest was either evidently garbage, or recyclable things like dead batteries, but a lot was hardware of unknown origin (what on earth do we ever use all those sizes of cup hooks for?) and being frugal I just couldn’t throw it away. But I don’t have a place for it, either, so now there is a very clean drawer with a pile of sorted hardware on the counter next to it. Arrrghhh!!!!

But at least I have that drawer (and another one in the desk, I had purchased extra drawer organizers so I attacked my drawer of sewing supplies). And we do have that momentum, that de-cluttering mojo, going strong. Or at least, I do. My better half has not caught then zen calm of being able to find his clothes in the closet (because I hung them up in plain sight, finding space after purging the tattered khakis he never wears). He does not yet see that I also put us on a hanger standard – we now use “swivel” hangers in the closets (no need to buy any, we had plenty after I weeded them from the white plastic tube hangers) and how nice and California Closet-like it looks.

But he also doesn’t see the piles of tattered clothes in sacks (hey, who knew the Salvation Army will take ripped and stained clothes for textile recycling? Keeps them out of the landfill and they earn $$ to fund their programs). There are no pixies that whisk away the agreed-upon donations. So the decisions get made, which is the hard part, but the execution is still a bit slow, so the clutter….is still with us.

And I’m again embarrassed to confess, I have rescued a thing or two from the piles. Just a sundress that I made in 1990, which I plan to remake into a halter dress (when I am finished with the other projects…) and a suit, which may go back in the donations group again. It’s from 2004. It’s brown. My hair has turned silver in the last 7 years and brown is not my color anymore. Okay, okay. The suit goes! “Be ruthless!”


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