Putting things away

I start from one side of the house and move toward the kitchen.

I make our bed. I put away our clothes. I open our shades. I help the kids with their rooms. (No, let’s be honest. I should help the kids with their rooms, but instead I lack patience – instead, I just do the rooms myself.)

I pick up the living room. I pick up the kitchen counters, one at a time. I pick up the dining room so I can pick up the far counter so I can pick up the near counter so I can finally have space to place the dishes as I wash them. Right to center to left to away, dishtowel over my shoulder, a single to-do pile growing in the corner, a stack of items ready for a commute to the basement where I will finally run out of energy and give up. Tomorrow, I will tackle that stuff. Tomorrow, I will head downstairs.

And then, with a few hours before bedtime, I relax in a house that has not been cleaned as much as it has been returned to its inactive state.

Forgive me for this horrible metaphor, but every person is kind of like a box of spaghetti noodles: a spindly mess of emotions and issues tied together by the flimsy paper box of life. They’re only unbroken when we handle them with care. Beat that life around a bit and everything’s a mess inside. And you can tell everything’s a mess because there’s that little plastic window. Open up the box and everything goes everywhere, crisscrossing and broken, never to close in the same way again.

So we struggle to keep things together. We try to make sure everything is in place. We long for organization like you see in those interior design magazines, and we envy those who can make messes look rustic and honorable. If I was stronger, I could let things spill all over. I’m not. Instead, I tuck things in corners and stack them in piles and assume that, yes, I’m really fooling everyone. That no one sees the dust in the corner. That no one realizes they just stepped on old Play-doh.

And then, at the end of the day, I cannot clean anymore. I have to keep living. We all wake up and take everything out again, ready for the day. We leave and take our lives away from all of that stuff I had put away the day before. All of the stuff we hide until we’re ready to use it.

Kerrie always wonders why I’m so obsessed with making the bed, even if it’s just a few hours before bedtime. I just do it. Because I have a weird need to reset before things get messed up again.

This is not an essay on cleaning. This is an essay on our constant need to be put together. The cleaning stuff is my life as much as it’s a metaphor for our lives.

We don’t clean and organize so we can be perfect. We clean and organize so the messes are more defined. More contained. We keep the right things in and we let the right things out and we attempt to shape the way we’re perceived by fooling people into believing we’re all put together.

Put together, right? Like anyone really is. Like anyone’s ever gotten their shit in order like those design magazines. And, to be honest, I’m not sure I’d like anyone who has.

Come on over sometime. I promise I’ll make an attempt to put away the laundry, but I can’t promise I’ll have vacuumed. I’ll notice, but chances are you won’t.

And so life goes on, normal as always.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 6th, 2014