Catalog Dreams

Well, it started with a holiday, was compounded by an internet shut-down, delayed by a new evening job, and sealed with a family that really needed mommy and daddy to spend every night actively being in each other’s presence instead of on the computer. So, I haven’t written a thing since THE GREAT DELETION at the end of November, and am starting to enjoy the quiet of anonymous withdrawl.

But, enough of that.

Here’s the new deal. Papa BLD and I have been working on a new level of contentment in our lives: Organization. Shocking, especially after I posted this on our front door. But there’s always room for improvement when the disorder disrupts the peace. First off, we are going on 11 months of Andy being the main dishes-doer in the house (Alleluia!). We often do laundry together. Our goal, as has been handed down to us from our forbearers, is to be like Gary and Elaine of CatalogLiving.net in our sickening organizational perfection.

But I’m not even talking about steps to household perfection, of which there are many.

I am talking about our house, as a whole, being perpetually in maintenance mode instead of defcon 4, baby is getting baptised, and we are pulling all nighters like we are college students cleaning. It’s a monkeyload of daily work, and it isn’t going to get done unless we do the bulk of it when the kids are in bed. So, the past six weeks or so, we have.

Now, let’s not be ridiculous, I’m not talking about dusting or wiping the baseboards or anything crazy like that. I’m just talking about moving as much junk as possible into new places (and the garbage) so that we wouldn’t be ashamed if someone came over unexpectedly. Three weeks ago, I asked a friend to come over so I could pretend she would judge my housecleaning, which needed a good kick in the pants after a weekend of abusive children. She laughed at me, and agreed, and I cleaned down to the wire, vacuuming to the doorbell. Not to be a jerk, but I simply can’t clean just for my family. It makes me too angry at them when they destroy it.

And then came a sweet revelation.

In the form of a delightful little book on sale at a great online bookseller that I had a crisp new gift certificate to. Pretty Neat is the first cleaning book I have ever owned, and I ordered it primarily because it said “let go of perfection” right on its cover.

This is what Andy and I have been trying to accomplish forever, but with an imaginary monkey with a cute little jockey’s outfit on (cruelty to animals) beating us. He wants us to realize (secret shame) that there is no chance for us to ever win the “pride of ownership” game, and laughing at us all the while. I would think my mom hired him (“I think you’re probably my messiest daughter…”), except for her abiding hatred of animals.

As I have lacked the emotional intelligence to distance my self-worth from such declarations, I found Pretty Neat a revelation. This book said it’s ok to toss the perfection monkey out the second storey window (thank goodness we didn’t rake the leaves). If making the beds doesn’t matter to you, stop making the beds! If life isn’t good for you unless the kids’ closets are organized by color and size, spend two hours organizing them yourself! If you don’t care if the carpets get vacuumed once a month, don’t vacuum just because your mother is coming! And stop apologizing.

This is your home, your life, your method.

They call the destructive mental beating people take from their seeing the perfect simplistic beauty of neatly arranged nautically-themed catalog rooms “organizational pornograpy.” I honestly laughed out loud. If piles of junk are a necessary evil, keep building them, but don’t let them accuse you every time you walk by them. The pile gets sorted once a month, not out of desperation, but by design. If putting the pile in a cutsey basket helps, go for it. But, a cutsey basket won’t solve the guilt alone. You solve the guilt. Same goes for obsessive cleaners looking for balance. They get taught things like delegating and letting go. They help you reclaim the word “no” that you were so good at using when you were a toddler.

This book has done more in the first 50 pages to heal my sullied homemaker’s heart than 50 conversations with supportive friends ever have. I don’t know why. I’m not even halfway through the book, yet, but I’m planning on ordering many more copies, for sloppy buddies and neatniks alike. Oddly, it’s making me long for just enough organization to bring peace for my family, not for a new visitor.

Now I wonder if Elaine and Gary would agree…

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Pretty neat assessment:

Stuff that matters to me: Pictures hung on wall, furniture angles welcoming, good lighting, curtains closed, no “garbage” pieces on the floor, tree lights on

Stuff that I’m letting go: Christmas presents around tree (will find homes by Thursday), Angel not made yet (will make before Epiphany), vacuum not run (will do maybe after toys find new homes, maybe not until the tree comes down)

Yup.  Pretty Neat.  (Contented Smile)