I am a confessed clutterer. But I wouldn’t say hoarder. I do get rid of things. But the rate at which things leave is not as great at the rate at which they come in and stay. So I have piles. Piles on the counters, piles on the dressers, piles on the floor, piles on the coffee table. Piles piles piles. I don’t mind them so much–they’re kind of like old friends. And that’s the problem. Old friends stay. They’re comfortable, they feel safe, we enjoy their company, they stay late. And then we don’t notice them so much anymore. They’re just part of our lives.
With friends, it’s not a problem; with piles sometimes it is. Piles become wallpaper. And it’s not fancy.
I don’t mind it so much, but other people do. It’s very easy to walk into a house and look at stuff when you’re not used to seeing it and wonder where it all came from and why it’s there or nobody is getting rid of it. But I’ve got a story for every scrap of paper and a reason for every abandoned –or interrupted– project. I am fond of saying that I am very good at starting projects, but I’m not very good at finishing them. Unfinished projects after all are accommodating: they’re not going anywhere. They’ll wait. Just like an old friend.
This is not to say that I want there to be piles or unfinished projects all over the house. I do want to be able to sit on the couch and look out at a calm room so that I can read a magazine in peace and not feel like every corner is calling my attention. It’s just that every corner is calling my attention. And quite frankly, with four children under the age of 9, my life is not really my own. That’s not an excuse of a defense; it’s a simple fact. And I’m not the most skillful at time management.
That’s how things become wallpaper.
I start projects, then I drive to karate, then I make dinner, then I give baths, put kids to bed, and by the time I attempt to return to project 1 I notice project 2 and start that. Pretty soon I have multiple projects in every room. I plan to get back to every one. Maybe just not in this life. (I just haven’t accepted that yet.)
So the piles that moved to the dresser from the bookcase that got freed up for books are waiting. The magazines and newspapers to be gathered or sorted or recycled are waiting. The mail on top of the kids’ finished homework on top of the field trip slip on top of the health care letter on top of my two year old’s drawing on top of the laptop are waiting. The outgrown clothes or still good but out of season clothes or unsure about what to do with clothes are waiting. And oh wait the laundry just called me. Or was that my son who ran out of t-shirts calling?
And so the project I started in the office got interrupted by the project I started in the living room got interrupted by…the laundry. And as the projects accumulate, they become part of the housescape and eventually wallpaper. So that I may notice the piles on the dresser, but not as much as the guest who just came in.
Which brings me to the guest who just came in. The guest is not used to clutter and piles as wallpaper. But I am. It doesn’t mean I like it and it doesn’t mean I’m not addressing it. But I also know that I don’t hide things. There are people whose houses appear pristine, but that’s because everything just got shoved into the closet or behind the dresser. It’s funny, but I’m the opposite. My drawers and shelves and cabinets are in much better shape than what’s out. When I put things away, they are organized. And if I can’t do it the “right way”, I don’t do it. I call it: “I’m not up to that yet” as in that project is in hold mode. Other people call it perfectionism.
I am certainly not perfect and maybe I aspire to be (ideal is nice). One thing I do know: I would like to change my wallpaper, just not as quickly as the guest who just came in.