Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Voyage of (Re)Discovery

I used to be pretty damned good at this whole ‘working mom’ thing. I was good at managing my time, keeping things together, blah blah blah…

Oh yes. I used to be really good at this stuff.

Today…eh…not so much. Meals have been downright weird, my kindergartener has brought cereal bars for lunch more times than I like to admit, bills are languishing unpaid a little longer than is strictly kosher, and I’m finding myself easily confused between tasks. Ack, which do I do first? The vacuuming! No, the bathroom! Wait, I haven’t started dinner! OK, I’ll vacuum with my left foot while I stir the rice with my right hand, pay this bill with my left and…Aw, heckwithit. Let’s just order pizza and watch a pay-per-view…

See, I don’t know about anybody else, but when I have Way Too Much To Do©, I get very, very tired. Very, very, very, very tired. Confronted with a huge amount of stuff I need to get done, all of it ‘important’ or ‘urgent’, I have a tendency to kind of freeze up. I can’t deal with it, I can’t cope with it, so I…ignore it.

What elephant? I don’t see no stinkin’ elephant…

Of course, while denial can be lovely for a while, it doesn’t tend to end well. These last few weeks, I think I’ve actually spent more money than I’ve earned on convenience foods; the house has gotten steadily seedier (it wasn’t all that hot to begin with); and I’ve dropped an awful lot of social and work-related balls.

So I blew the dust of my trusty Franklin-Covey planner this weekend and started trying to get it back together. The writing stops abruptly on February 6, 2003 – a couple weeks after I came home from work ‘for good’ (ha!).

I sat down and read through my old notes. Man. I was one organized cookie, back in the day. Monthly goals, high level weekly goals, daily prioritized task lists, coded by project or life area.

No wonder I have memories of being able to lay hands on an envelope, stamp and return label without a forty-minute search in a hard-hat through the craft closet.

So I began thinking about what I need to do to get back on track, and I have to admit: simple organization is what I need more than anything else. Over the last couple years, I’ve really been letting things slide – especially things like drawers and closets. They’re stuffed with miscellaneous stuff, because I kept saying I’d deal with it, you know, later.

But when you’re working full time and you’ve got precisely two hours per day at home that aren’t taken up by sleeping – spending a precious half an hour in the garage digging through empty diaper boxes and cans of green beans searching for the box of laundry soap you know is out there somewhere really doesn’t work so well. I’m sure my coworkers won’t mind if I give my shower a miss today…again…

Given the time crunch, I’m planning to go about battening down the hatches of the Den of Chaos the same way I’d go about eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

One drawer, one shelf, one ten to fifteen minute organizing job at a time, I’m going to get this place cleaned up. I started yesterday with a small but psychologically significant area: the kitchen junk drawer.

From that one area, a 18” long by 20” wide by 4” deep drawer, I threw away almost an entire plastic grocery bag full of stuff. Stuff like, a broken sugar dish from the dollar store. A stack of ancient rubber bands. A deck of torn-up playing cards (I suspect I grabbed them away from a toddler and stuffed them in there to keep them out of reach). Lots and lots and lots of ancient candy, probably likewise confiscated from a Denizen.

The drawer is now organized, and less than half full. You can see at a glance every single thing in it. It is clean. The things it holds make sense.

It’s a small bite – but it’s a start.

Just a few dozen more, and I’ll be really cookin’ with gas…


21st Century Mom said...

I think those are all really good ideas and I know what you mean about your former level of organization but consider this. When you were working before your DH pitched in around the house - a lot. When you quit working you assumed a lot of his tasks because he was at work and you were at home. Well.. time to go back to plan A, right? I know he is a prince and he takes really good care of you but I'm guessing you two are out of practice with sharing domestic duties.

Myownigloo said...


Mother of Chaos said...

Actually, on the day-to-day stuff, we’ve got an excellent sync going; also, I have to say: my DH will do ANYTHING he is asked to do, usually pretty cheerfully and immediately. That’s the only reason I don’t have the FlyLady definition of CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome).

But there are some chores we don’t even try to share. On my side of the ‘unshared chore’ fence lies the deeper levels of organization inside the house, 99% of the purchases and 100% of the financial management. Oh. And just to prevent stereotypical behavior from setting in, I also handle car maintenance. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know – it’s just that I can almost sense when one of them is about to need something.

On the other side of the fence are such goodies as house maintenance, yard work, trying to organize the shed or the garage (except the food storage areas, those ugly examples of poor thought processes are mine) and the crawl space (I have never once even poked my head into that horror-film-set-reject space of this house), and all social planning. Seriously. If it were left to me, we would never go anywhere or do anything, ever.

And anytime I start feeling pissy about how much harder MY job is than HIS …well…two words: tub grout.

To make it four words: three bathrooms, tub grout.

I’ll take having to reorganize all six sock drawers, any day.

PipneyJane said...

One day, Tama, I'd love to take a peak inside that beloved organiser of yours. Did you know that your posts on TMF inspired me to get one? I settled for a personal sized Filofax model, which works when I let it. :o)

Seriously, any time you want to rant about organisational things, I'll listen/read with eager eyes.

- Pam (I'm the "organisational pupil", so that makes you the Master. OK?)

Myownigloo said...

Just when I was getting ready to throw mine out. I mean, it's too danged heavy to carry around with me every day!

If Tama starts 'splainin' I'ma listenin'.

Anonymous said...

If you both work, the chores (day to day AND other) should be split down the middle 50/50! I think you might need to "let go" of some of the things you do better and maybe teach DH how to do them? And then just accept the fact that, yes, you do it much better, but he'll do it "good enough"!