Do you ever feel like queen of your castle? After years of working for somebody else, I like the perk of having time to polish my own 1400 square foot domain. It may not be the Taj Mahal, but it's mine. Well, mine and the bank's.
Anyway, now that I get to spend my days here instead of at the office, I've had time to explore every corner, and I've discovered that I like keeping a tidy house. Don't worry; I'm not perfect. But like my high-maintenance hero in When Harry Met Sally, I know what I want, and I'm not afraid to ask for it.
I want a clutter-free house. Toy-strewn bath and shower stalls bug me as much as over-stuffed file cabinets used to. Along the same lines, though I may have bought them at thrift stores or clearance sales, I like clothes that match, and furniture that fits. Every so often, I take a critical walk down the halls and through the rooms. Lights pop on in closets and the basement bares its secreted junk. Peeking under beds and over railings, out-of-place and under-used items are illuminated by my analytical high-beams.
My daughters sense a garage sale looming, and suddenly toys they have ignored for months become precious. You would not believe the tugs-of-war I've gotten into over ratty old blankets and dresses two sizes too small.
"Look - it still fits!" Karen models her favorite high-water jeans with the top button undone. Desperately she rallies support for its matching shirt. "...And if I pull down the sleeves and hold my arms like this.... Mom! I want that!"
I'm getting smarter. Most of the time, I do my dirty work while the kids are away. Like the sticky-fingered Grinch, I silently stalk toy boxes and laundry baskets. This works really well. It may be years before one of them turns around and says, "Didn't I used to have.... Mom!"
I have no regrets.
You just have to have a plan. For instance, take disposing of tattered artwork that has languished in a discarded backpack for six months. Shake off the old cookie crumbs, then bury the picture deep in a black trash bag. Don't trust those thin bags you can see through. If you do, the piece will come back to haunt you, plucked from oblivion as a now spaghetti-splattered work of art, magneted back in its hallowed spot on the refrigerator door.
I especially enjoy getting rid of those games with 1,001 pieces. I don't think there is any real object to those games, except to scatter the pieces and leave. Territory markers, that's what they are. Well, this is my territory and there are no squatters allowed! Into the garage sale box they go. Believe it or not, the kids usually don't realize the game is gone until they see it out on the driveway with a sticker on it.
Another note: Send the kids to Grandma's on garage sale day. Otherwise, they'll be chasing cars like schnauzers and half your inventory will end up in a reverent pile in the middle your child's bed.
The perfect solution for kiddy clutter? Sell it to a neighbor with youngsters near the same age as yours. That way, your children can go over to their house, scatter the pieces, and then come home. Both you and your kids are happy!
As a seasoned mother and unmuddler, I stand behind the advice given above. I've only been burned on this system once. There was this stuffed animal, you see, who had been lying in a haphazard heap in the corner one month too long. It was whisked away during one of my whirlwind tours, and tagged to sell. When Little Red realized her Ballerina Bear had a new home, there was a scene I could have sold movie rights for.
I guess I should have let that bear gather another year's worth of dust. Instead, I unwittingly gave my daughter and a future support group something to talk about.
But, HEY - my house looks great!
Comments? Email [email protected] or visit www.homebodies.org, where you can interact with other moms on the lively messageboards. Cheryl's books, "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom" (InterVarsity Press, 1999), "Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting, Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day & More" (InterVarsity Press, 2002) and "Mom to Mom: Committing Our Children to God" (Beacon Hill Press, 2002) are all available by visiting Cheryl's webpage at http://www.gospelcom.net/homebodies/experts/cgochnauer/index.php.