Clearing My Mind By Decluttering My House
It’s a Friday evening after a long week, and I’ve been looking forward to lounging at home. The whole week has lead up to this moment.
I’m propped up on pillows eating chips and watching TV in the living room. Yes, I’m wearing sweatpants.
Sounds relaxing, yes?
It should be, but something doesn’t feel right.
I’m having trouble focusing on the TV. I wrap my blanket around me because it’s freezing outside and I’m grateful to be nice and cozy by the fireplace. Oh yes, I’m so grateful to be in.
I channel surf and try to find a movie. I decide I need a weather disaster movie. A monster storm to take my mind off my…Oh! I find one about a meteor heading for planet earth. Perfect. A few minutes go by and I still can’t focus. The TV stand keeps catching my eye. It’s tilted. My TV stand is tilted. I tilt my head to look at it. How is it actually holding the TV up?
I study the stand. I wonder at the physics of it. One of the wheels, the front left wheel, is held on with hockey tape. The TV stand really isn’t a stand at all. Technically, it’s a cheese-serving cart with four wheels so you can push it around your kitchen. My husband and I bought it years ago, telling ourselves it was a temporary stand. And yet it’s still here decades later.
The stand is just the floodgate. Suddenly, my highly anticipated Friday evening bliss is impeded by an onslaught of distraction: our constant clutter, our disorganization, our broken furniture, our imperfect furniture. Our imperfect life. I glance back at the movie, the meteor hurling towards the earth. What am I doing in sweatpants watching TV when I live in this environment of disorganization? I haven’t earned this reward.
We hold onto stuff for too long. Broken stuff and clutter. Then and there, I vow to start getting organized. The next morning, I phone one of the local charities to see when they can pick up our unwanted items.
“We can come on Wednesday,” the nice lady says.
Oh my God! A definite date. Now I feel pressure, but that’s good. Maybe I need pressure and a firm date.
I get busy sorting, dusting, organizing, washing, ironing, and folding. By Wednesday, the bedroom looks better. Not perfect, but improved. It’s a start. And it does feel like an accomplishment. I put the bags on the sidewalk. What a feeling!
Next, I tackle our home office. As I attempt to sort through box after box, it doesn’t take me long to realize de-cluttering is only half the battle. We also need storage for all the stuff we are keeping. I’m thrilled at the thought: it’s time. It’s time to for new furniture.
You see, five years earlier, when we bought our house, I started a furniture file. I cut out gorgeous pictures from magazines for one day when we could afford it. Because I didn’t want any furniture. I had selected an Amish furniture store that did expensive custom work and even called them back then to get a quote. I described in great detail the TV stand I wanted as well as an office armoire. Yes, I had lofty goals. I was determined that our future, fantasy furniture would be Amish.
“In this disposable society, let’s get some work done that’s meant to last a lifetime,” I told my husband.
Well, “one day” is finally here.
As I dialled the number, I pictured my Amish artisan, riding to his workshop in his horse and buggy, to make my furniture. How lovely. How romantic. How worth the wait! A taste of this charming, quaint Amish life untouched by Facebook, Google, and smartphones.
“Remember me?” I asked the Amish furniture guy when he answered the phone.
“No. Should I?” he said.
Of course he doesn’t remember you, Judith. He’s Amish, not an elephant.
We set a date for our visit/consultation. I was giddy as I browsed through the online Amish catalogue. More progress! I’d actually taken action. I could pinch myself! The designer, Jacob, arrives at the house to design two pieces: a TV stand and an office armoire. I show him into our home office.
“Wow! Look at all these boxes,” he says, clearing his throat uncomfortably.
I feel embarrassed that someone, especially someone so neat, clean, and so obviously sane, is seeing up close all our dust-ball imperfection and clutter.
“It’s my husband’s stuff,” I say. He’s not here so I assign the entire blame on him. I’m not proud of doing this. I feel a twinge of guilt. He’s not here to defend himself. And really, we’re both to blame for our messy house. But instead of owning it, I give the designer a look of concern and compassion, a look that attempts to say: “My husband can’t help it. He’s just one hell of a psychological mess, but I’m still here for him!”
“He’s a bit of a hoarder, eh?” Jacob says.
That’s a strong word, but okay.
“A bit,” I respond.
We spend an entire morning looking through catalogues. Then, we design the two pieces. It’s quite a heady process between designing, measuring, selecting, choosing the hardwood and stain, (not too dark and not too blond) and then taking the measurements again.
“Let’s bring that armoire right to the top of the ceiling” Jacob says.
I look at the office ceiling, which is about fourteen feet up.
“Let’s make it dramatic,” he adds.
It’s going to look like a prop like the kitchen cupboard in the Cinderella ballet I saw. I spent the entire ballet worrying that it was going to topple over. Courage, I say to myself. Adventure! Drama! “Yes, let’s go right to the top!”
“It will be stunning, just stunning,” he says.
“And it won’t topple over?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “But it won’t be ready for the holidays.”
This is a relief in a way. “I’ll wait,” I say.
“I’ll be in touch,” he says.
After Jacob leaves, I look at our old, broken-down furniture and think about our new additions. I imagine how that fine, new Amish furniture is going to sneer at our old furniture. Actually, it’s more likely the other way around — the Amish furniture will be kind and pleasant, but our old furniture will be crusty and mean. Maybe this is the beginning of new furnishings for the entire house.
I visualize how, in the not-so-distant future, the old tilted TV stand will be on the curb and the office armoire will be filled with the items from the boxes…and the boxes will be gone once and for all.
That evening, I make popcorn and dribble plenty of butter over it. Yes, it’s a Friday night and I’m wearing sweatpants again. I sit on the sofa and flip through the channels looking for a weather disaster movie. I crunch on the buttered popcorn, which tastes all the more delicious knowing that soon this house will be de-cluttered. Soon there will be a place for everything and everything will be in its place.