Thursday, August 30, 2012

the assemblage of treasure and scrap

If there's one thing I truly suck at, it's physical organization. I am egregiously handicapped when it comes to sorting and making decisions about objects. If there is a Special Olympics sort of event, or a government issued card I can stick on my rearview mirror to mitigate my retardation in this area, consider my hand officially raised.

Yesterday I bought two books to help me navigate the chaos and clutter in my immediate midst. One book I gave to my husband (also moderately afflicted with the handicap), and the other, well, as you can see it's sitting under my mug of coffee (I know it looks like wine, but, I pinky-dog swear, it really is coffee). The problem is, I don't know where to start. I get all anxious and paralysis sets in, and then I start to hyperventilate. Sounds like a Hoarders case, yes?

I want to, you know, "space clear." Get rid of the bad, stagnant energy and whatnot. Shred useless, outdated documents. Restore my chi. (Or is it qi--I guess I need to excavate the fucking book and find out.)

For the past few months, when not trotting around Europe, we've been in that semi-homeless limbo known as remodeling hell. Our kitchen, dining room and living room -- the central thoroughfare of our lives -- have been off-limits. I've been brewing coffee next to the toilet. Washing dishes in the laundry slop sink. Chopping tomatoes and buttering toast on the dryer. I don't know about you, but when the food part of my routine goes awry for any length of time, it becomes this systemic hell. It's a Maslow thing, right? Food is pretty essential. Consequently, my chi (or qi) is out of whack.

The remodel is just about finished now, and all this week I've been peeking in the bins and boxes I packed up in early June. I've been trying to sort stuff; move the essentials back into their drawers. Which sounds simple and glorious, right? I get to put my kitchen back together! Use a proper cutting board on a solid surface. Alas, would that it were so. This afternoon I stood in front of two Rubbermaid bins completely paralyzed with options. Should I put that grater in the Goodwill box? Or maybe it should be ferried back upstairs to the kitchen and be placed a drawer that I've yet to earmark for such a tool. Or, perhaps I should toss it into the bin for tomorrow's yard sale? Well, that depends on how many graters we actually have. I mean, is this the grater from Kirk's VW camper? Is it our extra grater? And don't we use a Cusinart for grating these days? You'd think I was a husband from the 50's faced with a dead wife and no history of performing simple kitchen tasks.

The anti-clutter book I gave Kirk had this tagline commanding the reader to throw away 50 things. Would this grater be one of the 50 things? Should it be? Okay, move on to the turkey lacing skewers. Hm. And like that. All day long.

I really wish I was a pot-smoker. I think I could probably blaze this conundrum into the vapors of "whatever."

The darker issue here is this fear that my affliction -- the glacial pace with which I attend these sorts of chores -- is only going to become more pronounced as I age. Perhaps I am staring into my future, when I will one day hold a toothbrush in one hand, toothpaste in the other, and try to recall how they go together, and what to do with them once they're joined.

The problem is, of course, we simply have too much crap, us blended boomers. Crates and barrels and bins of sentimental detritus that we should clearly jettison. Or hire someone to jettison for us, lest we get sucked into the nostalgia of things such as a child's kindergarten masterpiece or a Mother's Day ashtray made sixteen years ago (maybe I will take up pot smoking after all! Let's save it, just in case!)

How about you? Are you as organized as a German engineer, or are you headed for your own starring role Hoarders?


  1. I'm a German engineer aspiring to Hoarders. Everything is more or less in place but there is not enough of it to fill the gaps. But never fear, because my mom is coming to visit for two weeks and she'll be busy as a magpie feathering my nest. She'd be in heaven at your place, with a new kitchen to organize.

    1. Oh Averil, I'm sitting here after three days of organizing hell, a puncture wound in my index finger and a sprained knuckle, wondering if I'll ever outgrow my klutziness, or if it'll only get worse over time. Elderly ladies with lipstick-stained teeth come to mind (though I rarely do the lipstick thing). I do, however, have the bare bones of a living room and kitchen back together AND, I found worthy homes for my various chunks. God bless Craig's list. Sort of. (I now have a "contact" on my iPhone named CrazyLady after several exchanges with a Hoarderesque shut-in. Oy.)

      But your mom is coming! And she's of the roll-up-the-sleeves nesting variety. Jealous!

  2. Anonymous3:14 AM

    Loved reading this, mostly because I can't relate anymore. Before I moved out of my parents house I kept everything, ever scrap, every note, and yes, every school assignment. In the last 8 years I have lived in 7 places (soon to be 8 in November), and I've become more strict with what stays and what goes. More always leaving than staying. Having a German heritage my husband likes to tell me I'm "getting my German on" whenever I go into an organizational frenzy.

    1. OMG, can I steal that line? I love "getting my German on." Whoa. I applaud your evolution away from the trap of needing to store and save your scraps. Sadly, I am not yet there. Today, for instance, I ruminated over three packages of bamboo skewers. I contemplated the kabobs I would someday make. The miniature peas I would grow. The one-thousand-and-one uses for toothpicks on steroids. And, yes, I made homes for all three packages of them.

      Le sigh.


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