catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 8 :: 2008.04.18 — 2008.05.02


Piled up

Visiting my mom’s house is like traveling to the Promised Land for the Clean and Spotless.  The floor is clear of any clutter, the end tables are only used for lamps and a coaster, her wrapping paper and extra gift boxes are tucked safely away under the bed in the guest bedroom.  In her kitchen, the stove and microwave are as sparkling white as the day she purchased the appliances, and there is a specific shelf in the refrigerator for leftovers.

I have a desire to be organized.  The idea of every item having a place where it belongs is magical to me. My mom and most people who know me well would laugh at me for saying this, because by the way I live, most would assume that I like to live in the midst of clutter.  From my childhood bedroom, to my college dorm room and now the fourth grade classroom where I spend several of my waking hours, each place has showcased several piles of miscellaneous stuff.

Growing up, my piles drove my mom crazy.  I was so ashamed of my inability to keep house like she could that I would live with the door to my bedroom constantly closed.  Each day was filled with anxiety—would this be the day my mom would see my room?  What would she say once she saw how bad it had gotten again?  The day she would eventually push open the door to my bedroom and find that there wasn’t even a path to my bed, I knew I was in for it.  These check-ups usually came before we had company over, either family or one of my friends.  My room had to be clean before the guests arrived.

For the next week, I would bask in the luxury of having a clean room.  I found such peace in every t-shirt being neatly folded, each sock having its match and each book on its correct shelf, meticulously alphabetized.  Also, I did not have to live with the fear of knowing my mom could enter my room without finding the site of a natural disaster.  Each time I cleaned my room, I would make the promise to my mom and myself: “This is the last time I’ll let it get this bad.”  This cycle went on for years, until I went on to college and experienced having a roommate for the first time.

At first, I was pretty organized.  It helped that I didn’t have as much stuff at school as I did in my bedroom at home.  It’s pretty amazing how fast the piles can accumulate, though.  You have the textbooks, which I had organized on a shelf, but then I decided I should probably read some of them.  So they were in one area.  Then I had a folder and notebook for each class.  Each class got a colored folder and notebook to match.  This was my big “organization system.”  These items created another pile.  Next I had the stacks of library books for my papers.  These were generally piled next to my desk and were in constant danger of toppling over and getting mixed up with my textbooks.

Now is probably a good time to explain what I affectionately refer to as “closet puke.”  Closet puke occurs when you haven’t done laundry for a couple of weeks and it begins to overflow the laundry basket in the closet.  After that, it runs out of room in the actual closet and spills onto the floor.  Since there is no room in the closet for items like shoes, they become a part of the closet puke.  Closet puke is usually something people have to step over to enter the dorm room (although I have since realized that closet puke can happen in any closet, with any items, dorm closet puke is only how I first learned about it).

My roommate during my senior year of college enjoyed closet puke so much, that she started creating her own.  She currently lives alone and has decided that she could never live with another person again because she is so ashamed of her disorganization.  Then she told me that she could still live with me, because neither of us are organized and she wouldn’t feel guilty about her own mess at all.  I was honored.

I think guilt (and shame) is something a lot of people feel when it comes to their disorganization.  My bedroom is still a gigantic pit that shows bits and pieces of who I am…books of various genres strewn about the floor, discarded clothing—both clean and unclean—sitting in a pile on my chair, my school’s emergency phone tree folded up underneath one of my many scarves, jewelry that’s been cast off on one of my bookcases.  Of course, when people visit my home, my door is either closed (so they can’t see the messy part of who I am), or I have spent the better part of day making my room look organized.

Fortunately, I have two very gracious roommates.  One of them is like me and her bedroom is also a complete mess (sorry for ratting you out, Mo!).  It’s great; there’s a lot less shame involved with being disorganized when there is someone to be disorganized with you.  Our other roommate is the complete opposite of us.  She even goes so far as to make her bed every day.  Even though the shared living spaces of our home are basically mess-free, I worry sometimes that my piles drive her crazy.  Like I said, though, I have gracious roommates.

My fourth grade students have even picked up on my disorganization.  At first, this was embarrassing for me.  Then one of them told me that I wasn’t really disorganized because I always know where to find everything (except for keys, but that’s a whole other story).  And last month, one of my friends came over and witnessed the two “messy” bedrooms of the house and commended us.  She even said that it’s not that our “neat” roommate tries harder; being neat is just what comes naturally to her, just as piles come naturally to me.

So what do I do with this knowledge of my tendency to pile?  Well, I still spend the day before a visit from my mom cleaning frantically.  Then I promise myself, “This is the last time I’ll let it get this bad.”  

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