I tend to be rather cerebral—I’m sure you never noticed that (oh, hi, you must be new here)—and as such, December has a way of knocking me into… I wouldn’t say a downward spiral, exactly, but a spiral more like a dog trying to chase its tail while on a staircase. There are so many THINGS that happen this month, so many reminders of what isn’t and what I wish wasn’t, and at some point in the month (if not at multiple points), I’m overwhelmed by a pervasive desire both to refuse to get out of bed AND to clone myself so that I can be everywhere I’m supposed to be. I suppose if that cloning thing ever works out, I can just hide under the covers and send my clones out to take care of life for me.
Some people are “To Do List” sorts of people. They derive great pleasure from crossing things off a list, and so they make lists with abandon. I am allergic to lists. I don’t know why this is, but I have a strong aversion to them. I suspect they make me feel inadequate, even though, yes, I KNOW, I could write “Make a list” as my first item and then cross it off, LIKE A BOSS. I suspect poor Otto had a moment of doubt about this whole marriage thing when he discovered that I never make a shopping list, which means I’m quite likely to return from the store with a trunkful of groceries but having forgotten the one thing we truly needed.
How To Pretend To Be A Responsible Adult Yet Be Completely Disorganized: my forthcoming book. (And by “forthcoming” I mean “never ever happening, because I suspect it would require some organizational skills I lack.”)
Anyway. I do have this one little maladaptive coping strategy in times of stress which I like to call “doing things that don’t need to be done.” Sure, what I SHOULD be doing is, say, working, and maybe running errands, or making a dentist appointment for a cleaning because MY GOD, I canceled an appointment over the summer at some point while Chickadee was in the hospital, and since then I’ve gotten a sad little passive-aggressive email from my dentist’s office every single month. (“We miss you! We noticed you’re overdue for your 6-month cleaning! Won’t you give us a call and let us make sure your dental health remains a priority?”) So what do I do in that situation? I bake cookies! Because OBVIOUSLY.
And really, if I do something like bake cookies, I feel all proud of myself and stuff. Because the alternative is the million-things-to-do metaphorical anvil hanging over my head and I simply… go sit on the couch and watch Food Network until all I can think about is how satisfying it would be to punch Guy Fieri in his smug goatee. [I have it all worked out in my head. After the punch, I’ll say, “That’s MONEY, baby.” Then I’ll apologize, because 1) I’m sure he’s a lovely human in spite of the douchey way he behaves on TV and 2) I’m not actually violent and/or a psychopath.]
I work, too, of course. But the work side of my brain is sure I’m not getting enough done and the rest of my brain feels guilty for working so much when Monkey NEEEEEDS me to look at the fortress he just built in Minecraft.
This is a lengthy preamble to telling you that a few weeks ago, Otto stood in the middle of my office and looked around and said, “What if I got you some new shelves for the closet? Would that help?” This was a very kind offer, but he said “Would that help?” and I heard “Seriously, is your desk even UNDER there? WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE YOU CLEAN UP THIS PIGSTY??” Otto would never say it like that. But Otto is tidy and my office usually looks like something blew up in here. Even having steam-cleaned the carpet less than two weeks ago was no protection against the relentless SPRAWL of detritus in here—I’d simply picked up anything that was on the floor and set it on any available horizontal surface. So the carpet is clean(er), but my desk was buried, the bookcases crammed and covered, etc. And the closet was an avalanche waiting to happen.
So, the shelves. Otto was kind enough to offer to help me get organized. And because I’m a terrible human being I’m pretty sure his generous suggestion actually brought me to the brink of tears… of panic. “I don’t have time to clean my office! Digging out the closet is going to be a HUGE job, and you KNOW I can’t take anything else on in December!” And poor Otto found himself backing away slowly, suggesting that if I wanted, he would empty my closet, install new shelving, and then organize it for me.
It’s offers like that which confirm that this man is a saint. Unfortunately, instead of feeling grateful, I insisted that NOOOOO, he couldn’t do that, it was too big of a job and I needed to do it, just not, you know, this month.
Eventually we settled on a compromise: He would get the shelves and empty the closet, then I could sort/pitch/whatever and put stuff back in. I agreed, grudgingly. It’s not that I don’t want my office to be cleaned up, it’s that it just seemed like a really overwhelming job, and I didn’t want my husband cleaning up my mess for me, either.
Otto bought the shelves. And then on Saturday he said, “I have to go get a few more things, but when I get back, I’m going to start working on your office. I’m just going to close myself in there and don’t you worry about it.” I was working on my laptop at the time and said okay, and then he left and I realized that yeah, he was really going to clean out my office for me because that’s just how great he is (and probably how horrified he’d become at the mess), so naturally I closed my laptop and rolled up my (bathrobe) sleeves and started cleaning.
By the time Otto got back, I had the closet halfway emptied. He was surprised (me tackling a big project unprompted like this is sort of like when you suddenly see a turtle booking along; you hadn’t even realized it was possible), and assured me he didn’t mind taking care of it, but by then I was in the zone. I finished emptying the closet, he took care of the shelving while I sorted through everything I’d unearthed, and by the time the shelves were ready I barely had anything to put on them. HA. Most of the piles of STUFF I’d chucked in there were things that I don’t need; half of it went into the trash and half of it went to Goodwill. And then after that I cleaned the REST of my office (some that afternoon and some the next morning), and my workspace is now PRISTINE, a miracle rivaling the vigin birth.
I thanked Otto about a dozen times for prodding me to get this done. It really is hard for me to feel productive and competent in a cluttered workspace. Now I know where everything is, there are no more teetering piles of wait-I-might-need-that, I’ve dusted and wiped down all the surfaces I haven’t seen in the better part of a year, and—bonus!—I found two gift cards I didn’t even know I had.
Last night I made an awesome dinner if I do say so myself—and I do, because my December disorganization means I haven’t been doing much real cooking, lately—and as I was doing the dishes before bed I felt heady with possibilities. Now that my office is clean, maybe I could tackle that pile of stuff on my dresser that’s been there since 2008! Maybe, JUST MAYBE, I could actually FINISH CLEANING before my parents come to visit next week! No more pulling the bedroom door shut behind me to cloak the fact that Otto’s half of the bedroom is tidy and my half is where messes I don’t want to leave in common areas of the house go to die. And don’t get me started on my bathroom—I totally NEED that towering pile of sample sizes of shampoo and stuff, man. I just haven’t figured out where to put it, yet.
THE POSSIBILITIES FOR PRACTICALLY BEING AN ORGANIZED GROWNUP ARE ENDLESS.
So we went to bed around 11:00, and I was feeling good, y’know? Then I woke up at 3:30. By 4:30 I gave up and got up. (This was very exciting for Licorice, who was sure that Kibble O’Clock had come early.) Since then I’ve been drinking coffee, working, and more or less agonizing over everything else I need to get done today. I can blame it on Monday and the rain, right? It doesn’t NECESSARILY mean I’m just completely neurotic?
Don’t answer that.