Rainy days and Mondays something something

By Mir
December 10, 2012

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.


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.


  1. Mame

    I cancelled my dental cleaning in the spring, I can’t recall the excuse at the time but in fact I’m pretty sure it was because of the young Russian hygienist they hired. No, she’s not the only hygienist and I always tell them I don’t want her, but she’s aggressive enough that she’s turned me off to regular cleanings. So I cancelled the cleaning and by November I still hadn’t made a new appointment. I’m also kind of thrifty and I started thinking about how I was wasting my dental insurance, so I called and made an appointment. I was shocked to learn that I had a gum line cavity that had become an abscess and ended up with a root canal. I can’t help but wonder if I had the cleaning in the spring if they would have found the cavity when it only needed a filling. I’m impressed and inspired by your office cleaning. I need to clean my sewing room and I do that in January, not December.

  2. Sara

    I can’t speak to your neurosis. I can only speak of mine–and honey, I am LOADED in that department. However, I’m pretty sure that even those super-organized list makers out there feel overwhelmed when December rolls around.

    As to those chirpy passive-aggressive notes from the dentist: what is that about? I’ve been getting them too–times 5!!–since I had to cancel not only my own dental appointment (thanks, son #2’s football playoff game!), but that of my four children (thanks, out of town emergency!). I’m really very good about keeping appointments and on the off chance that I must cancel, I do it within the designated 24 hours. We are pretty fanatical about climbing in that chair every 6 months. I have had a post-it on my computer since I cancelled saying “RESCHED. DENTIST!” It’s screamed at me every day and stands as a visible reminder of my failure with every day that goes by that I don’t get those appointments scheduled. Their reminders only make me want to punch someone in the throat.

    Not that I would. More likely I’ll apologize profusely for any aggravation that trying to schedule the five of us will cause. And then I’ll volunteer to take an appointment that isn’t convenient for me so the scheduling people won’t think I’m a horrible person.

    See? Neuroses. I gots ’em!

  3. Mamalang

    So I was just thinking this morning about how I have neglected to schedule my yearly gynecologist visit for the entire year and I better get on that. Gla to see I’m not alone with those skills.

  4. Diane

    Um, yeah. I may have spent the time I should have used Saturday to pull the million and one nails the old owners left in my walls and spackle them, and otherwise prepare for the massive condo painting happening December 26th (yes, the day after Christmas I need to have the furniture pulled away from the walls, breakables moved and all light and outlet plates removed in FOUR rooms) to ORGANIZE MY CLOSET BY COLOR.

    Avoidance, she is a bitch.

  5. Jean

    I love it when my husband goes through stuff. I tend to keep things on the off chance that at some point maybe I will need it, and he is decisive and shreds or throws things out (note he is usually right to throw out and shred). It is so refreshing and makes me feel like I can tackle everything!!!

  6. Valerie

    Overwhelmed, neurotic list maker here. Mir, only one thing left to say now.

    You’re so pretty and now your office matches!!! Enjoy it for the 3 days it lasts…

  7. Jen

    Dunno. I’d blame it on the craptastic year. Just have coffee ready for the early afternoon exhaustion wall. :(

  8. A different Jean

    1) The only time I do serious housework is when I’m supposed to be grading papers at the end of the semester. Which only happens twice a year. . .

    2) I figured out years ago that if you keep anything (any paper thing, that is) long enough, it becomes trash and you can just throw it out. I used to do the sort-and-toss thing once a year. Lately, not so much. The piles are growing . . .

    You are not alone.

  9. Jennifer

    Entropy – that’s my excuse . Married to physics teacher – Entropy is LIKE A LAW or something blah blah blah math/physics snore….Order ALWAYS returns to disorder without a constant input of energy (or some crap like that). I personally am a law abiding citizen and just don’t want to get pulled over by the Universe Police for breaking a law…where would you go to court for something like that? Breaking a Universe Law would probably be a pretty heafty fine (and usually about this time the husband’s eyes start rolling and he walks away).

  10. Beth in IA

    But you’ll always have the memories of the high you were on yesterday. Treasure those feelings, you had them in December!! They not resurface much again this month. :-)

    Regarding the dentist, late this summer I was feeling some pain in a tooth and knew I was late scheduling my regular 6-month cleaning. Made an appointment and when I got there, they told me it had been 18 months since I had my teeth cleaned. What the? What happened to all of 2011 and half of 2012?!? I was more freaked out about how I deluded I’d been about the last time I’d seen the dentist than finding out that sore tooth was cracked and required a root canal.

  11. Therese

    My husband just about cries every time he looks in our home office, and then he rags on me because my work office is so immaculate. I tell him all the time if I had 40 hours a week to spend in the home office, it would be clean too. But I really don’t think it would be. Very easily distracted by shiny things, I am :)

  12. Heather

    OMG….from the aversion to To-Do Lists to the habit of “doing things that don’t need to be done,” to the feeling of faking organized responsible adulthood – you just captured me! I totally get this, except that my husband is NOT Otto in that he makes more mess than I do and I usually am the one to bite the bullet and tackle big projects (like I did on Saturday after promising the family Mom, who just started a new job after 4 years of SAHM-ing and the family is in TRANSITION, YO!, would not clean all day and then promptly began rearranging furniture, whoopsie!). I feel your overwhelm, and I have ONE more room before I can say, “Maybe this year is the year of organized living?!?!”

  13. Holly Gault

    I know this pas de deux, the difference is that sometimes Steve leads and then we switch. It can get confusing.
    Now you have a clean office AND coffee!

  14. Jamie

    Can Otto come to my house?! I’ve got a closet/room to tackle. You’re inspiring!!

  15. Lauren

    I, too, respond to overwhelming work by shutting down. I find it somewhat less than efficient, but I continue to do it.

  16. Little Bird

    List maker here. I make lists about pretty much everything. But it must be on paper, and handwritten. I have notebooks full of lists. Dunno why. It’s not like I ever refer back them. My organizational shame areas are my closet and the “makeup and stuff” drawer of my dresser. No one is allowed to see them but me.

  17. Katie in MA

    Are you sure you’re really you? And not Clone Mir? Maybe check to make sure Mir 1.0 isn’t under the covers in bed. :)

  18. js

    I am very happy for you and your moment of productive-ness. There are many, many office cleaning-type items that I need to make a damn To-Do List for but I have decided to quit that altogether. It’s not that I don’t want to be an organzied, respectable member of society. It’s just that every time I finish one insurmountable task, there are fifteen more impossible things that crop up in it’s place. Also, I feel this post should be given the honorary name of, “See Your Dentist”, based on the comments. In case you were wondering, I had my husbands’ work holiday party to go to, so I just saw mine. He politely told me I need about a million dollars worth of dental work so I won’t be going THERE anymore. ;-)

  19. Brigid

    There is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with making “write to-do list” the first task of the to-do list. In fact, finding paper and a writing utensil can even go before that. Boom. Three things done.

  20. Korinthia Klein

    Congratulations on getting organized! I have a million things that need to get done but I’ve decided for no apparent reason that I need to stay up until midnight every night gluing fake jewels on a broken cello. Inspiration strikes when it strikes I guess.

  21. Mary K. in Rockport

    This is how things get done in our house also – my husband, whom we semi-affectionately call Hyperactive Guy, starts a job that I can’t face, and I, embarrassed/not liking the way he is doing it, plunge in and voila, something gets done. This is the man who scrubbed my beautiful wool Rya carpet with soapy water and a scrub brush while I was in the hospital having our first child, and also threw out my archive of “historical” magazine covers (JFK Assassination, that sort of thing.) Lesson learned – do the tasks myself before he does!

  22. Corey

    I heart you. Your house is probably nowhere near the defcon level of clutteredness that mine is, but I’ll let my mind’s eye believe that it is and heart you for saying so.


  23. Arnebya

    Let’s blame Monday for it all; I can get behind that (and push unil Monday falls off a very high (non-fiscal) cliff.) I am proud of your cleaning accomplishments. I wish I could say the same. I do know that clutter keeps me from being productive BUT I can’t get through the clutter. The paper. The magazines from last December that I haven’t read but that are so glossy and pretty that I do intend on reading them because ooh! Look! Recipes.

    I hope you thanked Otto. I hope you gave him some. Coffee. Especially coffee in a pot that didn’t need replacing!

  24. Megan @ Mama Bub

    Oh BOY, can I relate. My parents are coming to stay here, WITHOUT US, for the weekend, because we’re going out of town and they’re watching the kids. That means I can’t even have a secret mess because they’re going to have access to the entire house. They’re going to see my closet, which is the one area of the house my husband is not allowed to harass me about. I have three days. I’m going in.

  25. Sharon

    Your office sounds like a haven I would enjoy right now. I have a room to get cleaned, organized, and set up for my son and daughter-in-law for their visit for Christmas. Too much to think about today, so I’m drinking coffee and reading about how much you have accomplished;)

  26. Jan in Norman, OK

    A caption to a cartoon I’ve always liked: “Oh, I could get organized. But that would take all the sport out of coping.”


  27. Brigitte

    I have “to do” lists, but nothing ever gets crossed off, because the top few things are the repeaters (do laundry, PUT AWAY laundry, do dishes, now PUT THEM AWAY, etc.). And I never get to all that other stuff near the bottom (What? Mail thank-you cards we filled out two onths ago?).

  28. bryan

    I am having a bad Monday too. I blame the weather.

  29. Kate

    I’m a hot mess. That is all.

  30. Lucinda

    Mir, you’ve had such a tough year. I am amazed you even manage to blog as much as you do. Or function at all for that matter. I bet everyone around you knows that too. I admire your willingness to really open up about how you feel. Even in the midst of all the crazy, you still write.

    Maybe for yourself but your readers, like me, benefit because I have had those moments where hiding and avoiding really seemed the best I could do. You remind me of that and help me as I’m watching my daughter do it too. She is struggling with hormones and changes and growing up in general. She is too cerebral for her own good which just makes it worse.

    Clearly you’ve made some really good choices though and you are at least half as amazing as you sound on your blog or you wouldn’t have people like Otto in your life who just want to pick you up and carry you through the hard times. So that was a long-winded way of saying you’re still my hero. Even with a messy office.

  31. Angela

    I feel you. The ONLY list I ever make is a grocery list. Other than that, I can SEE all the THINGS that need to be done in my house, so why write them down? Plus, “writing things down” is really just Another Thing To Do, so to me it seems redundant! My worst organization area is the mail. I generally do pretty well about opening the mail on a regular basis, but then actually filing all that crap away is another story. I now have about a foot tall pile of bills/receipts/insurance crap I need to keep/etc., that need to be filed. Of course now the pile is just TOO BIG and I can’t deal with it! **falls on the ground throwing temper tantrum**

  32. Alicia

    I need your burst of energy. Can I borrow Otto to help shame me into motivation? I’ve been a less than stellar organizer since having a baby then promptly waving goodbye to the Husband as he left for a deployment. If he’s not here to witness my death under a pile-o-papers, than it never really happened…. or something like that. Point is, you’re not alone! I slack, therefore I am— a slacker!

    Way to clean up! I almost feel inspired. :)

  33. Jessica

    A) Don’t try the cloning yourself route. Haven’t you read that Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin clones himself, but all the clones pretty much just acted exactly like him anyway, so nothing gets done at all but a bunch of arguing about why the clones aren’t doing what the original Calvin didn’t want to do (homework)? Yeah, that would probably happen. And while I know you have a king bed, I don’t think you could fit a bunch of Mir-clones in there along with Otto.

    B) If you do go the clone route and Otto gets fed up with 10 Mir-clones all hiding in the bed, so he can’t fit anymore, would you send him this way to clean up our office? Neither of us are really into tidying up and organizing. (Except, I am, because I threw a fit a couple weeks ago and really went to town on the bedroom. Not the office, though. It’s looking better but…)

  34. addy

    Yaaaa the office…… nope not today! maybe – next week – or not.

  35. Brenda

    I moved a few months ago. I spend a full two months without use of my kitchen because the thought of washing every dish I own and finding a new way to organize them was just too much. A friend of mine came over, spent 2 1/2 hours washing my dishes, and she brought me candles as an apartment warming gift. I still have piles of things that need organizing, and I have four boxes that aren’t unpacked yet. I just found my glue gun, which I need to use, but I have no idea where the glue sticks are. And the most frustrating thing is that I’m constantly frustrated that I knew exactly where something was in my old apartment but have no idea where to look here. Someday my apartment will be organized and decorated and it will be wonderful.

  36. Heather

    It really is a pity you can’t lend Otto out ;-) So all that, and no before/after photos? I might cry :P Seriously though, good on ya!

  37. youpi

    If I had talent, I could have written this post…

  38. kapgaf

    My mother was the queen of lists : she wrote the same thing on her to do list several times so that she could then cross off several items on her list! I make shopping lists and very complex spreadsheets (a countdown timetable, a shopping list with a colour-coded column per shop, a list of all the things that will be needed…) for special occasions that I organize. Obssessive, me ? But despite the lists, where displacement activity is concerned, I am the queen : the carpet needs vacuuming ? I’ll just change this broken drawer handle. This paperwork needs to be completed by yesterday ? I’ll just re-organize this cutlery drawer. And so it goes on.

    Perhaps you could consider that the fact that you have got out of bed is already a great achievement at the start of every day? That should make you feel good even before the coffee kicks in.

    Here’s hoping you get some kind of respite from the December pressure !

  39. ememby

    It is like reading a commentary of something running from my head but my husband, for all his wonderful qualities is not as saintly as Otto and also suffers my same brand of putting things off-itis. But what I really wanted to say was the Guy Fieri interlude made me laugh out loud and with tears! Thanks for that.

  40. Amanda

    Do you rent Otto out? Not that my husband wouldn’t help me, but I need someone to wrangle kids. It’s why things are left undone around here. I’m often left to do them myself with kids underfoot, or myself while my husband wrangles kids for me because I have these weird control issues (neuroses) where I feel I MUST be the one to tackle these projects. Then I get so overwhelmed I just stare at it all.

  41. Celine

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I’m also hopelessly disorganized but can only work productively in a clean and well-organized setting. Which is a problem.
    After 2 years, I finally went and got my teeth cleaned yesterday. I can feel the wind of change starting to blow.

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