I belong to a group of mothers on Facebook and we requently post questions to each other asking for advice. Recently, I posted the following:
“I get to be a stay-at-home-mom for 20 blissful weeks. I have big plans about projects of decor and organization I want to do around the house. What I have found the first week, however, is that it’s so much work to stay on top of the day-to-day that I have no time left for my list of projects. To those of you who have been doing this longer, any advice?”
I got many responses, and they all said some version of: “When you figure it out, please let me know.”
It appears I’ve hit upon a universal challenge of SAHMs. The baby only naps for so many hours a day, so how can I finish my “to do list” in that limited time? So far, I can’t.
For example, Tuesday was the new Monday this week. Labor Day gave us a three-day weekend, which amounted to an extra day to make a mess around the house. Dishes were piled high in the sink, laundry piled high in the bedroom, empty beer bottles piled high in the recycle bin. Viva’s toys and art supplies were everywhere.
After I came back from taking Viva to day care, I nursed Pringles down for her two-hour morning nap and tackled the kitchen. That took almost all of naptime. And I didn’t even “deep clean” the kitchen. I just did the dishes, wiped down the range and swept the floor. I did about three loads of laundry, including two dryer-fuls of unfolded clothes Odie washed over the weekend.
Some people forget laundry in the washer. My spouse has an equally annoying laundry forgetfulness. I actually think it’s neglect more than forgetfulness. He leaves laundry in the dryer. I absolutely hate this. I would rather he didn’t do the damn laundry at all than wash it, dry it and leave it unfolded in the dryer.
Because you can’t just pull it out and fold it. Everything is wrinkled to hell. I end up having to run the “touch up” feature on my dryer which sprays the clothes with mist and then tumbles them. It’s like a steamer only not anywhere near as effective. Odie would happily just get his underwear from the dryer for weeks. That shiftless son of a bitch.
Thus, before I can even begin the three loads of laundry, I must redry and fold two loads (he also has a charming habit of putting the freshly dried clothing in the basket, thereby making room to put another load in the dryer and folding neither). Between laundry and cleaning the kitchen, I have to nurse and change my baby. Having a two year-old who only needs a diaper change a few times a day, I am overwhelmed by how much Pringles gets wet. And nothing feels better to her than going in a clean diaper, so as soon as I put it on, she looks at me with this sweet relaxed face that says, “Yes! Finally!” and then she floods it.
I’m proud of myself that I still managed to tidy the living room. I didn’t get to vacuum the pound of sand Viva brought back from the playground in her shoes and her hair, but I’ll get to it.
Projects I have planned include cleaning out all of our drawers and closets and either throwing out or donating clothing. It’s good that I have the opportunity to do this without Odie home, because it would never happen. If you’ve ever watched any of the “Hoarders” shows, you know that every time those helpful people try to throw out a load of crap, the toothless cat lady has to “go through it” first. Those are always Odie’s exact words. “I’ll need to go through anything you want to get rid of.”
Not if it’s only my stuff you won’t.
Odie’s college roommate has an “Odie the Loveable Jackass” story, my name for the genre of tales most of his friends from that era like to tell. Roommate basically scooped up all of Odie’s stuff that was everywhere and put it in a giant yard trash bag and dumped it on his bed. The goal was for him to “go through it” at some point, which never happened. My understanding is that the bag merely made daily pilgrimages from the bed to the floor to the closet as needed.
I, myself, am a purger. I would call 1-800-GotJunk today, point to the house and say “Everything.” But leave the kids. That would be my dream. To start over. This very same scenario is Odie’s nightmare. While he is convinced that there are hidden, buried treasures in our house and garage that he cannot live without, I am equally convinced that if I’ve lived without it this long, I can continue to do so.
Just to prove me wrong, over Labor Day Weekend he unearthed a remote control helicopter he hasn’t played with for four years and spent all weekend fucking with it. It flies (sort of) for about 45 seconds, and then he has to fiddle with it for about 4.5 hours. Imagine if I had thrown it out or given it away, the experience I would have robbed him of!
My plan is to get rid of my shit and categorize and store his. If I can’t cart it off to Goodwill, at least I can label it and pack it away where he will always know where it is while he is never using it ever again. I won’t make the mistake I made with the laundry on Thursday.
While folding one of the loads Odie left in the dryer, I noticed some of the white (or formerly white) t-shirts were in horrible shape. He’d probably had some of them for ten years. I logged on to Amazon.com and ordered him two three-packs of new white t-shirts, then threw the offending shirts in the garbage. I did the same for any socks that had holes in them. I refuse to continue to wash and fold socks with holes. I love being a housewife in the online shopping era. Need new shirts? Click! New shirts on their way, with free shipping! Of course, it might also be nice to be a housewife in the sixties where I could just get a prescription for Valium if I were feeling dissatisfied by the condition of my husband’s shirts.
I was very excited to tell him about this, but when I did, you should have seen his face. He held it together, because there was very much a “I am not going to get upset because what’s done is done” set about his shoulders.
“You’re upset!” I said, astonished. “You’re upset that I threw your stained old t-shirts away!”
“I’m not,” he insisted, unconvincingly.
“You ARE!” I shook my head, disbelieving, and promised both him and myself I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I don’t want him to be upset, of course. I love him. As much as I’d like to pile most of his stuff in the front yard, squirt lighter fluid on it and blow it to Hell, I wouldn’t want to make him sad.
I’m just going to have to get some yard trash bags.