Make time for the mess

Yesterday two of my friends sent me links to this article in the New York Times: Saying Yes to Mess. One friend — this would be the friend who does NOT have ADHD – attached a note saying: “I should not send this to you. It only reinforces the futility of your struggle.” The other one, a comrade in the struggle, said: “Yesssss! Up to a point, anyway.”

Personally, I think that’s the key. “Moderation in all things.

My father, not one big on moderation, insisted, “There is a place for everything and everything goes in its place.” If I would just always put stuff back where it belonged then I’d always know where it was. And I would never waste any time looking for the thing. But, in fact, I do know where most of my stuff is. And maybe the time I spend looking for what I can’t find offsets the time I would spend cleaning it up.

I believe moderation is making the piles neat enough so they can be contained and do not threaten to topple or explode. Moderation is putting all the collected out-of-place stuff into one box so I know where to look for it. Or so it’s contained and more easily sorted later. Moderation is understanding that clean enough is just that.. clean enough. I prefer one of my grandmother’s mottos: “It’s better dusty than broken.”

I asked a neighbor who always seemed to have a perfectly neat house, “How much time do you spend each day doing house work?” She listed the time she spent cleaning up the kitchen and making beds and doing a little laundry, running the vacuum and dusting a little. I’m sure it was about two hours – every day! Man, I got stuff to do in those two hours that’s more important TO ME than cleaning. But you gotta know what your priorities are. Clean house was never one.

My husband likes his underwear folded neatly and put in his dresser drawers. He can’t understand why I shove my mine in the drawer just as it comes out of the laundry basket. He thinks it doesn’t take any time to fold underwear before you put it in the drawer. Have you ever actually figured out how much longer it takes to turn an undershirt right-side out and fold it? Let me tell you, it’s a lot longer than just shoving it in the drawer! And when I can no longer look in the drawer and tell the difference between panties and bras, I should just get locked away in a home!

If I take the plastic wrap off the new container of mushrooms and put it on the kitchen counter, my husband seems to think that I should stop everything and throw it immediately away. He claims it doesn’t take any time to do that. But that’s not true. Besides, if I stopped to put the trash away, I might forget the important part of the job I had set out to do, like, maybe, make dinner!

Jerrold Pollak, a neuropsychologist at Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, N.H., pointed out in the Times article that which we messies already know: “Total organization is a futile attempt to deny and control the unpredictability of life.”

Life is unpredictable – and messy! I can’t control the weather. I can’t control when the phone rings. And I can’t control where the lid of the spice bottle falls.

By the way, if it goes under the stove, I just put a plastic bag over the top of the jar, secure it with a rubber band and call it a day. I am NOT putting MY hand under the stove to pull out that lid! And if I fished it out with a broom handle, you wouldn’t want it back on the jar anyway! So why should I waste time fetching that which I can not see and is not in my way and is of no further use anyway?

David H. Freedman, who the NYT calls a “mess analyst,” and Eric Abrahamson are authors of “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder,” out in two weeks from Little, Brown & Company. They suggest this great “mess strategy:” … “create a mess-free DMZ … and acknowledge areas of complementary mess.” For me it could mean that there shall be no, er, very little mess in the living room. But the basement? That’s a whole different world. If my dear husband wants to keep every scrap of wood that he ever cut off the end of a board, he can do it in the basement.

Einstein’s oft-quoted remark, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”

I knew I liked Einstein!

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