It might have been the six pairs of mismatched shoes I had to step over. Or maybe it was the family room that looked like the aftermath of a sports store clearance sale. It could have been the unfinished art projects, broken crayons, and markers (without their caps on) strewn all over the kitchen table. But one look at all this…stuff and I was seeing red.
I’m clearly living with a bunch of pack rats and slobs, and it’s driving me to the brink.
To be fair, I am not a clean freak by any stretch. I don’t obsess about changing my sheets on a weekly basis. I’m not vacuuming daily, and you can certainly find science projects brewing in my fridge. My motto when it comes to most things domestic is: Meh, good enough.
But lately, I feel like I’m drowning in stuff. And my mind is constantly racing with thoughts like: SERIOUSLY, FAMILY, ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME WITH ALL YOUR USELESS CRAP?
Most of the time I try to ignore it. I step over the shoes strewn around the front door. I ignore the mountains of craft projects and very important (i.e., not important at all) paperwork on the counter. I resist the urge to chuck the approximately 15,000 Pokémon and baseball cards, littered all over every surface, straight into the garbage.
I take deep breaths and remind myself that the magic is in the mess (What does that even mean? I forget) and harness my inner Zen.
And then I remember Zen left the building long ago, and I’m fresh out of fucks because Zen Mommy is now Overwhelmed Mommy who has lost her ever-loving shit.
It’s not that I expect my house to look like something from a West Elm catalog or think my kids should get by with a handful toys (wooden and non-electronic, of course), but it would be nice if I didn’t trip over baseball cleats every time I walked up the stairs. It would be fucking peachy if my kitchen counter were clear of the piles of indiscernible “art projects” that my kid doesn’t remember making but can’t bear to part with. It would be really fucking fantastic if there wasn’t a full-blown tantrum when I suggest getting rid of a rock collection collecting dust on the coffee table.
There’s so damn much of it. I’m drowning in stuff.
It isn’t just the sheer amount of toys, clothes, paperwork, art projects, crayons, pictures, trading cards, and other “stuff” that seems to be breeding under my nose, it’s also that no one seems to remember to clean up after their damn selves. Is it really that hard to put a snack wrapper in the garbage? To carry a plate to the sink or — gasp! — the dishwasher? Is it so damn difficult to put the clothes you just shed into the laundry hamper instead of leaving them on the floor next to the laundry hamper?
And the shoes. OMG, family, we need to talk about shoes. Why are there 25 pairs of shoes piled up by the front door? We are a family of four. Four. There’s no need for this.
This can’t just be me, right?
I am obviously not a full-fledged minimalist, but I’m definitely a wannabe minimalist. Our house is modest, and we have one car. I fantasize about clean drawers, empty spaces, a bathroom counter that isn’t covered in Lego creations, and a front door that isn’t blocked by a mountain of shoes. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Yet despite my B+ minimalist aspirations, somehow we accumulate all this stuff, which breeds into more stuff until our home starts to look like the clearance aisle at T.J. Maxx. And all this stuff — this needless shit — is giving me anxiety. Really.
I need some serious help here too. Like, grandparents, how about taking my kids to the museum for their birthday instead of buying them the New Trendy Toy that will undoubtedly end up collecting dust in the basement or mocking me from an overflowing toy bin? And teachers, maybe we could do emails instead of the reams of papers with updates? And fellow parents, can we please just agree to skip the goody bags and worthless plastic crap we send kids home with after a birthday party?
And to the three other people I share a house with: I know it’s hard to part with all this crap. Believe me, I can justify keeping almost anything. What if a group of rogue toddlers comes for a visit and wants to play with that box of Duplos and old Happy Meal toys we haven’t touched in three years? What if Amazon Prime shuts down and I need a garlic press or extra-large wok?
But I’m pretty sure we don’t need those handwritten notes about the fantasy baseball draft three years ago or 357 Matchbox cars. It won’t physically hurt you to throw your wrappers in the garbage and carry your cup to the sink. Your rock collection will survive just fine with all the other rocks outside, and those scraps of cut-out paper will find many friends in the recycling bin. Trust me.
As it stands, my current m.o. is something like this: Clean up. Get lazy. Nag my family to clean up their crap. Ignore the mess for a while. Nag some more. Lose my fucking shit. Rinse and repeat.
This is not sustainable.
Maybe my family really is oblivious to the mess. Maybe they just have a different tolerance for clutter. Or maybe I’m raising a a pack of feral heathens. Whatever the case, something has to give. We are going to de-clutter and minimize because our mental well-being and enjoying our home is more important than stuff.