It’s amazing how something like a couple of dirty socks or a pair of rogue shoes can set my nerves ablaze. I’ll be going about my business, and then one look at the collection of dirty glasses in the family room or the pile of old Sports Illustrated for Kids magazines on the dining room floor, and all hell breaks loose.
I don’t want to lose my shit over a pair of socks or a pile of dirty clothes, yet here we are.
Because this is thing: Clutter and messes drives me absolutely bonkers. BATSHIT BONKERS.
Let me start by saying that I am certainly not a clean freak. I’m a horrible housekeeper and a little dirt never really bothered me. I don’t obsess about changing my sheets on a weekly basis (we’re on more of a monthly rotation around here). I don’t vacuum and you can usually find science experiments percolating in my produce drawer in the fridge.
I’m not trying to keep a “perfect” home in any sense. In fact, I live with a houseful of boys, which means the bathroom constantly smells like pee. I don’t dust our ceiling fans or wash our windows. We live in a small, old house so I’ve grown accustomed to the shabby-chic-minus-the-chic look we’ve got going on around here. Let’s just say there is nothing about our house that is Chip and Joanna Gaines-approved.
My motto when it comes to most things domestic is: Meh, good enough.
But the clutter and all the miscellaneous “stuff” floating around and out of place? Well, that shit drives me absolutely bonkers.
Because nothing sets my anxiety off like clutter and mess.
And it’s not just me. Clutter is known to actually exacerbate anxiety and depression. Science says so.
A few weeks ago, I spent a Saturday afternoon on a must-purge-everything spree. I filled garbage bags with junk, and I piled clothes and toys and knickknacks from who-knows-when into boxes to donate. I was on a decluttering frenzy and nothing was safe. I warned my family to get on board the decluttering-bus or get out of my way. (They chose the latter.)
These get-it-out-or-burn-it-all-down rages seem to come on a fairly regular basis for me. And it has nothing to do with trying to be Suzy Homemaker, June Cleaver, or even something that would be worthy of Property Brothers. Let me be clear: I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m just trying to keep the panic attacks and anxiety under control. I don’t care what others think about my house; I care about my mental health.
I try to be pretty chill about the general chaos that comes with raising young kids. I don’t even flip out when my kids don’t put the toilet seat down (which is pretty much all the time). I step over the shoes strewn around the front door. (Seriously, why are there so many shoes? We are only a family of four.) I ignore the mountains of craft projects and the very important (read: not important at all) papers on the counter. I resist the urge to chuck the approximately 15,000 baseball cards, littered all over every surface, straight into the garbage. I try to be calm and zen and tell myself “we’re busy making memories.” (No, we’re not; we’re just making messes.)
But eventually things pile up, and then it all spirals out of control. And it isn’t just the slow accumulation of stuff that happens over time. It’s the dirty clothes that don’t make it into the laundry. It’s the socks my family likes to drop wherever they like. It’s the piles of toys and books and cups and plates and candy wrappers that no one feels the need to clean up except for me.
The clutter and “stuff” and million little messes build up and trigger the anxiety bubbling just below the surface. I can feel the hot lava under my skin and then its spews out in a volcano of rage cleaning fury: OMG, AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES THE FILTH WE’RE LIVING IN?!?! CAN’T YOU PEOPLE PICK UP AFTER YOURSELVES?!?! SERIOUSLY, FAMILY, ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME WITH ALL YOUR USELESS CRAP AND MESSES?
Deep breath. Phew. Okay.
I know it’s not logical to care so much about a few library books that never make it to the bookshelf or the backpacks that never get hung up on the hooks. I know it isn’t rational to want to stab a fork in someone’s eye when I see their dirty socks or sweaty baseball jersey on the floor. This is life with kids, after all.
But so help me, if I trip over one more shoe or find one more pile of broken crayons on the dining room floor, my head might explode right on my neck. Because, sweet baby Jesus with a Roomba, I am telling you, I cannot deal with my family’s filth and clutter.
I. Just. Cannot.
There are eleventy million pairs of shoes scattered around the back door, in the front entry way, and in the middle of the bathroom. There’s a scattering of sugary cereal strewn about the kitchen, like a trail of crumbs for some secret visitor. There are piles of baseball cards on the kitchen counter, on the back of the toilet, and in the fridge.
I can deal with a little dirt and I’m not looking to impress anyone, but the everyday clutter is killing me slowly.