Monday, August 03, 2009

Sometimes the clutter in our house gets to us. Our house is plenty big for the three of us, but the forces of entropy are both relentless and sneaky, so the equilibrium organizational level of our house tends to a value somewhere between disordered and pathologically chaotic.

Some of the people reading this entry who have been to my house and successfully emerged without getting a child's toy lodged in their sphincter might dispute how I've described the household clutter, but I must remind those people that they have not spent time in The Crap Room(s). You see, we've actually got a room (or two) that isn't used for day-to-day activity and thus becomes the place where stuff accumulates. Before guests enter my house, I make sure to "disappear" all non-essential items into The Crap Room(s) and that's where those items stay until my wife finds them years later. (In fact, just last week Hank found an old Winter Present Tree Day gift that I intended to give her 2 years ago, but apparently hid it too well in the weeks before the big day)

Now, when I get the itch to tidy (and I'm more likely to get jock itch than tidy itch), it's generally because I can no longer safely access parts of the house that I value, like the couch or the toilet. So, I clean up by removing the bad things (pokey toys, toe-stubby books on the floor, flammable towers of this-n-that) and disappearing them into The Crap Room(s). Once the bad things are gone, the house is tidy again!

My wife, Hank, applies a different algorithm to tidying. She prefers to approach the mess holistically. She will spend a good deal of time thinking and will come to some conclusion like "Every bookcase needs to be in a different room!" or "Daisy needs a bed with drawers!" and then she'll spend a couple of hours on Step Alpha-1-A of the Master Plan which invariably involves taking every item off of every shelf in the house and putting them on the floor. Often this step consumes all the time we have to dedicate to cleaning, and I then shortcut steps Alpha-1-B through Zeta-Infinity-Z by fork-lifting the new mess into The Crap Room(s). Voila!

You see, Hank suffers from the delusion that the reason we have clutter is because we don't have enough boxes, shelves, and drawers to put stuff in. What she fails to realize is that her utopia, a sort of organizational nirvana where every physical item in the house has a cozy home sorted by function and aesthetics, would be a completely temporary condition. It would last as long as it would take me or Daisy to actually use one of these stored items and then leave it laying around on the nearest surface.

I'm just not motivated to find or remember which box we use to store our extra boxes. The Crap Room(s) used to always be the answer. It was where the old computer, exercise ball, extra couch, my favorite dust bunny, That Box I've Had Since College all lived. Now, instead of one all-encompassing answer for where things should live, there are millions of answers.

Anyway, I'm just bitching here because I'm losing this battle. Hank is fully entrenched in the current reorganization and it's all I can do to not be either given away to Goodwill or stuffed into a spiffy wicker box from the Container Store myself. I just wish it to be known that I mourn for The Crap Room(s).


Hank said...

As we all know, there are inequities in every relationship. One partner will always be the tidier, or the better-smelling, or the more civic-minded. And one partner will always exceed the other at packratiness. I think the proof for this rule lies somewhere in the pigeon hole principle and I leave it as an exercise for the alert reader. More important is this corollary: the partner who exceeds at packratiness is never the one who exceeds at tidiness.

(And have you ever tried to CLEAN a room full of crap? You can't vacuum. Dusting is an exercise in futility. God forbid anyone uses the crap room to hoard food like a concentration camp victim because you'll never figure out where that smell is coming from.)

More than having a place to put the stuff we have, the issue is getting rid of the stuff we don't need. Here is a small sample of what I've removed from our house this month:
- 6 unused computers in various states of repair and antiquity.
- Dozens of technical manuals for software obsolete for an average of ~7 years.
- Cabling for more than 10 removed devices, spanning the gap from nowhere to nowhere.
- Packaging materials for purchases more than 5 years old.

More interesting is the stuff I have not been able to remove because Mr. Packrat is sure we might someday need it. Example 1: "What! We might need that suitcase someday!" "But we haven't used it in 10 years. We've bought 5 other suitcases since then." "But it might be just the exactly perfect size for some future trip!" Example 2: "We have 5 desks. Can we get rid of one or two?" "How can you know that we don't need 5 desks? We need to plan our future desk usage for all time before we can make that decision!" "But only three of us live here. How many desks can we each use at once?" Example 3: "What's in this filing cabinet. It's covered with an inch of dust. Do you really need what's in there?" "Don't touch my filing cabinet!" "Okay, sure, I won't. Why should I? No one else does."

I am close to finished with this effort and I am sure I will successful in at least getting my daughter to start putting things away, now that there is a suitable space (and room to grow) for her stuff. More, I hope she can enjoy using more of what she has with a sense of space and ease. I just hope to stop tripping over crap all the time.

Mike said...

Hank! I love you too! <3 <3 <3

venus said...

I think the proof for this rule lies somewhere in the pigeon hole principle and I leave it as an exercise for the alert reader.
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