Day: August 22, 2012

Exactly the Same, Only Different

Day two of the school schedule and it is all beginning to feel familiar. My brain is unearthing the habits which lay fallow for three months. I’m remembering to watch for school pick up times and what times of day are parenting heavy because all the kid needs get squished into the same few hours. The kids are all in the same schools as last year, so no one is adapting to a big cultural shift. We are beginning to fall into the patterns of last spring. Even the afternoon carpooling schedule is the same. Except Kiki has a before school class that requires us to get up earlier every other day. Last year Gleek and Patch had teachers with very regular and regimented homework schedules. I can tell already this year is going to be different. I think this will be the year that Gleek seizes control of her homework and I’ll need to keep my hands off. It feels like I’m going to be able to continue to require chores instead of having to excuse kids because they’re overwhelmed. This year we might even be able to make the weekly activities for the kids. Things are looking good, so naturally I’m holding my breath waiting for crisis to erupt. Surely there has to be a crisis, some big emotional event or huge homework slog to be got through. Yet when I try to sense it, anticipate the shape of it, I can’t. Maybe that means there won’t be one for awhile. Maybe we can just have small daily crankiness and stress instead of big worry and diagnostic processes. At least for a month or two. By November the shapes of the strains will begin to emerge.

For now, we’re back to school and it feels the same, only different.

Organizing the House

In the past six months my house has grown steadily more organized, clean, and attractive. I still have a lot of work to do, but improvement is visible in almost every room. I’m glad for this. The push toward organization and beautification began last fall when I sat in my messy office and pictured what it would be like if I broke down a wall. I was deliberately shaking up my thought processes at around that time, forcing myself out of old patterns without being sure what the new patterns would look like. I stared around at the jumble in my office and started picturing what my ideal office would be like, how it could be arranged to provide space for the things which make me happy. My office was a box, and I was able to see how to break the bounds of that box to create something new. I gave myself permission to really own the space and turn it into whatever I wanted. The vision was exciting and all the other organization flowed from there.

July was the month of extended family in my house and the family reunion of 35 people in one cabin. I found it fascinating that I responded to the over crowding by organizing, cleaning, and getting rid of stuff. There were days when it was really compulsive, I had to keep picking up, scrubbing, imposing order on my surroundings. As compulsions go, I’ll pick cleaning over piling any day, but it did trigger a concern for me. As my house gets more organized, I notice the small messes more. I couldn’t have noticed them before, because they were buried in the large messes, but now I see them and they bother me. I need to clean them up, make my surroundings more lovely. Then I remember the old adage “a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind.” I’m not sure that being compulsively clean is mentally healthier than being disorganized and jumbled all the time. I guess time will tell if my recent push toward organization is me becoming healthier or just a different manifestation of my particular neuroses. I strongly suspect that the influx of school things impinging on my time will test my intention to make my surroundings lovely.

One of the hardest parts of my new-found organization is keeping my hands off of the spaces and things which belong to my kids. I want to organize all the things, however if I swoop in and clean up their messes, they will never learn how to do it for themselves. I’ve found a lot of growth in examining how I relate to spaces and things. If I clean up after them constantly, they will never have the chance to learn those lessons. This is why I spent an afternoon sorting with Gleek. We began with a trash bag, a donate box, and a bribe. She could have a small new toy she has been wanting if we could clear the floor, fill the garbage bag, and put some stuff into the donate box. I was pleasantly surprised with how willing she was to get rid of stuff. Even better, I learned a lot about her and what she values. Things which seemed like junk to me felt like treasures to her, and once she explained why they mattered, I could see the value. Because I let her make all the decisions, she was willing to listen when I asked her if she really needed to keep some of the items. The end result was a room where I can now clean the carpet. I need to go through the same process with Patch next. Hopefully listening to how he relates to his things will help us create an organizational scheme that lets him keep his things organized for more than three days. This approach to helping my kids I learned from watching Hoarding: Buried Alive. I can’t watch very much of the show, too depressing, but a few episodes were instructional.

The open question is whether I’ll continue to have emotional and physical energy for organization beyond maintenance now that school has begun. Time will tell I suppose.