by Christy Gualtieri
Our home is filled with the efforts of trying to teach our preschooler how to pick up after himself. It’s going as well as you might expect: a lot of crying, whining, and refusing. Every night, we give him his orders (“time to start cleaning up,” “time to pick up your blocks”), and every night, he tells either my husband or myself to do it and heads back to his spot on the couch, watching us with an expectant eye.
It doesn’t last very long: eventually, after a lot of effort, threats, and tears, he makes his way to the toys and dutifully begins to put them back where they belong. It’s a long process (way too long), but essential, as he begins to learn the lessons he’ll (hopefully) turn into good habits as he gets older.
Cleaning up after oneself is the hot new thing, and not just for preschoolers, either. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” is a #1 NY Times bestseller; hundreds of social media photos show before-and-after portraits of messy and clean rooms captioned with sentences like “finally free!” and “eliminating the noise our possessions create.”
There is something to be said about the satisfaction one feels when they’ve tackled a large organizing process. I spent the greater part of my time last week on a mission: I was going to Organize. My four-month old had been sleeping in reasonably longer stretches at night, so I wasn’t completely exhausted, and so off I went to Costco to buy up as many clear plastic tubs I could fit into my trunk. My reasoning was simple: I wanted to keep things Neat and Organized because if I did, my life itself would be Neat and Organized. (Never mind that I had a three year old literally throwing things around the room for no reason, and a four month old that didn’t care about the staggering amount of laundry she perpetually causes.)
There was a tub for the kids’ hospital forms and knicknacks – hospital bracelets, saved shriveled up umbilical cord (gross), teeny knit hats and baptismal gowns. There was a tub for our wedding, a tub for the tons of greeting cards we’d accumulated over the years, a tub for all of the clothes my son has outgrown, and one started for my daughter. I made my way through suitcases, books, old computer hardware, miscellaneous school fliers, and portfolios.
I sweated, stacked, and sorted…and things were indeed Neat and Organized. For a little while, anyway. And I was disheartened by the fact that no matter how hard I’d try, things would still keep going – and I felt like I’d be scrambling forever to keep up.
But I realized something that I suspect we all already know: life is never Neat and Organized. Life is messy, and complicated, and too fast in some places and way too slow in others. It can’t be put into a clear plastic tub and still enjoyed – it needs to be lived. And looking at all of the things that our family has accumulated over the years (the things worth keeping, anyway) showed me that I have a full life, indeed – and one that’s brought me a lot of joy.
It makes me happy to be tidy, so I try to be to the best of my ability. But I can learn to forgive myself for a bit of a mess here and there, and ask for help when I need it. Here’s hoping that you can find a way to give yourself a bit of grace when things get overwhelming for you!
Until next time, be well!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!