Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Housekeeping 101: ADD Style

It's no secret that any relationship has certain issues when it comes to housekeeping. There can be skirmishes on should the toilet paper roll over or under, forks in the dishwasher go tines up or tines down, and of course whether the dirty underwear stays on the floor or makes it into the hamper.

My marriage is no different, and each of us has our reasons for doing the things we do. When Dave and I were dating, I was determined to let him see the real me. I made no special effort to clean up when he was coming over. So he saw the piles of books I kept on the unused side of the bed, the many art projects in various stages of completion, the stack of folded laundry sitting on the dresser and the pile of laundry next to the dresser. I never claimed to be Suzy Homemaker, and since he never said anything, I figured he was okay with my level of controlled chaos.

I was wrong. You see Dave figured I would "grow up" after we were married, and I would suddenly morph into someone whose focus was keeping a neat and tidy home. I don't know if he pictured me wearing pearls or not but if he did, at least I could handle that part of the fantasy. What my poor husband didn't realize was the apartment I lived in was evidence of me all grown up.

As a kid, my room resembled something you would see in an episode of "Hoarders." Piles of stuff made up of clothes, toys, books, perhaps the wayward petrified peanut butter and jelly sandwich, engulfed my tiny living space. I did try to leave a path from the bed to door, but there was the occasional avalanche. Mom would often say she need to tie a rope to the door and around her waist just to find her way out.

When cleaning as a kid, bags (yes that is plural) of trash would come out of the room. But more often than not half way through the ordeal I would panic and just shove things under the bed. There were times I swore the bed was no longer sitting on the floor. It would take DAYS to clean my room. At wits end, my mother decided to be brave and come in to see what I was actually doing. There I sat, reading each note, magazine and whatnot before deciding where to put it. Dolls where dressed and hair brushed before being seated just so in their doll house. No wonder it took so long! So mom made the sacrifice and would sit on my bed, giving words of encouragement like, "FOCUS." "Throw it out." And my personal favorite, "EWWWW what was that?" 

Time marched on and eventually I got the hang of organizing my space, well sort of anyway. See I am a "visual" person, what that means is I need to see my stuff other wise I forget I have it. The style I perfected for myself is piling. I pile things up. Now to the rest of the world, these are not neat tidy piles. But what the rest of the world does not realize is those bits of paper sticking out of my pile is actually my filing system. I know this may not work for the majority of people but it works for me.

Unfortunately my system, in fact my entire visual personality, doesn't work for my husband. So I frequently try to clean and organize our home. Now for those of you that don't know this, we have 5 kids ages 18 - 7, we have a golden retriever (oh the hair!), 2 parakeets (oh the feathers!) and 1 guinea pig. Suffice to say cleaning up our home is not for the faint of heart.

So its time to get serious. I start, as I am sure ANYONE would, at the computer. Looking up organizing and cleaning techniques leads me to some interesting data about cluttering and individuals with ADHD. After 10 or so minutes I move on, it is time to get serious and I will once I finish the quiz on hoarding personalities.

After the quiz, which not surprisingly, cast some suspicion my discomfort with throwing things away, I get started in the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher of the plates I convinced my friend to give me when I found out she was going to donate them. Next I wipe down the table and chairs that came from a former neighbor, and 2 chairs I found on the side of the road. They are perfectly good chairs, or they will be once I refinish them.

On to the stack of papers that I have been meaning to put in the recycling bin, or should I say bins? For some reason I always for get to take the bins out to be recycled. As I am about to drop the papers in I spy a catalog I haven't looked at yet. So out comes the catalog and in go the papers. The catalog reminds me I haven't gotten the mail yet today, so I place it on the pile of magazines and such that I keep meaning to read so I can get rid of them.

On the way to the mailbox I notice there are spring flowers starting to peek out the dirt, so I stop to admire them. Remembering why I came outside I get the mail and look to see if anything fun came today. I add the mail to the growing stacks of paper that cover the half wall. Oh look a coffee coupon from Dunkin' Donuts!

The coupon reminds me that I left my coffee cup upstairs and I really want a sip. So up the steps I go, stopping in the girls' room to make sure their light are turn off. While I'm there I may as well open the curtains, and pick up some clothes, and toys. Now I have to remember why I came upstairs. Oh that's right the coffee!
In my room I go over to the bedside table and see my watch, which I had better put in the jewelry tray before it gets lost. I then make my bed, and put away a few of the clothes I left on the side of the tub. It's then that remember I had started laundry and had better empty the dryer.

In the laundry room downstairs, I see that I forgot to shut the lid to the washer so the clothes have just been soaking. I shut the lid and the washer moves on to the spin cycle and since it isn't ready to be emptied, I put the dryer on fluff thinking it will help keep the wrinkles out of the clothes. At this point I look around for my coffee again and trudge back upstairs for it. I'm now tired, it's practically lunch time so I come back to the kitchen, coffee in hand and make some lunch.

There I sit, eating lunch, reading a magazine while catching up with Facebook and possibly some email. When I hear the washer stop I know my time is up and I try desperately to remember where I left off with my cleaning. There have been days that my husband comes home and can list everything I worked on that day. When I ask him how he can possibly know all that he just smiles and says, "I just follow the trail half finished tasks and it tells me everything I need to know."

There you have it! So if you are dating and see many piles or unusual "collections" in your significant other's space, don't say I never told you! 


  1. Ha ha ha... this made me laugh. I can see you puttering around your house trying to pick up where you left off... or was that me? Don't worry - you're in good company.

  2. I lived with you for HOW long? I really don't remember you being that messy... or maybe you were just confining it to your room?

    On the other hand, Ted sometimes does grouse at my for lack of ability to see that a toilet paper roll is empty or that there's a frightening, red mold growing in the shower so I guess I'm not one to talk.

    We have a word for that cleaning style where you start task after task after task and never finish anything: it's called "spinning". I do it too.

    I'd be happy to come up and help you organize, but you probably remember that I have an anti-hoarder tendency to go through a room and throw away pretty much everything. Yeah, that drives Ted crazy too...