August 1, 2008

Little Pieces Everywhere

Some nights when I can't sleep, it's because of the Slideshow of Terrible Ways to Die. Other nights, it's Horrifying Screenplays of Fires/Intruders. Tonight, it's the Parade of Awkwardness.

I knew I was in serious trouble when my brain wanted to remind me of a houseguest experience where I was basically a fish flopping around on the tiles. I felt incompetent and bumbling next to my smooth and gracious hostess, and so didn't offer to help when I should have---and when I did offer, I didn't know what I was doing and messed things up. I misunderstood a question, and so seemed to be demanding to be served a drink. I'd gained weight recently and all my clothes were too tight for me, so I wouldn't take off my cardigan even though it was in the high seventies. I tried to act all free-spirited and confident, and in doing so broke their pretty rope swing. She offered me a choice of an item from her collection, and I was so nervous I'd accidentally choose her favorite, I chose nothing---as if I were rejecting the gift.

This was more than ten years ago, but I have every moment carefully preserved so I can examine it in perfect detail. I do museum-quality work.


I SHOULD be sleeping beautifully, I worked so hard today on the playroom today. So many toys have so many pieces, and the pieces get everywhere so it was like an Easter egg hunt. I rooted around under bureaus, beds, chairs, the couch, the DVD shelves, the crib---and I found almost all the pieces to everything. I'm still missing a few puzzle pieces, but I need to deep-breathe and let it go or else I'm going to start ripping open couch cushions saying, "It has! to be here! somewhere!"

And I could almost cry, the way things were already getting messy again within an hour. One reason I don't try to be a better housekeeper is that being a better housekeeper makes me a worse person: I'm on edge all the time, angry at my family for messing things up, finding someone to blame for whatever's not perfect, finding fault with our whole house and everything in it, seeing every place where the hardwood is unevenly shiny. When I let things get messier, I calm down; when I make things tidier, I start snapping at people and not letting the kids play with their toys because I'm NOT looking for all those pieces AGAIN.

But of course, below a certain point, which is where we finally were, the kids can't play with their toys because nothing has its pieces anywhere near it anymore. It's a fine line, and right now I'm on BOTH wrong sides of it: parts of the house are too clean and organized, and parts of the house are too messy.

I'm trying not to let my "There's too much to do, so I won't do anything" impulse take over. I'm trying to keep chipping away at it, believing that each Skittle found under the recliner and thrown in the trash makes a tiny but cumulative difference in the overall household cleanliness. It's like putting away a basket of tiny white laundry: it seems like you take out a hundred pairs of socks and there are still more socks, but eventually if you keep at it, the basket really does get empty.

Well, and then it starts filling up again, moments later.

43 comments:

Bec said...

I can so relate to your post today about housework. I prefer laundry to dishes and the like but still, you are NEVER done with laundry because (presumably) you are wearing clothes and they'll go in the hamper. But, we have to try!

houndrat said...

OMG, it's so true--all of it. I am a raging monster freakshow whenever I'm trying to clean things up around here.

And, with me, it's more of a hating to start things I can't finish, so I don't bother starting any projects at all kind of thing. Which basically translates into monstrously ginormous mess.

honeybecke said...

Museum quality work, huh. Yep, I know what you mean. I also reserve special memories like these with fine details so I can later replay and torture myself. I even remember the tone of whatever idiotic thing I said and sometimes (I really am not crazy, uh I don't think) I find myself repeating it....outloud...to myself, just so I can hear it again. You know, to make good and sure it sounded as dumb right then as it did originally.
Lately though, when stinky old memories click in I began trying something new. I say, Oh hello stinky old memory. OK, I acknowledge you. Yes, OK now move along. And sometimes, if I am lucky it works and I spare myself the waste of time that it is to rehash it start to finish. Sometimes it doesn't and I have to sit and hold my hand while I remember.

And yep, got you on the whole housework thing. I too, let it go to seed and then do just enough to be presentable for the playgroup we host each week. Playgroup has saved our house and it's also a good way to get my husband to help in a big way. He knows Thursdays are playgroup days and he knows Mama aint doing it all herself! heh.

I must be tired, I just typed the word verification HERE. Hah.

MzEll said...

I think you must have crawled through my brain on your way to this post. The Backyardigans puzzle is missing 3 pieces, and the puppy puzzle is missing 2. Where are they?

I wish that my Mama fog would have wiped clean the part of my brain that remembers everything wrong and dumb I've ever done. It's alive and well, however, and kind of LOUD sometimes.

We still need a dresser for the boys room. I have clothes in bins all over the floor and I hate it. But at least they aren't actually on the floor.

This was perfect, thanks...

Fiona Picklebottom said...

ACK! The playroom. And every other room in my house. The worst thing about my house is that because of the layout and the ages of the kids, the playroom has to be the MAIN ROOM OF THE HOUSE. So when you walk in our front door... TA DA!!!! Ungodly mess. I cringe every time I hear the doorbell ring.

tulipmom said...

Like Fiona, our ungodly playroom is the VERY first thing you see when you walk in the door. Drives me crazy. I've started paying T. to clean it up (as in allowance money, but earnable .... is that even a word .... right there ON THE SPOT).

As for the laundry, would it kill everyone to just go naked for a few days?

Nowheymama said...

This is EXACTLY how I've been feeling about the house lately. Thank you.

1hot&tiredmama said...
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Kristin.... said...

Oh yes, yes and YES.

I am like a tyrant trying to get the kids to clean up a bit~"put 10 pieces of paper in the trash" or "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE put away the markers" while I'm trying to do 75 gazillion loads of laundry that NEVER get folded. It's all so stressful. And then you have to do it all over again.

I am NEVER comfortable with other people. Unless I've known them forever. And even then, it still isn't easy.

thank you.

Kristin.... said...
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Miz S said...

There's just no way to have a clean house with kids and pets, is there? Just keep working on the decluttering. That's the important thing. Less stuff is good!

Also, your awkward house guest story just made me love you more.

Jill said...

Just more evidence that I don't yet have small children:
when you mentioned there were still some missing puzzle pieces, I was like 'damn she's good! did she put the puzzles together just to see if any pieces are missing?' assuming, of course, that we were talking 500 or 1000 piece adult puzzles and not, say 20 piece children's puzzles. Carry on.

Elizabeth said...

"I do museum-quality work." HAH!!!

I'm glad the nocturnal "parade of awkwardness" finally has a name. Maybe we can have it added to the DSM-IV?

el-e-e said...

Replay of embarrassing memories, CHECK. Thankfully it doesn't keep me up at night but I cringe and cringe, and find myself singing little songs out loud, "LALALALA!" to try and drown them out when they float to the top of my brain. I'm going to try honeybecke's technique next time.

And housework. I am impressed you found all those pieces. Hope you stood up and looked around when you were finished, took one nice, deep breath and enjoyed the scene for just one second.

Omaha Mama said...

Just yesterday, I picked up the cars and stuffed toys because the children were playing little people. When I came back downstairs after a shower (Hubs was attending to them while I bathed), they had dumped the cars and stuffed toys back out on the floor and were playing little people. It makes me wonder why I bothered. I feel that way in the morning, when they dump out everything I tidied the night before. I keep trying, but you are exactly right, when I try to hard it makes me very, very grouchy.
It's surely "allergy" season and one benadryl could certainly assist you at night, with the woes that keep you up.

jen said...

oh I am the same way! I get even worse when the house is a mess, though. snippy and nervous and twitchy. I can't win. I am so glad my daughter is just as obsessed as I am, and has a photographic memory for where stuff goes. I've also made it a rule.. one toy at a time! aaah!

Jess said...

I am the same way. When things are spick and span, I get uptight about keeping them that way. When there's a bit of a mess, everyone can relax. And yet my plans for today include cleaning the whole apartment. Clearly I'm insane.

Farrell said...

I'm trying not to let my "There's too much to do, so I won't do anything" impulse take over.
that's totally me too.

MaryB said...

There is so much to comment on that I don't know where to start.

I'm glad to know that I have a fellow fretter out there. I do "museum quality work" also. It keeps me up at night and it makes me miserable durng the day.

Housework...arrgh!! So much to say. I pretty much spend everyday feeling as though I SUCK! and that EVERYONE does everything better than me and that they all know I suck!It would take too long to explain the details. How about we all get babysitters and just fret about it and our collective demoralizing memories over a nice lady's lunch?

Erin said...

Oh yes. The Parade of Awkwardness. How I hate it. I am always replaying those types of situations in my head and it's torturous.

When things get really overwhelming, I get hung up on trying to determine the most efficient way to get things done. Like, there's a load of stuff that needs to go to the basement, but I can't bring it down there yet because I haven't determined what else I can accomplish on my trip down there. Same goes for getting the laundry back upstairs. Or taking out the trash. I get so hung up on trying to figure out the efficiency that I get frozen and don't do anything. Which obviously is not helping my efficiency cause.

Alice said...

this is how i feel about work right now. i'm so overwhelmed by tiny problems that i am tempted to just sit back and let it all go up in flames.

the planet of janet said...

One reason I don't try to be a better housekeeper is that being a better housekeeper makes me a worse person.

this is the best reason i have ever heard for my slovenliness.

thank you. you're brilliant!

Mommy Daisy said...

I was thinking of you, Swistle, when I woke up at 5:00 this morning and couldn't fall back asleep. I was laying in bed and hearing all the sounds and making up things. That is SURELY someone trying to break in. Oh no, my son just fell out of bed. And the reality is that there is no way he can fall out of bed unless he crawled up and over his crib and I would have heard him doing that. And no one was breaking into our house, because I would have heard that too. But I know you've had problems sleeping this week, and I knew exaclty how you felt.

Why do we tortue ourselves with those old memories of silly things? I do that too.

I feel the same way about having the house completely clean. You can't mess it up. Then you get all obsessive keeping up with it. Then you're burned out and crazier than when the house was just less untidy. I get that.

Becky said...

Oh my God, I'm so glad there are other people out there who get overwhelmed to the point that they just can't do anything. I have to echo Alice that that's how I feel about work right now too.

Thank you for helping me realize I'm not crazy (or at least I'm not crazy alone!).

d e v a n said...

I'm the same way with housekeeping. Just when I get the kitchen clean, someone messes it up. It infuriates me and that's just silly.
Also, I lie awake at night and think about dumb things I've done and beat myself up for no reason.
And I worry about intruders all the time. I make D get up at least once a night because I "heard a noise"

t2ed said...

When we had to have our house spotless to be sold, the Wife and I realized it would only stay that way if, in fact, we did not actually live in it.

Clutter, like coat hangers, reproduces exponentially if unwatched.

feedingtimeatthezoo said...

As someone who's spent the last few nights lying awake, reliving all the stupid things I feel like I said at my sister's wedding on Saturday...I hear you. It's painful.

and my plan is to just fire bomb the house. It's the only way I think it'll stay the way I left it. Sigh. My house is a disaster!

the new girl said...

Swistle: This post is oddly both discomfiting and comforting at the same time.

You have such a knack for tapping into the universal feelings in all of the situations that you describe.

I FEEL the agita and the overwhelm when you write them.

Thank goodness you also write about yummy treats and cool prizes.
xo

Astarte said...

I'm with you. Too nice, and I'm a bitch about keeping it that way. It's the same reason I don't spend a lot of time on my hair; once it looks good, I'm so stressed out about getting it messed up that I can't enjoy myself at ALL. No, thank you.

... and don't forget the Financial Flood of Fear. That's an oldie, but a goodie.

Kristi said...

"One reason I don't try to be a better housekeeper is that being a better housekeeper makes me a worse person"

So true. I'm pretty good at keeping the common areas of the house clean. The living room, kitchen, bathroom. Mostly out of fear that someone will stop by and realize that I'm a secret slob. I spend so much time constantly picking up those areas, that my bedroom is a disorganized heap of crap and laundry. I can never get ahead in there!!

Amy said...

I have the same problems! When I've acted dumb I just relive it over and over, even years later. I also tend to put off cleaning because I know someone is going to go pig it up an hour later and what was the point?

Sandy C. said...

Good grief, it's like you were reading my thoughts. "There's too much to do, so I won't do anything" - I suffer from this all.the.time.

Hang in there.

-R- said...

I just realized that although I frequently relive ancient awkward moments, I NEVER think about times when other people were awkward around me. So why do I dwell on my own embarrassments??? I feel so much better!

My old trick has been to sing LA LA LA in my head like el-e-e does.

My cleaning problem is that I have recently decided it is embarrassing to maintain (or not maintain) our house the way we have been doing, so I have been actually cleaning up after myself lately. But my husband has not had the same enlightening revelation and remains a slob, which means I have to clean up after myself AND my husband. I am not sure what to do about this.

HollyLynne said...

Swistle, THANK YOU for confirming to me that I'm not the only one who stays up all night watching a mental tape loop of either horrible ways to die or past embarrassments. I mean, seriously. Its like you plucked that paragraph right out of my head (except more eloquently written and correctly punctuated).

Ginaagain said...

I hate the Parade of Awkwardness! I've marched in it too many times... in fact I completely avoid things like being a houseguest because I don't want to relive my social blunders again and again.. which just makes me more bumbling and convinces people that I'm terribly antisocial or there really must be something wrong with me.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Dropping in to say:

Just mailed a Super!Sekrit Package.

Hehehe.

Make sure you let me know when you get it!

Vicky said...

OMG how can you see into my head. I go through all the same stuff at night. I also have to let things great a little messier to be a better person too. Great post. It makes me feel less alone.

Glory Laine said...

I love the saying, "Cleaning your house while your children are small is like shoveling your walkway while it's still snowing."

desperate housewife said...

I totally agree with the above comment. It's a losing battle, trying to tidy the house with kids running around you, laughing gleefully and dumping glitter on the rug. Not that I have ever experienced that specific scenario or anything.
And if you want to actually DEEP clean anything, heaven forbid, because first you have to pick up all the clutter and crap before you can do anything as crazy as dust or vacuum or scrub the tub, which must exist in there somewhere under the mountain of bath toys and loofahs...

anna said...

I thought I was the only person who got stuck in that not-offering-to-help-when-I-usually-would-but-I-feel-too-awkward mindset. That happens to me ALL THE TIME.

Swistle said...

Desperate H- YES! When I found out I was having twins, lots of people (INCLUDING ME) thought, "Time to get a housecleaner now." But it didn't work, because of the STUFF everywhere! No one would be able to GET to the surfaces!

Anna- And when I DO ask, I'm so often RIGHT to be awk: like, they ask me to just whip up a white sauce or make a pie crust or whatever, with me going, "Er...."

Michelle said...

Swistle, you just hit on one of my big pet peeves. I spend HOURS doing laundry. And literally as I'm putting away the last of the items, someone (usually my husband) puts something into a newly emptied basket. I just want to admire the empty basket for a few minutes! He still hasn't learneD :)

TLC said...

When you said this: "And I could almost cry, the way things were already getting messy again within an hour. One reason I don't try to be a better housekeeper is that being a better housekeeper makes me
a worse person: I'm on edge all the time, angry at my family for messing things up, finding someone to blame for whatever's not perfect, finding fault with our whole house and everything in it,"

I said YES YES! That's exactly the way it is! And I sometimes think I am just crazy. Instead, I am Anxiety's bitch. And I hate it.

T.