April 22, 2011

Clutter Tolerance

It astonishes me again and again the way I can get totally caught up on something, feel all amazed that it is not so hard if I just work on it consistently, feel so good about being caught up, feel so happy viewing daily the results of my labor---and then let it fall right back again because I don't really want to work on it consistently and/or there are only so many things there's time in a day to work on consistently and that bag of library books is not going to read itself.

Most recently I've done this with the laundry and with the decluttering. I don't know why I ran out of steam on the decluttering: it felt so good to get the dining room done, and some of the basement done, and then I worked for awhile on Elizabeth's room---and as soon as Elizabeth's room was no longer a fire hazard, I lost my oomph. I think I just have a fairly high clutter tolerance, and it takes significant effort to force my tolerance lower. This is probably a trait I should be grateful for rather than trying to fight and change, since I think otherwise I might go mad in this house of cluttermakers.

And the laundry, I find I enjoy it more if there is a feeling of urgency: Rob is wearing HIS LAST PAIR of pants! or whatever. It makes me feel like I'm doing Important Work rather than keeping up with household drudgery no one notices: "Here are two more pairs of clean pants to add to your five pairs of clean pants." Plus, it goes faster if I can do a whole load of one thing: it's much faster/easier to fold a whole load of shirts for the two boys who share a room, than it is to fold a load of several shirts, several pairs of pants, several sets of pajamas, a stack of underwear, and a pile of socks, all distributed among four different bureaus.

25 comments:

The Diniwilks said...

Ugh, I FEEL YA on this. I go through these little spurts of getting TONS done and then I blink and not only am I not deep cleaning / decluttering anymore, but the house is a freaking mess in general. It's hard to care as much when my husband and child seem hell bent on making new messes as fast as I can clean.

LoriD said...

It is a constant effort to keep our house decluttered. I find that if I get the whole house in good shape and I do a little daily maintenance, I can keep it that way. However, if I take a weekend off (either go away or tackle a non-decluttering project), it gets away from me and then it takes literally weeks to get it back to looking decent. It's disheartening, really.

Becky said...

I think I have a pretty high clutter tolerance too. There are a few places in our apartment that just seem to gather clutter; my husband's desk chair (in the living room; he usually is on the laptop on the couch), the dining table in the corner of the living room (we don't have a dining room), and the floors of the bedrooms. It seems as soon as any of those areas get cleaned up they are a mess again. I would like to say it's all Ryan's fault, but I think there are a couple things in each pile that belong to me too. Oh well.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

YES. I go through the same cleaning issues in fits and starts. And the sense of laundry urgency made me giggle. Partly because it is so absurd it's funny, and partly because that's exactly what WE do. My husband will appear wild-eyed at the door of the bedroom at 10:00 pm and say, "I don't have any clean scrubs/socks/undershirts/underwear for tomorrow!" So there is a LOT of urgency.

Too bad there is no folding urgency. Once the laundry is done, more often than not, it sits in clean piles around our apartment until the "I need more socks!" panic begins again.

Elizabeth said...

I have a very low clutter tolerance, and I AM going mad in this house full of clutter makers. Sigh.
Also, I have taken this post as permission not to do any more laundry for quite some time.

Lawyerish said...

This has nothing at all to do with your post, Swis, but I have to tell you that I had a dream last night that I came to visit you! You and your husband picked me up from the airport and drove me into a cute little town, where we had brunch at a diner. I was very concerned because I didn't have cash on me, so you helped me find an ATM. Then we walked around town and got ice cream, and stopped into sort of a local pub-type place that was having a festival of some kind. Everyone in town knew you and wanted to come chat with you, and you were (as I am sure you really are) just delightful and funny and welcoming to me.

(I hope I'm not the only one who has bloggie-friend dreams, because I actually have them quite often!)

(I also have celebrity dreams a lot, usually involving me becoming friends with Katie Holmes.)

Melissa Haworth said...

I have a very high clutter tolerance (much to hubby's dismay) and while it is lovely to have perfectly clean kitchen counters I can never keep it up. Exhibit A: The current state of my counters. Oh well. There are worse things in the world I figure and I invite guests over often enough that it doesn't get completely out of control.

Doxie said...

I, too, have a high tolerance for clutter. I'm not sure if it is a gift or a curse. I've tried to change my whole life (I'm 55) with no luck. When the kids were little, I often "blamed" my clutter problem on the fact that the kids kept me so busy and after all, it was mostly their clutter. Now that I am a single, grandmother, living alone with my 3 dogs...I have no one else to blame but myself...and the clutter is still a problem. I'm a 2 according to your clutter scale on a previous blog, so I do keep it under control...but it is a constant battle. I actually think that clutter is able to reproduce overnight...very short gestational period...especially paper! I'm learning to accept that this is who I am...but I still feel tension when I come home to countertops filled with "stuff".

sitting on the mood swing at the playground said...

I have a high clutter tolerance, too. I love when I get in a cleaning mood but know that it won't last long. The other day I attacked the playroom and while it was short lived it felt very productive.

With laundry I sometimes wash clothes and then forget them in the washer so I have to rewash them and then let them live in a basket until needed. I was not the model student in Home Ec.

Maggie said...

I used to have a really low clutter tolerance - when I lived by myself, my house was tidy (of course I also owned practically nothing). Then my kids broke me. I finally let go and let the messes gather (for awhile) and it felt really freeing not to be stressed out and irritated about the never ending clutter. I still tidy and whatnot, but I've let go the idea that my house will ever be neat again (or at least not for another 16 years when my daughter will leave for college). Freedom.

JEN said...

I can't even being to describe the clutter filled household I grew up in. I have improved so much over the years.

That said, I cannot keep up with laundry for 3 people, I cannot imagine 7. Is your laundry room on the main floor?

Swistle said...

Lawyerish- Oh, how fun! I have dreams like that too: that I'm visiting bloggers, or that something happens with a blogger, or whatever.

JEN- It's in the basement. Woe. This means that sometimes I'm putting it off, but other times I purely forget: out of sight, out of mind.

Heather R said...

I am the same way with laundry. There are days in which I am SO productive and then I have days and days where I just. can't. do it....ugh. I agree with a previous commenter too about the folding and putting away. I usually have about 5 more loads ready to wash before I put away the 3 loads that came before it.

As for clutter, I have a pretty low tolerance, but my house is not one of those museum-ish houses. I notice that my mental state is so much better when my house is under control. When it is too cluttery, I have trouble thinking and going about my day in the usual manner.

Katie said...

I have just had an astonishing, record-breaking FIVE days in my house without my husband or kids. It has been like a total miracle (husband on business trep, kids at grandparents house out of state). I have been in absolute paradise. I have spent nearly the entire time decluttering/organizing. And I still only got two floors done and I didn't even CLEAN a damn thing. So it is flithy, but decluttered and relatively organized.

And I am glad, but I'm actually a bit disheartened that it took me FIVE DAYS to organize shit and it still isn't cleaned and the basement is a wreck. I mean....WTF? I am realizing it is impossible to have the house the way my low-clutter-tolerance self wants it.

It is like it is just too big a task for one person. It is in impossibility.

Tracy said...

I have a low tolerance for clutter, but I'm working on increasing it :-)

Mostly I have a low tolerance for clutter from 'things that can easily be done, but need to be done daily' sitting around (the mail, paper, kids' homework, etc.).

I do laundry by room too. My girls share a room, so theirs is done together. My son's is done separately. Though I do mine and my husband's separately too, even though we share a room. We use separate hampers :-)

Joanne said...

This is an excellent point about doing everyone's clothes together and something I've never considered. I have to space out my husband's clothes, though, because we can't put his shirts in the dryer, no sir! And I only have a certain amount of space to hang things so I can't do all his stuff at once. I have been home for six years and pregnant for like - oh Lord, almost four of those years, so my clothes are like maternity/ nursing/yoga pants and I get a little MAD that everyone else has such cute things. Sometimes I thing "where are my adorable camo capris from the Gap?" and then it turns out I am thinking of my three year old's clothes. Anyways, this is all to say I try to do laundry every day so that it just becomes a habit, like I don't think about or get mad because I have to brush my teeth every day, and I figured maybe it would be like that with the laundry, and mostly it is. Because if I think about it too much I will go insane and kill everyone. Or, you know, just get mad. I am going to try your laundry plan though and see if it works. I would like it if someone would notice!

Pah said...

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/delicious-recipes-using-cadbury-creme-eggs

For you

Swistle said...

Pah- OMG

Sarah said...

I'm finding I don't HAVE a sense of urgency about cleaning, unfortunately. In fact, the more I let it go, the more used to it I get and it bothers me LESS. Before Jameson was born I dusted every room, every week. Now I only try to hit the main living areas every week, and the bedrooms get done when I get a chance... which is turning out to be NEVER. And now I'm just kind of used to having a layer of dust on my dresser and it's ceasing to bother me. Should I feel concerned, or liberated?

StephLove said...

I like the positive spin you've put on this. I may have to try it myself. Tolerant sounds so much more high-minded that "I am terrible housekeeper."

Bailey said...

My ex-boyfriend is fighting me for full custody of my daughter because he claims that my cluttery house is not a suitable environment for her. I'm a 2 on that scale...a two! And my kid is four. Cut me some slack.

I can't get him to acknowledge the difference between clutter and dirt. Punk.

Christina said...

I'm the same way about laundry. Plus I agree - I really like super sorting our laundry. I wait until I have a load of just jeans, for example. That of course means waiting until we are on our last pairs, or wearing our last resort least favorite pairs. But it IS so much easier to have it be JUST jeans for a whole load to put away. They all are being folded the same way and going to the same location. Simple.

AND I've been meaning to tell you forever that a post of yours (months and months ago) about helping declutter and tidy has CHANGED MY LIFE. I now try so very hard if the microwave has a few minutes to unstack the sink. Or if I've let the dog out, instead of just standing uselessly watching and waiting for him to go, I'll use that time to take out the recycle bin or grab and sort the mail. I even bought colored bins for our mail to sort per person. It is AMAZING how utilizing those tiny little 2-5 minute "down time" moments during the day to tidy can keep your house in a more manageable state.

Swistle said...

Christina- YESSSSSSSS. I'll put a mug of coffee in the microwave, and I'll be like "90 seconds is not enough to do anything significant---but on the other hand I'm just standing here bored"---and it turns out 90 seconds is enough to put all the dishes from the counter into the dishwasher. Or whatevs.

Karen L said...

I generally have a high tolerance for clutter but it is highly (inversely) correlated with how much time I'm spending at home. When I'm on mat-leave, the clutter gets to me much sooner and much harder.

I take satisfaction in the fact that at least my house is SO MUCH tidier than the one I grew up in. I have swung the pendulum toward the middle. I know that I'm at least within the range of normal/"not-disordered."

The one thing I actually pretty good about is laundry. It's at least partly because my laundry room is very accessible (we only have one floor) and I can toss a load in during one of those 90-second down-times. I think it's also partly because my parents stopped doing my laundry as soon as I was tall enough to use the washer and dryer (I was 6. I'm very tall.) It's boring but it ain't rocket science.

Kelsey said...

I don't have a very high clutter tolerance, but I'm VERY meh about actually cleaning things. I would like clear counter tops but I don't fret much that running on our floors all day turns the kids socks brown...

Also I swear I would be much better about the laundry if it wasn't in the basement. I just, forget, and it takes me a day to do one load.