Tag Archives: organization


A friend of mine ends each hectic day by soaking in a hot bath, a time of uninterrupted luxury that I’ve heard of but never actually experienced, like those TV ads for all-inclusive resorts full of super-model couples getting tandem massages. Now that the kids are *mostly* grown, I get my share of uninterrupted time, which admittedly is half the battle in this scenario. But there’s no way I’ll ever experience bubble baths with scented candles and dim lights.

It’s not because we don’t have a tub. When we bought our house 13 years ago, we were impressed by the garden tub in the master bath. It was the first time in our marriage we’d actually been able to share a bathroom, period. Before that, we had cubicle apartments or tiny bathrooms with no counters, and we’d split the difference, mostly with one of us storing our stuff down the hall.  When we bought the house, the kids were small. Occasionally they’d get a bath in our big tub, the jets stirring the bubble bath until they’d become buried beneath the suds. By the time the tub got cleared of the foam and their 57 bath toys, I was no longer in the mood for a private soak, and the second I’d start to think about it, some catastrophe on the other side of the door would arise to squelch the impulse.

It was convenient for bathing dogs. Also it was great for scrubbing a child’s muddy feet without having to fully submerge said child. When we had a house full of visitors, we lined it with blankets and let our kids sleep in it. Once, when we had to move our 55-gallon aquarium, it made a superb way-station for buckets of briny rocks and stressed out fish.

I had intentions. The tub surround was laid with expectant candles and nicely rolled towels that would have made a nice neck pillow amid the suds. I readied a good book and some background music and tried to settle in. You know how when you look out the window of an airplane when you’re in a cloud bank and the clouds are so thick and white you can convince yourself they’d surely be able to hold you like a soft billowy pillow?  That’s what cats imagine when they see a tub full of magical white bubbles.  It is a mind-blowing scientific fact that clouds can’t hold you; you fall right through.  Same with bubbles and cats.

Except beneath the bubbles is water, which most cats dislike almost as much as they dislike being forced to wear clothing. Also there is a person, who until the moment of the surprise bubble collapse had been unsuspectingly engrossed in a novel, under the illusion that the next 30 minutes would bring bliss and relaxation instead of splashing and claws scrabbling for purchase on naked flesh like a Kraken had just been released.  Candles were extinguished, neck towel lay in a soggy lump at the bottom of the tub, and the pages of the novel were fused together by copious amounts of water. An enthusiastically unhappy cat meowed loudly in humiliation.

After the terror from the deep, our big tub is now neither garden, nor tub. I explain to people that no, the scar I wear is not, in fact, from a Cesarean gone horribly awry. When the young optimistic couples on House Hunters exclaim over the spacious jacuzzi tubs in the “en suite” bathrooms, I see my past self in their starry eyes. But years of reality have set in. The tub has not held actual water or bubble bath in years. It is now, especially in the later months of the year, a repository for future events. Currently, for example, it holds bags of holiday and birthday presents, Christmas crafts, Boy Scout paraphernalia, signage for an upcoming wedding. These are layered, like an archaeological dig, in order of which comes first.  Also it houses a giant yellow exercise ball that hasn’t been paroled in several years. I no longer question its existence. It simply glows like a small yellow sun from beneath the stockpile.  







Gone are the dreams of a spa-like serenity in the master bath. They have vanished like bubbles deflated by a flailing cat. A small sign hangs above the tub, a dim beacon of days past, when the struggle was real, before I succumbed to the avalanche of futility that is my bathtub.  Maybe this is thinking out of the box–or tub. This is what creative types do, isn’t it?  It’s trendy to “repurpose” things now.  Thrifty and all-American.  #chipandjojo

We all have that junk drawer, the place we don’t have time for, the one we’ll get to later.  My tub is a magnified junk drawer, the junk drawer you wish you had. It’s a harried attempt at organization in the face of the holiday onslaught and, if we’re being honest, a place I can hide presents at this point in life and not forget about them.  What good are stocking stuffers in mid-February?

Maybe someday I’ll reclaim the tub and eventually take that stress-dissolving soak. Maybe when the calendar clears, when the holidays are someone else’s responsibility, and we do away with occasions like birthdays and graduations. By then, I’ll be too old to get in and out of the thing, and I’ll just use it to plant tomatoes. Garden tub, indeed.

Packrat and Purger

I am a stealth purger, forced to live in the shadows.  If there were a court of law with juries and judges of packrats, I’d be led before them in shackles, their angry accusing eyes casting withering looks of disdain.  The judge, outraged and shocked, wouldn’t hesitate to mete out the sentence for my capital offense.  “You threw it AWAY?  How could you?”

In my case, the judge looks suspiciously like my husband, King Packrat.  Over two decades of marriage we have gone many rounds in the ring over the issue of keeping or tossing.  Before we got married, our premarital counselor told us we “complemented” each other, which as it turns out was a nice way of saying we were complete opposites and we’d better buckle up.

I organize in files.  He organizes in piles.  His system drives me to the edge of my sanity as his piles grow and expand by the bedside or on the coffee table, where eventually they will topple and be tripped over (usually by me).   Impossibly, he seems to know vaguely what is in each pile, sliding his fingers down towards the middle and plucking a rumbled paper from the stack, where it lay between junk mail and trade journals.   Which is why, if the pile is moved or its items shelved or neatly put away, he panics and the tirades begin.  Where did you put my stuff?  I’ll never be able to find anything!   His justification is that he’s prepared for any eventuality.  You need it, he’s got it, and he loves to be able to produce just the thing.  This is us, in a nutshell:

But see, he’s a busy guy and even a casual sifting through the piles reveals that not everything in there is worth holding on to.   Gum wrappers?  Catalogs for past conferences?  Childhood report cards?  This is a man who, at 47, still keeps pictures from first grade in his wallet, a wallet  that is so fat with “keepsakes” it threatens to ruin him chiropractically.

Periodically, to maintain walkable pathways and useable shelf space, I purge.  Gently, but with a giddy sort of uncontainable glee.  I am unsentimental and cold, he said, as I tossed page after page of the kids’ school work and drawings.  We might need that some day, he said, as I threw I away outdated science text books from college, donated bags of too-small clothing, and hauled to Goodwill boxes and bags of household detritus.  A month after I die, I point out, you will be featured on TLC’s Hoarders!

No yard sales!  Never a yard sale!   I had one.  Once.  He prowled the tables, secretly pocketing items and taking them back inside, incredulous that I would sell perfectly good things.   Apparently this stems from some long-held childhood resentment that his mother once sold his Matchbox cars to a friend at a yard sale, cars he believes could no doubt pull our country out of debt with their current market value.  It’s always the mom’s fault.

A messy desk is a sign of genius, he quips.  Studies have shown that disarray can boost creativity and get people to think outside the box.  Cleanliness is next to godliness, I counter.  Some truth there as well.   People in clutter-free environments tend to make more moral, healthy choices, their clean conscience a reflection of their surroundings; chaos begets chaos.

Clutter, to me, is a choking ivy.  I cannot abide.  In our digital age, it’s gotten easier to tamp down the clutter.  You can scan the best of your kids’ artwork instead of keeping an entire bin from each grade.  Pinterest can show you how to make achingly cute bulletin boards or displays of container storechoice items.  Pinterest is an organizer’s fetish.  And the Container Store!  After an hour walking the aisles in there, I start hyperventilating and need to breathe into a paper bag, one pulled from a color-coordinated plastic bin and labeled with the appropriate font.

My father, widowered twice, has had the unenviable task of sorting through two lifetimes of belongings.  He is approaching his 80’s and feels the Burden of Stuff, knowing all too well you can’t take it with you, no matter how clever you are.  He lightens his load with generosity, offering random items each time he sees us.  While we appreciate his impulse, we all carry our own acquired loads.  With the death of my mother’s parents, some in her family were so consumed by greed and lust for stuff that it ended in murder and a prolonged court case, like something straight off NBC’s Dateline.  We watched in disbelief and when my mother herself passed away, there was no scrabbling, grabbing, or conniving for any of her things.  They were Just Things and would not bring her back or make the memory of her any sweeter.

Maybe it is that realization that makes it easy for me to live with an open hand.  If I have it and you need it, help yourself.  If it doesn’t add peace or benefit to my life, out it goes.   Have you moved recently?   Nothing makes you face the excess stuff in your life than being overwhelmed by mountains of boxes full of stuff you’d mostly forgotten about.

While my husband is out of town this week, I’ve been able to come out from the shadows and organize without reprisal.  Don’t worry, hon, I haven’t touched anything vital to your existence.  Plus, I know he’ll be bringing home suitcases full of Stuff and eventually I’ll have to start all over.  It’s the Circle of Life.