The down side of cleaning

I spent much of this weekend cleaning. I know, and it didn’t even trigger earthquakes, tsunamis or the apoloclypse.

The last time our house was “spic and span, invite the neighbors over” was when Cassie graduated from high school and we had her graduation party. That she’s turning 22 in September will give you an idea of how long that’s been.

It’s not that the house is completely unpresentable. It’s just that things kind of took on a life of their own, and after a while it was easier to let the clutter take over than fight it.

When Cassie went to college, I decided to paint and add shelves in my office, so I moved my computer in to the dining room. Soon, the office became the “someone’s coming, quick, throw the junk in the office” room. The dining room became my office, which doesn’t really lend itself to dinner parties, not that we ever had dinner parties anyway.

Each of Cassie’s returns from college – for breaks and finally for good – brought a few more boxes of stuff. We set her computer up in the dining room with mine, and viola! Instant double office mess, and boxes stored in the spare room and her bedroom (and the hallway …)

When she moved to Florida, I did clean the spare room and was just contemplating moving my office upstairs when she came home. With a lot more stuff. Stuff that’s been sitting in my foyer and dining room for a year.

Making probably the biggest mess is all of the review materials. I have crates (and crates and crates) of CDs, DVDs and books, a lot of which can be given away. But there’s a lot in there I want to keep. I just need to spend a day going through it all.

The problem is that when you let a mess grow it gets harder and harder to know where to begin to start cleaning it up. Just the thought of diving into piles of files or boxes of household item or stacks of old bills is exhausting. Much easier to simply shove it in a closet – or the office.

So yesterday, I started to tackle the mess. I put together two new filing cabinets, and spent hours sifting through file crates of old papers, folders, notes and other stuff. I organized missions stuff and magazines. My desk area is looking much neater. We’re getting the garage roof done next month, and David has taken a week off to supervise the project and help me haul everything out of my former office/junk room, and paint, put up shelves, and move me back in there.

But for now, my makeshift office in the dining room looks pretty good.

The problem, of course, is that now I can’t find anything.

Sitting at my nice, neat desk I was holding some notes for my dog book that I needed to file. Only I couldn’t remember what I did with the dog book file. Normally, it would be on the right hand pile on my desk, the one the cat loves to topple on his way to the window sill.

Except now I’m an organized writer. Where would an organized writer put a dog book file?

It wasn’t in the filing cabinet (actually, there’s not much in either cabinet yet). It wasn’t on my desk. It wasn’t in the wire rack on my desk. Any of those are place that a dog book file should be, at least that’s where they should be in a clean office.

After a bit of searching, I found it in my book bag.

“The problem with cleaning,” I told my husband later, “is that you can’t find anything. Even though this looks like a mess, I know exactly where everything is. Or at least I did before I started cleaning. That’s why I don’t clean.”

What’s a day without one good rationalization?


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