Thursday, July 15, 2010

Everything in its place.

Surrendering to Motherhood

Napa Valley Register
By Jennifer Huffman
Monday, July 12, 2010

Here at the Huffman house, I like to live by my personal philosophy: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

I admit it — I’m an organizational freak. I like stuff to be put away — and in the same place, every time. The concept is so simple: If you know where the scissors/tape/car keys go, and you put them away after you use them, you’ll never waste time looking for them. You can avoid any frantic rummaging, tossing of couch cushions or gnashing of teeth over lost items. Tasks can be performed quickly and effectively with the needed objects at your fingertips. Such efficiency would be bliss, if only the rest of the Huffman family would get on board the Organizational Train.

The Huffman Cubby System is a key component of my master plan. Like those cute little preschool cubbies for lunches and hooks for bags and jackets, we have a set of cubby shelves near our entryway. Everyone has a box (I admit, I have two) for his or her stuff. Backpacks go on the hooks. Shoes go in the shoe cubbies. Or so they should.

When I walk in the door, the first thing I do is put my keys, sunglasses and work ID into my cubby. That way the next time I need them — and this is the amazing part — they are right where I left them. I tell you, it’s like magic, every time.

I think my husband appreciates the cubby idea, but he’s not a true believer. He tosses his keys down on any table, couch or seat. He drops his jacket on a nearby chair. His glasses go one place, his spare change another. He may or may not leave his watch on the kitchen counter, sofa or bed. He’s even been known to leave his keys in the door lock itself.

If I find my husband’s things scattered around, I pick them up and put them in his cubby.

“Where’s my watch?” he’ll ask. Check your cubby, I say. Have you seen my keys? Check your cubby. Did you pick up my (insert name of missing object here)? Yes, and I put it in your cubby. Repeat after me: cubby, cubby, cubby.

Naturally, the girls are completely oblivious. No matter how many times I tell them to put stuff back where they found it, they don’t. It’s like they live on some other planet where everything pops out of thin air right when you need it.

Many times in their rush to devour an after-school snack they leave a Hansel and Gretel-like breadcrumb trail of backpacks, shoes, sweaters and lunchboxes in their wake. The system has been known to completely break down on Friday afternoons when the pressure of nightly homework is gone and all thoughts turn to Sponge Bob and Super Poke Pets.

God help the person who abandons or even temporarily loses track of an old homework assignment, school flyer or piece of mail. Before you can even notice it’s gone, I have picked it up, filed it, tossed it or recycled it. There are no homeless scraps of paper in our house.

Oh sure, a single piece of paper looks so innocent. It’s when they start multiplying and collecting around the home that the trouble begins. If you leave one, next thing you know there’s another, and then another. I’m convinced we’re only one step away from that TV show Hoarders. If there was no organizing or sorting going on, we’d be buried by junk mail and old homework assignments within a week. And what happens when everything is not in its place? Chaos. Pure chaos. And chaos in the house drives this mom crazy.

The “everything in its place” philosophy is a 24/7 job, meaning I’m constantly on the prowl for suspect items. Shoes by the couch? Alert the owner for relocation to shoe cubby. Scrapbook supplies left out on dining room table? Page the suspect and direct clean-up efforts. Hair bows, clips or headbands left on stairs? Request immediate pickup. I have been known to go too far in my clean-up patrol. Once I threw away a homework assignment that someone was still working on and then I had to sort through the recycling bin to find it. Sorry, kid.

Some people I live with might say I’m relentless. My husband knows he can’t leave anything out of place for more than 30 minutes before I swoop down to collect it. His only safe areas are his desk and dresser. I am happy to let him pile all the papers and junk he wants there, just as long as nothing escapes his designated zone. If it does, it’s fair game.

I got so sick of asking that clothes be picked up off the floor or picking up clothes from the floor that I instituted a new rule at the house. Whatever I find on the floor, I pick up, put in a plastic trash bag and keep for a week. After establishing this new rule, I soon accumulated a whole sack full of abandoned clothing.

Where are my pants, one daughter asked me. Don’t worry, they haven’t gone far, I said.

You know that book “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”? Well, it’s like that, only I call it the Motherhood of the Traveling Pants.

Your pants will be back next week.

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