Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bedside Clutter

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.  ~ Sidney J. Harris

I love walking through furniture stores. There is something about envisioning entire rooms that creates a giddy feeling in me...almost as if I can picture a whole new life that could be lived in these imagined spaces. Each new room makes me wonder who I would be, and more importantly, how I would if only I was lucky enough to dwell within a house that contained that perfectly crafted design. From the rugs on the floor to the art on the walls, having the new area done 'just right' makes feel as if all would be right in the world. I realize that walking through Pottery Barn, Z Gallerie, Macy's Home Department or another lovely home store would bore the dickens out of most people. Additionally, I understand that my more creative friends and family would dismiss these 'set designs' as 'too canned' and 'not personal enough'. However, I delight in that very sense of perfection and lack of clutter. 

Nothing is more true in feeding my daydreams in furniture stores than looking at bedrooms. I love to lie down on the beds in these completely devised faux rooms and wonder how much I'd sleep if this was my room, rather than my one at home. The perfectly made beds (with unstained, dog hair free, coordinating bedding), the lack of clutter and the simplicity of it all makes me wonder if I could move into one...and just not let the staff of the store know. Much like Natalie Portman's character in "Where the Heart Is", I could tip toe around during the day, and curl up in my dream room at night. Of course, my day dreams lie more in the realm of Crate & Barrel, rather than Wal-mart. 

I began to look critically at what was making me so envious of these perfectly constructed rooms. I have to admit, as the Human Mom to two Enormous Dogs, my house reflects my desire to protect everything from them...and a bit of protecting them from everything, too. So....I have a lot of brown sheets covering up my sofa, my good chairs and even my bed. Brown isn't exactly meant to be chic in the 'brown and turquoise' stylish combination sense. It's meant to stave off the signs of muddy paws. I also began to realize how much 'living' we tend to do in the bedroom. No longer is our room just for sleeping. It's for bill paying, working on the computer, TV watching, reading (book, magazines and newspapers), the occasional dinner, changing clothes and again, entertaining Massive Beasts with tennis balls, often wet stuffed animals and the occasional missing sock. I have files, documents, photos, bills, invitations and commitment related paraphernalia strewn about. My room no longer (if ever) reflected a place of rest and tranquility. Rather, it took on the same vibe as the rest of the house: overworked, stressed out and multi-purpose. Hence, my bedroom is now a source of disquiet.

I can't change the layout of my house, nor can I afford to go out and buy all new furniture. Even if I could do either of these actions, I'm not sure I'd want to. After all, would the result be the same after a few weeks anyway? So, I've made it a promise to myself to try to make sure that my bedroom is less anxiety-inducing than it has been. I have a new basket on my desk in which all bills will go. I will pay them (using pay ahead option) every few days. I will change my sheets frequently, thus minimizing finding Murphy's (my half-Newfoundland, half-Golden Retriever) drool covered"Bobo" in my back in the middle of the night. Most of all, I'm going to keep my bedside table CLEAR. Unfortunately, this has been my worst trouble spot: I end up with a half dozen books, a water botttle, four kinds of hand lotion, two phones (house and cell), an array of magazines and catalogs, my son's latest hockey stats, my daughter's report card, correspondence I need to answer, my reading glasses, 2 Kleenex boxes (one with Aloe, one without), more miscellaneous junk than I can't account for, and a copy of "Goodnight Moon" that I haven't read to my kids in 14 years. No wonder I can't sleep!

My goal from now on? Keeping that bedside table clear! Emptying out the drawers in the nightstand of further unused clutter (two of them haven't been opened in 5 years) and storing things I might need there. The rest, I've determined, doesn't need a place next to me. It'll find me soon enough in other spaces. In the meantime, I hope I can finally get some sleep.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Photographs, Memories and the Easily Distracted

You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it. ~ Alma Ruth Lavenson

My children have both left the nest, and are happily ensconced in Florida and Massachusetts respectively. For the past month, I've been working diligently to clear the clutter from various spaces in the house...particularly those that were impossible to tackle with two teenagers undoing my work. I've made tremendous progress in the storage room, the children's bedrooms, the play room, the laundry room and even have begun to embrace the massive project of my own closet. I feel accomplished and proud as each room begins to look the way I had always known was possible. These spaces have transformed from being buried under hockey gear, sweatshirts and DVD cases (usually empty, with the DVD in a parallel universe) to being tidy and complete. As I've sorted each room into my regular piles of "Keep", "Give" and "Toss", I've unearthed scads of photographs. A little stack here, a giant hill there...and before I knew it, I'd built the Mt. Everest of memories.

It is completely overwhelming. Despite my brief flirtation and obsession with scrap-booking, back in the early years of the new millennium, I'm still left with a plethora of pictures. With regards to other areas of my clutter free mission, I've managed to become ruthless. If it doesn't have a purpose, if I haven't used it in a year, if it's no longer practical, I've purged myself of these space suckers. Yet, when it comes to photographs, I just don't have the heart to pitch them. Each one represents a moment captured in time that can never be rekindled. Every picture, no matter how unflattering, brings with it an avalanche of emotions and reminders. Since I have neither the time, nor the money, to scrap book every single one of them, I save them. And now, I have a cupboard of overflowing cardboard boxes.

It isn't that I've chosen to be a Photo Glutton. I'm not trying to hoard them. My issue is my own level of absolute distraction when I begin the sorting process. I have sat down, with the pure intention of, at the very least, filing these pictures by year...or even subject matter...but with each one I pick up, I am flooded with flashbacks. My childhood, my years in college, my wedding, our travels through Europe, the births of my children, and the milestones since then come rushing back. What strikes me the most poignantly, however, aren't even the photos of these momentous occasions: it is the day-to-day capturing of our lives. My mother cooking dinner, my dad taking a nap. My daughter curled up reading. My son riding his bike. My husband and me at a random moment. Our many wonderful dogs from over the years. I see these snapshots and I'm transported back to a simpler time...back to before I was a woman drowning under the weight of all these pictures.

I never seem to make any progress with sorting these photographs, let alone pitching the ones in which my Grandma's eyes are half closed or my son is in need of a haircut. I sincerely take out the boxes, or unearth the stacks, with the best of intentions. Yet, before I know it, two hours have passed while I relive what has been. My distant cousin, the famous photographer and student of Ansel Adams, Alma Lavenson wrote,"A good photograph stops a moment from running away." I think this sentiment is the heart of my problem: I am terrified that by tossing some of the truly rubbish photos out, I'll allow those moments from running away.

I have every confidence that I will, eventually, overcome my distraction and fear, when it comes to de-cluttering my photographs. For now, however, I'll remain confident that, at the very least, I've discovered a method that doesn't work.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rebirth of clutter

The latest IKEA Australia catalog landed in my mailbox last week, and as I leafed through it, I became aware of an undercurrent of evil in the pages. I'm not sure if this is a new tactic or what, but IKEA is--brace yourself--marketing clutter.

First I noticed that throughout the catalog, the photos contain rumpled, unfolded things, and also, piles of things. They're artful piles--not clutter like normal everyday people know it--but piles nonetheless, and I believe this is a departure for this catalog.

Next, I realised that IKEA is telling me that not only is it okay that I keep things from 5th grade, but that I should also make sure I have a place to keep them forever.

I even think they might be spying on me. How do they know what my bedside looks like? How did they know I wanted exactly this sort of little table to stash all my bedside reads? How did they know I even have that many bedside reads? They know how lazy I am! They're encouraging me!

That's when I got a little bit scared. Has it always been this way? Has IKEA just been enabling my clutter proclivities over the years? And all this time I thought they were going to save me!

Despite the odd run-in with a shonky DIY furniture pack or two over the years, I'd always considered the IKEA showroom and catalog a place of dreams: of prettily designed, accessible organisation; of sweet, clear Scandinavian light falling on dust-free surfaces; of drawers and cupboards where silverfish fear to tread. But apparently I was mistaken: they are merely clutter dealers, pushing me to keep all my crap. But keep it in tidily arranged folders and boxes on endlessly expandable modular shelving, thanks.

On the other hand, all of this could also mean that the wheel of fashion is turning: the "perfect" room is no longer an effective marketing tool. Perfection is boring. Turn the page. Flick! Oh, look: clutter! Now we're talking.

Could the revival of clutter be on the horizon? Goodbye to glossy, glassy, slick, sharp home design? Could the notion of having a "magazine-perfect house" finally be going the way of the thylacine? Actually, I'd welcome that.