Thursday, January 3, 2013

Be Still My Cluttering Heart

 “Never own so much clutter that you will be relieved 
to see your house catch fire.” ~ Wendell Berry

While seated in my office on this first day of a new year, I dare to glance around a room so cluttered that I’m reminded of an over-stuffed refrigerator. I wonder if any of it is alive. My chaos has grown since last January and the niggling side of my brain is screaming, “KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.
I count Post-it notes stuck here and there but stop at 266. Most of them were “posted” to remind me of a party long since passed or somebody’s birthday. Oops!
If I try real hard I can manage to avert my eyes from the two nasty-looking cups of cold coffee or the pile of unopened snail mail scattered around. 
A not-so-quick inventory exposes eleven pairs of cheap reading glasses, a dental floss container way too knotted up to be useful, four long-standing unpaid bills, pencils and pens too numerous to count, a can of air freshener used for counteracting the after-effects of my Chinese lunches, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree. Six empty boxes stare back at me with an attitude. Pretty soon, I expect the CDC, decked out in bio-chemical suits, to storm the place.
I pick up a diffused asthma inhaler under a pile of printouts that should have been pitched last February. Holding it up to the light, I wonder whose it is and if they survived the last attack. I don’t have asthma; neither does my husband Babe. 
A cleaning lady shows up every two weeks. I always hear her stopping outside my closed office door listening for sounds of life within. No doubt she wonders what illegal or illicit things I am up to in this room to which she has been forbidden entry. Being a sloppy office keeper is not illegal and I guarantee that it’s not illicit.
I love my mess, my clutter, my thousands of Post-it Notes. Other areas of my home might pass the white glove test because I’m a good picker-upper. Not by Martha Stewart standards, and not by the principles set forth by my friend Hannah, well-known for color coordinating cold cuts. I’d rather reserve the slapdash, slovenly side of myself to dump inside my little space. I’m just fine with that as long as the CDC stays in Atlanta where they belong.
Hannah, aka Hannah Homemaker, is the antithesis of me. Give her twenty-four hours and she could make Martha Stewart’s empire drop out of sight. Hannah cooks supper before she eats breakfast; bakes bread every day, and vacuums her carpet long before the warranty has expired.
Her shelves are not lined with ordinary shelf paper, but with fabric that coordinates with her china. Once a week she removes everything from the cabinets in order to wash, starch and iron the matching liners. When you picture that, does the term, OCD come your mind? Hello?
Occasionally, I’ve been known to ask Babe if he would love me more if I were like Hannah Homemaker. “What if I baked pies and bread instead of buying the day-old stuff?”
He wrinkles his brow and takes far too long to answer. Babe does stuff like to make me think he is clever. I pretend to be impressed. It’s a gift.
“Are you talking about my mother’s rhubarb pie recipe made from scratch? Rolled out dough ~ not the frozen kind?”
 “Rhubarb pie? Get serious, Babe.”
“Well, how about baking bread like my mother use to do?”
“What are you, twelve? Bread, schemed.” I dangle a packaged loaf of store-bought bread in his face. “If it's good enough for Little Miss Sunbeam, then it’s plenty good enough for us.”
Babe folds his eyebrows into deep pleats. Clearly, the man’s tush is in the proverbial crack. He knows it; I know it. He must come up with an answer along the same lines as the one I expect when I ask, “Do these jeans make my butt look too big?”
He clears his throat. “As long as you don’t force-feed me hog jowls or slip chitterlings in my oatmeal, and you don’t expect me to wade through the creepy stuff growing inside your office, I won’t trade you in for Hannah Homemaker.”
Looking around the room again, I decide to KISS ~ live with my collection of chaos till 2014. Privacy is way hard to find these days.