I pick my way through the minefield of Legos set between me and the laundry. One Lego escapes detection and stabs square at the plantar wart that’s been throbbing up my leg for two months. I yelp and hop and fold over on myself. Tears blur the mayhem of puzzle pieces, Barbie clothes, still more Legos, and random vehicles as I pull the offending plastic barb off my bandaged foot.
In front of the washing machine, five dirty piles wait their turn for redemption. They will wait another day. My dryer’s door jammed shut this morning, incarcerating my summer-brights.
Our basement is like the dark side of the moon – only the intrepid (like our kids and their friends) venture down there. On a typical day, I avert my eyes and walk fast. But today I know that my parents-in-law are stopping by, and I know we’ll ask my father-in-law to look at the dryer. This wakes tormenting inner demons of panic and inferiority.
I’ve sorted things down there so many times, but if I don’t actually complete the task, down to the act of carrying away the things we don’t need, the kids will sweep through, dumping and scattering until it’s worse than before. I know this, and I know how demoralizing the undoing is. When the disaster is so great, I underestimate my ability to complete the task and I am paralyzed. I don’t even try.
I know in my head the truth I’ve begun speaking to my children – if you can’t clean it up by yourself, you have too much stuff. I know that I have to get rid of it. But it’s so difficult for me to take action.
Enter yet another familiar demon – guilt. Because how do you teach something you haven’t mastered yourself? Because I’m bad at purging the no-longer-needed, the too-small, and the broken/missing-pieces/otherwise-unusable, I struggle to teach it to my children.
I am perpetuating the cycle.
As I hobble around throwing bits of toys into random bins in an attempt to clear a path to the laundry, I berate myself.
“I can’t teach my kids to pick up after themselves. What am I doing? I shouldn’t even be a mom.”
Shut up. That horse left the barn a long time ago.
I have to keep trying. Quitting isn’t an option. I’m not too old to learn something new. I can live what I’m telling my kids – if I can’t stay on top of it, I have too much. As I work through my own stash and share what I no longer need or cannot use, I not only show the kids what I’m asking of them but I will also show them the rest that comes with having only what I can manage.
Today I have a handful of trash bags, and I’m headed to the basement. Pray for me as I confront those inner demons and wage war on our stuff.
Do you have any suggestions for purging and organizing, especially when you live with those (or are) talented at unpurging and disorganizing? Leave them in the comments.