I’ve been trying to be more organized. There’s just something about those women with their gracious entryways, cute yoga pants and seasonal toss pillows that makes me swoon. (The same goes for you boys out there with your fancy kitchens, Mad Men hair and well-lit artwork…I get weak in the knees over you, too.) When I walk into an organized, beautifully appointed home in which everything has its place, storage is optimized and clutter is a swear word, I feel like a five-year-old staring at my pretty teenage babysitter, mesmerized by her glistening beauty and desperately yearning to be a picture of polished feminine grace just like her one day.
Unfortunately, this awe spawns the rise of a nasty, nasty troll deep within who drives me into a frenzy of cleaning, obsessing, moving stuff around and placing unspectacularly arranged vases of flowers everywhere. Because that’s what the organized people do…they put flowers in the bathroom, flowers on the porch, flowers in the basement, flowers by the stove…
On coffee and not much sleep, I gutted my kitchen shelves yesterday. I’d scooped up one of those “Organize!” or “Storage!” magazines in the check-out line and made the mistake of reading it before bed. And so two nights ago I reclined with my eyes open for possibly hours thinking of what I would rearrange the next day. Sort! Purge! Keep! Find it a home! Boom! A beautiful home is mine!
I moved a bench. I moved a table. I moved chairs. And I moved all my cookbooks because on-the-fly meal prep suits me well in this season of everyday life. What did not suit me was an overflowing basket of plastic grocery bags, using my shelves to store a bazillion pairs of shoes and a bar counter cluttered with stand mixers, juicers, tissues, hand sanitizers, fruit bowls and catch-all trays. And so I turned this shelf-and-bar-counter area into what the organized people call a “hub” or a “workstation.” A mail organizer on one shelf for incoming and outgoing mail and magazines, container-bound keys and glasses/sunglasses on another shelf, cutting boards in one slot, easily accessible kids cups and plates on another, a respectable amount of grocery bags down low for dog walking, the stand mixer put away and a countertop almost completely clear for dropping stuff when we walk in the back door—and, of course, for displaying flower arrangements.
I admit, my organizing muses, Lindsay, Becca, Cin and Grandma, whose homes inspire me to no end in their vastly different executions of beauty and fluidity, might not find my new hub inspiring, but it’s a start. This new “system,” another organizey word I learned when I hired an amazing professional organizer to save me from myself a few years ago, is better than it was before, and my mind feels clearer, and I enjoy being in the space a lot more with it this way.
But it was hell getting there.
You would not believe how mean I can be to myself. From the moment I opened “The Organized Home” (even the mag title taunts, no?), I felt wobbly in my gut, where I usually store my emotions. Excited about the prospect of a more neatly arranged kitchen, but tainted with an ominous feeling. A feeling of not-enough-ness.
As I got started, my nasty inner troll emerged like a drill sergeant trying to break me at basic training (not that I’ve actually attended basic training, so, this may not be an acceptable simile.) “Oh, that’s cute. You’re on a little organizing kick. That’s funny. You want to have a pretty home, don’t you, little girl? Well, you had that couple over for dinner thinking your kitchen was warm and inviting but the whole time they were looking at your messy-ass shelves and wondering if the food you made had dog hair in it. Heh. Probably time for you to make things a little more presentable, dontcha think? At the rate you’re going, you’re always gonna be a sorry excuse for a homemaker. Not even Better Homes & Gardens’ Storage can help you, honey.”
Any time I venture to clean the house, which is often, or reorganize a room, this horrid little troll rears her head, ever full of sarcasm. “You think you’re such a wise thing but, wait, what’s that? You can’t figure out how to make your stuff look nice and be functional at the same time? Aw, that’s too bad. And you thought you were someone special. You can’t figure out a better place to put your shoes? You don’t have attractive, matching containers for those? If I were you, I’d be too embarrassed to have anyone over. Ever. I mean, you put your kids’ dress-up costumes in a giant Rubbermaid container instead of a seagrass basket from Pottery Barn…what the hell kind of inviting home does that make? Why are you even trying to do this? You’re so far behind you’ll never get anywhere with this organizing kick. Just quit now.”
This little troll goes on and on, providing commentary on every little thing I throw away, everything I keep, everything I place with intention, every flower I trim and drop into a vase. And I wonder why I end up feeling jittery and nauseous every time I try to tackle an organizing project.
Turns out that, at the same time I’m doing something really nice for myself, I’m driven by a decidedly miserable motivation: the belief that, without a constantly beautiful, tidy home and the high-functioning, catalog-ready organization of our possessions, I’m not good enough. In fact, I’m worthless. I’m a meek and homely little kindergartner pining for confidence, magnetism and physical beauty out of my reach.
Ack! It feels terrible. And I am not in the business of making myself feel icky—I love to feel good, and I take great care to make sure I feel fantastic most of the time. So I don’t know why this happens every time I clean or organize. And I don’t know how to stop it. But, in addition to bringing attention to it following meditation, I’m going to get past it the same way I got into it.
A long time ago, I posted a couple pictures on my bulletin board, let’s call it a “vision board,” that evoke the more organized self I’d like to be. And so, here I am now, evidently with the appropriate level of energy and inspiration to become that person. However, it’s clear to me that my energy around this theme is actually hardcore detrimental. I missed something in that vision-board intention: Honor for the wonderfully right-brained woman I am. And the understanding that neatly storing my giftwrap so that I can craft gorgeous hostess gifts at a moment’s notice will not make my soul any more radiant.
I’m not sure how to go about employing my vision board to make myself both self-loving AND organizey, but I trust it will unfold for me. Perhaps I’ll find clippings of images that evoke joyful, wild-haired women relishing their organized, though mismatched, spaces. Or photos of wild horses running through kilim rug fields littered with potato-sack boulders stuffed with kids dress-up clothes beneath wire-hanger clouds. I don’t know.
I do know I want to change my beliefs about what it means to be neat and organized, and about what I’m not if I’m not. I also want to evict the nasty troll. And, more than anything, as it’s clear to me that my pain around wanting to be organized and have a pretty home reflects a deeper issue at hand, I want to emerge from this excruciating pattern triumphantly radiant and full of gratitude for all that I am. I think that’s a reasonable request.
For those of you reading this who have your own inner troll wreaking havoc in its own way, I send the most sincere energy toward your complete liberation, your radiant spirit and your infinite gratitude for all that you are. Because, believe it or not, you really are something special.