Monday, March 9, 2009

Crap Creep + Stair Stuff = House of Horrors

I have a problem. Okay, I may have more than one, but right now I want to address only one: Crap Creep.

Those of you who are also afflicted with the problem know what I mean without further explanation. Those of you who are excellent housekeepers, who have a place for everything and manage to keep everything in its place, those of you who would never, ever, even temporarily, store stuff on the sides of the stairs because you didn’t feel like going up them to put that stuff away, I’m here to explain the issue.

Crap Creep occurs when the stuff of your life begins to take on “hazardous” proportions; when no horizontal surface is safe from your stockpiling stop-gap measures at keeping your house livable; when you can put your finger on Christmas decorations without leaving the kitchen – in July! These are some of the signs that Crap Creep has reached capital letter status.

Until very recently (maybe a few weeks ago) I could live with my random piles of “Stuff I’ll Get to Later” because I had never breached what I consider to be the very symbol of out of control housekeeping: Stair Stuff. I grew up in a house where going up and down the stairs was like running the gauntlet: small piles of stuff dotting the left or right of random steps. Even now I wince at the distinct sound a human body makes while travelling the stairs without the benefit of its feet. I promised myself to never let my housekeeping reach that nadir. Alas, I have broken even that simple pledge.

So now what do I do now?

Well, cleaning off the stairs is the obvious first step. Since this was just a newly acquired bad habit, it was easily fixed (and hopefully broken). But for me, the bigger problem is recognizing the distinction between clutter (aka: crap) and piles of stuff which must be put away for when I might need to reference or use them. I can’t throw out potentially useful things – that would be wasteful. But I can’t just keep everything that has ever been brought into this house by any of its inhabitants – we’d need to move out! Let’s not even begin to discuss how we can’t find any of the stuff when we need it because it’s scattered like buckshot throughout the house.

So here are some web resources which offer helpful hints in de-cluttering:

1) The Fly Lady: The queen of housekeeping ideas.
2) The HouseKeepingChannel: just a funny name for a good online resource.
3) HGTV’s Mission Organization: for those who’d rather watch TV than dust it.
4) TLC’s Clean Sweep: Some tips & tricks from the show.

I did permanently adopt Fly Lady’s idea that a clean kitchen sink goes a long way toward better mental health, and have successfully employed the four bin system used in Mission Organization on a room into which I was once afraid to enter. But now it’s time for some serious effort.

Because I can't help but notice that the Crap Creep increased in direct proportion to my Digital Distractions, here’s my plan to combat it. Instead of sitting in front of my computer, searching, reading, writing, and commenting, I am going to use that time to sort stuff for keeping, storing, donating, and throwing (the four-bin system mentioned above). Instead of watching the television, I am going to be washing the appliances (not that easy – they’re stainless) and the cabinets. Instead of keeping in touch with friends on Facebook, I’ll be reacquainting myself with my actual books and deciding how and where they fit in our home (it will be a tremendous challenge getting rid of any books in this house). Instead of twittering, I’ll be dusting (with a feather duster, of course). Instead of learning about the human condition through good movies, I’ll be learning how to make repairs and improve the condition of our house. Other than checking my email each morning, watching HGTV while on the treadmill (I have to distract myself from the monotony), and watching Castle tonight (because it looks like a boatload of fun not to be missed), I am essentially taking the next week off of electronic visual media and replacing my time spent on it with time spent working toward providing myself and my family with a better place to live – for free!

Because I started my efforts this weekend, I hope to be able to post some good news by next weekend. As of this writing, our tiny library (where we homeschool) is 75% of the way toward a new Serene State.


Amy said...

Crap Creep and Digital Distraction go hand in hand, don't they? I love it! Hilarious post. Can't wait to see how it goes. Good luck!

LB said...

And here's the flaw in my otherwise perfect plan. I use the computer a lot for productive purposes other than chatting. Hitting "check mail" is just so easy, I can't not do it. But other than that - nothing!

Thanks for the well wishes. So far, so good.

Beth said...

Just don't try to do it all at once. you might hurt yourself.
(Personally, I always start with other people's crap. I make so much more progress!)

LB said...

Thanks for the warning, Beth. I do tend to get very clumsy when frenetic, so I'm taking it slowly. (And I still have to live with everyone else who had not yet had my particular epiphany.)

Since keeping the house (tracking all activities, deadlines, bills, etc.), and homeschooling are two of my big jobs, the case could be made that it's all my crap!

This realization only inspires me further.

Fiddler said...

Oh dear. Clutter Creep is happening here, too, but I've been ignoring it. Mildly O/C dh can't stand to see the clutter, though, so it just keeps getting put behind closed doors, where it disappears inside the "out of sight, WAY out of mind" effect. Perhaps I should join you. :)

LB said...

Happily (for our marriage, not our house) my husband and I share the same male-pattern dirt blindness gene. However, letting the days go by this way does make for the sudden onset of David Byrne-like confusion - "This is not my beautiful house!"

I'm still organizing and cleaning, but I've dovetailed into the repair phase - translation: must make phone calls and hire professionals. Finally - something I'm really good at!