The Rockwood Files: Moving a mess

By Gwen Rockwood, columnist and mama of 3

When I skipped spring cleaning this year, the small piles of clutter lurking in the bottom of our closets mushroomed into a formidable mess. The bigger they got, the more I didn’t want to deal with them.

I usually don’t let this happen. On any given day, my sanity is directly connected to the amount of clear countertop space in the house, so I’ve learned to let go of things we don’t really need. After our first child started school, I realized that if I kept everything that came home in his backpack, I’d be buried in glittery crafts and school papers in less than a year. But you know how it goes. Life gets hectic, and closets are a perfect place to put a big stack of “I’ll deal with it later.”

I’d been planning to tackle that stuff when there was enough free time to start and finish the project in one day. Yeah, right. Like that was ever going to happen. Last weekend, ready or not, it had to be done. My husband’s new job requires him to work out of our house. Knowing he’d need some storage room and a quiet space, I decided to move my writing desk out of our home office and into the kids’ playroom upstairs. But first I had to cut through a jungle of jumbled up toys to make way for a work area.

I dove in first thing Saturday morning full of energy with trash bags in hand – sifting through old toys and putting them into piles: keep, trash, or donate. My first mistake was starting the project while our three kids were around. When Mom attempts to weed through old toys, the same kids who’ve been ignoring those toys for months will suddenly decide that those are their very favorites and they desperately want to keep them forever. Just to prove it, they’ll sit down on the floor and start playing with them immediately.

So I worked around them and kept at it – sorting, trashing and re-arranging furniture and shelves until there was plenty of space for my writing desk. After several hours, the new combination playroom/Mommy office was looking pretty good. The room right next to it – not so good. In my efforts to open up space in the playroom, I’d moved much of the mess into the guest room. Even though one room was standing tall, the guest room wasn’t the least bit welcoming.

So I dove in again, forcing myself to make the hard choices on what would stay, what could go and how to store things efficiently. I worked for another hour until I was nearly done cleaning up the guest room’s move-over mess. All that remained was a stack of board games.

The games needed to go on the top shelf of the hall closet because they have small, “choke-hazard” pieces, and we have a toddler who will eat a checker faster than you can say “Parcheesi.” But in order to put the games into the closet, other things had to come out, so they went into the hall – which is a longer way to say, “I moved the mess – again.”

There was no way I’d worked that hard only to spend the rest of the day tripping over a mess in the hall, so I gathered up the stuff and went from room to room, dropping a few things off in my bedroom, a few more in each boy’s room and the last bit in the nursery. More mess, more moving.

By then, the day was fading and so was I. My back was sore, and my energy was drained. I’d spent the whole day chasing a mess from one room to another without ever really catching and containing it. Although the playroom, guest room and hall closet were clean, I’d created a mess in three other rooms in the process. This organizing stuff is tricky business. But I’m glad I’m doing it now. If I’d waited two more months, this delayed spring cleaning would have become a big Fall Haul.

If I can muster the willpower to do one more Saturday Household Re-org, I should be able to chase the rest of the mess around to the other rooms and eventually out of the house completely. Then I’m going to coast until next spring when closet levels reach capacity, and it’s time, once again, to move the mess.