Reclaiming My Territory

>> Monday, November 9, 2009

I've noticed that Murphy's Law takes things a little bit personally where my blogging is concerned. The more excited I am about my latest inspiration for a blog entry, the more spotty my internet connection becomes. Today, I had been saving 4, yes 4, ideas to type up, and of course my internet connection blows out completely for 4 hours.

It figures, right? On the bright side, at least I got my exercising done early today. On the other hand, I didn't get much else done that I had planned. I spent lots of time trying to fix the internet, you see.

Today, I was supposed to perform an exercise I call, "Reclaiming My House." I still have a few hours to get it done before dinnertime, and I might get a little bit further along in the process ... once I'm done talking at all of you, that is. (Then again, I could run and do something in between typing each sentence, and you wouldn't even know, would you?)

But ... enough of this silliness. What is involved in Reclaiming My House? Well, I decided a long time ago that there really should be different names for different kinds of of cleaning/straightening up. If we call it what we really mean to do, then (in my case at least), we will be far more likely to actually do it. When I was living in the dorms in college, I developed a task my roomate and I called, "Room Enlargement Exercises." We weren't cleaning up our stuff, we were making the room look bigger by getting all the crap out of the way. When you live in a ridiculously tiny space with another person, a clean countertop (not to mention laundry put away) can make the whole place look a lot bigger. As a side note, wall to wall carpeting helps, too.

When I was in law school, I created a little routine I called, "OCD Cleaning Therapy." Actually, I wanted to call it, "I Just Spent the Weekend In Someone's Really Messy House and I Am Pretty Grossed Out and Trying to Get Over It," but that got a bit long. The first time I had to engage in OCD Cleaning Therapy I actually scrubbed the bricks of my fireplace. Don't worry, that never happened again.

Now, I have the exercise of Reclaiming My House. This exercise can be triggered any number of different ways, but the most reliable cause is a family overnight trip. When we come back from ... say ... a weekend trip to watch the Penn State game, I find that our chaos footprint becomes almost exponentially large. Somehow our two overnight bags, cooler, and a small bag of toys expands to fill the entire trunk and backseat of the car, and by the time we come home, all of the things in the car take up the entire foyer of my house. That is problem number one.

Problem number two comes from us not taking all of the creatures that live in the house with us when we go. We leave behind the cats, or as I sometimes refer to them, Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3, unsupervised. Even better, we give them extra bowls of food (in special, timed cat food dishes that open at a preset hour) to bat around the kitchen floor. They track litter all over the place without anyone to stop and sweep, and they take those catnip mice and carry them all up to my bed. It's nice to be missed, I know.

Then, as soon as we get back, all the chaos lands in the front room of the house and spills over into the kitchen. In this particular case, the chaos came with lots of mud and grass from the weekend's soggy weather.

So, the day after we return, I have to go about a methodical process of pushing back the chaos to wherever it comes from and re-establishing my imprint. All of the "vacation" stuff needs to go back, the cats need to be reminded who really is boss (Toddler), and someone has to clean up all the mess.

At these moments I remember a rule my mother had ... which frankly drove me nuts. She used to insist that each of us unpack our suitcase before we went to bed the day we got home, provided we got home before midnight. I used to be so annoyed at this rule. I always thought the suitcase could wait until the next day, because what was the rush? After all, emptying the suitcase usually led to mother starting the laundry, which meant we all had to help fold and identify the clothes, and then put them away too. How was this a restful return to home, I used to wonder? One day I asked mom why we had to empty the suitcases out right away, and she said, "If you don't do it right away, it won't get done."

I didn't believe her.

I didn't impose that same rule on myself or my household.

I found out she was right.

Now, I haven't managed to impose a "same day" rule on the suitcase (because I'm the one who has to put away almost all of the stuff, and I'm the one doing the laundry these days), but I have imposed a 24 hour rule. Otherwise the suitcase will stay out until the next trip. I've tested this theory, and my mother was right. There is something about stuff inside suitcases that has incredible inertia and is very heavy to lift and put away. Very heavy.

In my defense, the suitcase is already taken care of today. It's just the mail, the coupons, the winter clothing, and all the other things outside the suitcase that grew in the trunk of the car while we were travelling that I need to identify and sort. These things, too, have tremendous inertia. In fact, I think they are taking root in the entranceway. Their inertia was so great, in fact, that I diverted myself by engaging in Room Enlargement Exercises by rearranging Toddler's toys in the family room.

Tomorrow, inertia will return to it's normal levels. I hope.


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