Friday, October 7, 2016

Getting It Together

by Linda Rodriguez

This is not really my house (thank heavens).
My husband, the world's original disorganized, absent-minded professor, is fond of saying, “I'm going to get it together,” as if he's putting the final touches on a perfectly organized life. Now, regular readers of this blog may remember that my youngest son, who adores him, calls him “the chaos demon.” Sometimes people who work with my husband at the university take someone new into his office just for the shock effect. Over the years—after many efforts to set up systems he can’t destroy and after giving him books designed to help him understand the simplest organizational principles (like ”throw the trash in the trashcan—don’t just walk past it and deposit it on the kitchen counter”) I’ve stopped trying. I try to keep a couple of areas clear and comfortable for me, and I don’t look when I pass the rest. I haven’t had guests to my house in years, although I had many before he fully embedded himself in my home. (It takes a year or two to completely undo good systems, I’ve found, even for a chaos demon.) He's a wonderful man, and it’s his only real fault, so I long ago decided to live with it.

Lately, I've been chafing at these circumstances, however. Probably because, unlike my husband, I work at home and thus spend most of twenty-four hours a day in these chaotic surroundings. I've grown tired of living with boxes of books and postal bins of manuscripts stacked in the living room—he runs a micro press from our home in his spare time when he's not running a university press and teaching. This morning finally sealed the deal for me, however. My weak and shaky hands (from lupus) managed to knock off the table between our chairs the big Columbia University cup in which I keep things I use regularly—fountain pens, mechanical pencils, scissors, a nail file, and knitting needles. This meant I had to scrabble around on the floor around and under his chair for the spilled contents of my cup.

He keeps a quilt made by my sister in his chair to cover up with if he's cold or just sit on if it's hot. This quilt often puddles on the floor around his chair, and I've given up chiding him about it. So this morning, I was looking for my fallen necessities, only to find that his quilt was hiding three times as many items as I had spilled. Apparently, I'm not the only one with shaky hands in this house.

My cup is back and filled with the pens, pencils, and knitting needles that I consider necessary to daily life, but my hard-won peace with the house mess is gone. I'm googling home organization websites and making lists of decluttering tasks to do over the next weeks. I'm laying in supplies of trash bags and cardboard boxes. The chaos demon's days are numbered.

He tells me he is going to get it all together. I tell him that's a meaningless phrase, that no one ever gets it all together. He reassures me that. He. Will. Get. It. All. Together. I tell him that, like too many men, he sees the house situation as a war where he can win a battle and go home forever. I tell him that life's not like that. “It's a case of constant maintenance, baby,” I say. The chaos demon is stubborn, however, and insists that he will get it together. Tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. After all, things are crazy right now. But he will get it together. Later.


  1. winter is closing in and the holidays will be upon us in no time. Which means I need to get ten month's worth of rough drafts, bill stubs, and print-outs off the dining room table.

  2. I hear you, Margaret. I'm on a mission here. :-)

  3. You just described the chaos demon in our house. I love mine too, but his retirement from outside-the-house employment to stay-at-home chaos demon brought new dimensions yet to settle. Love or not, and love I have as for no other, it appears that those in the wake of chaos are the ones who adjust.

  4. Yes, Reine. Mine is absolutely the best of men. The mess creation is his only real fault. And we both know how many other faults they could have. So, yeah, we adjust. xoxoxo

  5. Oh, gee, Linda, I'm always telling myself that "this month I WILL get it all together." I don't remember how many books I have on decluttering, or where they all are (one of them was underneath some of the clutter). My excuse is that I can only sit for so long before the back spasms get to me. I spent around an hour earlier today shredding, and had to stop because I was afraid the shredder would overheat. My last one died that way a few months ago. I love to see things all neat and orderly; I'm just not gifted at getting them that way. (But I WILL get it all together:-)!!!)

    Deb Romano

  6. This is precisely why I love living alone. Not to say I don't miss companionship, because I do; however, not having to clean up after someone else or step over their things or be chided for the way I organize my own things has its rewards. And certainly, staying organized is not always even for me, but I love a clean and tidy room! Especially around the area I write. A cluttered study--for me at least--is a cluttered mind, and I can't be creative until I clean. Plus, I am good at finding diversions to writing, so I have to be diligent. Why can't I afford a maid?