Mean, Clean, and Green: How Cardboard Boxes Contained My Rage
I never was much for housework. Don't get me wrong: I have to be bone-tired to leave dirty dishes in the sink, I vacuum before the dust bunnies roll into tumbleweeds and yes, I even do toilets. But amid the chaos of family life, a post-layoff career switch and the loss of that ultimate luxury, the occasional professional scrubbing, I've learned to live with what I view as a few neatly piled mounds on the floor of mommy and daddy's bedroom.
Seriously, big-picture-wise, who cares if I have some bags and boxes of loose receipts, photographs waiting to be framed, and shoes earmarked for charity scattered here and there, as long as no one's tripping over them? My DH, that's who.
The poor man. After six years, he still sees no reason why I can't maintain the nice, orderly apartment where we leisurely read the Sunday paper BTK -- Before the Kid. But these days, it's a win-lose situation and the chaos is winning. Admittedly, the DH does have a legitimate gripe. It's not just the bags in the bedroom. There are those ready-to-topple stacks of paperwork and junk mail in our allegedly shared home office and, even worse, on the long countertop that commands center stage in our living/dining/kitchen area.
At first, he asked me nicely to "take care" of the mess. Then he tried ignoring it, in hopes that I'd finally get to it of my own volition. When that didn't work, he used his angry voice. He even employed that annoying sweeping hand gesture along with the phrase, "If you have time today..." But none of his methods had their intended effect. On the contrary, they made me dig my hoarding heels in deeper.
The only thing that got me moving was rage. Hard, cold rage. It happened on a dark and stormy October day, in the wake of a marital "discussion" that ended in me breaking the cardinal rule by going to bed angry. I woke up livid. This time, however, I found a productive way to channel my aggression: I lit into the mess with a vengeance. I spent hours dumping, sifting, and organizing, scurrying crazily back and forth between rooms. But once I had all the stuff splayed across our king-size bed, the kitchen countertop, and the dining room table, I got a sinking feeling: Where was I going to put it all?
Once upon a time, my lust for picture-perfect drawers and closets would have led to aspirational fantasies of an ultra-luxurious organizing system. Now, the price tag stopped even my dreams in their tracks.
Then I remembered all the lower-priced products offering the same intoxicating promise of nirvana. Finally, everything would have a place, preferably one I could find. And if my DH came home to a tidy nest, Don Draper-style, he'd have to trade his agitation for serenity!
But I know myself. I'm one of those suckers who would buy pretty jewelry organizers and beautiful storage boxes, then simply add those filled shopping bags to the jumble in permanent residence on my closet floor. (Another thing that drives my DH to distraction: Once in a teensy while, I have some difficulty closing said closet doors. But is it my fault if the organizing gene got lost in the madness of motherhood?)
That's when my green senses began to stir. "Wait!" I thought, "aren't a lot of those organizing bins and boxes [long pause] plastic?" Maybe I should look at bamboo! Yes, friends, there are plenty of sock separators, stacking containers, and storage stools made from sustainable and recycled materials.
Cue the dark green voices in my head: "Stop consuming...Stop consuming...." Just then, my eyes fell on a strong, clean cardboard box earmarked for recycling. I spread the flaps wide and began stashing the numerous shampoo and lotion bottles and hotel soaps inside. No longer would they topple over, creating havoc on the high shelves of my toiletries/linens/cleaning/paper products closet. Then I found some more boxes and kept going.
I methodically organized my staples, rubber bands, and sticky note pads in the cardboard box decorated with ducks that once held my son's first pair of rain boots. I repurposed the zippered plastic blanket bags as under-the-bed shoe storage. The lovely French chocolate tin from one Valentine's Day now serves a much less romantic but very practical purpose -- holding all the batteries our son's toys require. (Yes, we recycle them.)
So, I've made a dent. (Now I just have to label those boxes so the DH knows what's in them.) By the end of my rainy-day organizing marathon, you would have thought I'd be exhausted. But I was still so pumped, I sorted out his ragged old socks.
They'll be ideal for dusting -- the next time I get really, really mad.
Update: Bethina thanks everyone who has posted helpful tips to this article and hopes to try out many of them soon! She also wants to assure all that her husband has two very fine, working hands; in fact, he would love to attack the chaos. But bethina feels very proprietary about her piles and is reluctant to let anyone else mess with them.