Saturday, January 26, 2008


The new (lunar) year is almost upon us.

Remember when Mark and I decided to realistically shoot for sending out our annual cards before the lunar new year? The holiday cards are sitting in a heap on my desk, not yet addressed.

Remember last year when I didn't manage to clean and declutter my house from top to bottom (an Asian tradition) before the start of the lunar new year? I rationalized missing the deadline away by stating that there are no miracle instant diets. That deadline is less than two weeks away and I may miss the deadline again. (Because it is always the woman's responsibility to clean the house; I don't know why. It sucks, though.)

I am looking around my house and wondering, "How successful was the stuff diet?" I'd like to say it was a resounding success and my house is clutter-free, but no one would believe me. I have worked really hard on the project throughout the year. The state of the house is better, but it is an on-going battle.

I live with a procrastinator and a 7 year old. The procrastinator has actually changed his behavior somewhat. The 7 year old tells me that I have to accept her the way she is. (More on that later.)

Kathleen posted a link to an article about losing stuff weight (and body weight in the process). I saw a little bit of myself in A Clutter Too Deep for Mere Bins and Shelves. I surprise myself with the frequency with which I buy clear plastic bins at Target. I keep a stack at the top of the stairs for sorting stuff that is heading out of the house or on its way to a more permanent and logical storage spot. On cleaning day, I make a sweep of Iris' stuff and put it in her room for her to deal with. When the stuff is put away or sent out of the house, the bins are put back in the stack for reuse. At least, that is the way it is supposed to work.

I was surprised recently to see we had run out of bins again. Where have all the bins gone? Look under the 7 year old's bed. She will not put anything away. If I try to work with her on putting stuff away or instituting a sorting system, she just storms out or opens a book instead.

I can't even stand to go in her room now. Going in there reminds me of failure. She is allergic to dust. On doctor's orders, we were to put everything behind doors or in sealed, dustproof containers. We installed doors on her bookshelves. I culled my clothes and took my overflow out of one half of her closet. Mark installed shelves inside the closet. Stuff was sorted and what little she was willing to part with went out of the house. The rest went inside the closet, the closed shelves or in lidded plastic bins under her bed.

We put plastic bed lifts to raise her bed to create more room. They were intended to also create a little hiding/play space for her, but she filled it up. Now she plays under our bed, amid all the yarn and DVDs. I would post a picture of her bedroom, but that would definitely be a Bad Mom thing to do.

I really believe the clutter has a negative impact upon her. Her nose is chronically stuffy, especially in the mornings. She won't sleep. We are not sure how late she stays up; we conk out before her (though she admitted she stayed up past 2 AM once). Any effort to get her to participate in cleaning her own mess causes a tantrum. Complete and utter failure.

The rest of the house is looking reasonably presentable. Just don't look in the garage.


  1. How would it be if instead of saying, "Iris, you must part with something," you said, "Iris, you may keep three boxes of things (or 20 or however you think quantifying would work)." That way, instead of asking her to choose what she doesn't want, she chooses what she does want.

    I confess to taking things from my kids' (I've got four) room and hiding them, when I thought they were no longer really interested in the object. Some things I kept for later use and some I kept for 2 months and if they hadn't been asked after in that time I disposed of them.

    Kids are incredibly sentimental about stuff -- so I'm not sure that asking them to toss stuff is really fair.

  2. That's true. She is sentimental about her stuff--just like me. However, she hasn't learned to check her acquisition impulses yet.

    When I do get her cooperation, we set bins destined for different locations.
    One box goes to the used book store for credit.
    Another goes to her 3 year old cousin.
    Another goes to our 5 year old neighbor.
    Broken things go in the trash.
    Paper goes into the recycling bin.
    The last box goes to Goodwill.
    I put the used batteries and broken electronics in the toxic household waste bin in the garage.

    This seems really complicated, but an area can be cleaned out in half an hour if she cooperates. But she ends up playing with her stuff and losing interest. It is like herding cats.

  3. Anonymous11:59

    I wish I had a good answer for this one.

    I know one bad answer, the one my dad used - adult throws a tantrum and tosses everything not put away into the trash.

    How much control do you have over her acquisitions? Can you say to her, "I know you like this book, but your book shelf is full. If we weed out some books you can get new ones?" That's my suggestion because it's the only solution that has worked (imperfectly) for me as an adult.

    I hope you find an answer in the next year or two, and share it - my son is only 2 but I foresee this being a problem because both his parents are so incurably messy and cluttered.

  4. Oh no, don't make her part with books! I still treasure - and read - my books from when I was a kid.

    I also lived in a bedroom so squalid my mother despaired of me, and yet my apartment when I lived alone was neat as a pin.


Comments are open for recent posts, but require moderation for posts older than 14 days.