I crave order, but attaining it is like asking a baboon to give birth to a bobcat. It’s daunting, destructive, and disappointing all at the same time. I hate chaos, but it’s my natural system, and it is a system.
In fact, there must be expected guests in order for there to be concentrated cleaning in my house. Without this social inspiration, there is no gust for my sails, no steam for my engine, no donkey for my cart. It’s a simple fact of old-timey nature.
If there is no one to impress, then there will be a mess.
It’s true. As desperately as I crave order on the inside, outside I’m a powerless victim of the constant creep of my collection of crap.
Of course, I don’t blame it on myself; I blame it on the architect who designed this cabin we live in. I have what professional organizers call “nowhere to put anything.” I have no linen closet, no coat closet, no pantry, no storage closest. What else is there to do but pile stuff on whatever empty surface I can find?
“A place for everything and everything in its place.” That’s a lie! I’ve looked. There is not a place for everything.
That’s why I designed my patented Shell Game Method. Whenever I get tired of my dining room table being more craft counter than dinner destination, I simply gather all my supplies and hide them in another room. In fact, that is the key to my mess-management methodology: when the mess gets too much, move it. And boy do I do a lot of moving!
“Guests coming tonight, honey? Okay, let me move these bags of dog food from the living room into the laundry room.”
“Looking for the iron? I’ll put my dirty-clothes bins in the garage and pile my shoes on the dryer.”
“Where can we eat? Let’s move the sewing machine from the dining room table onto the entertainment center, and put my reams of fabric on the couch. We can move them back later.”
I am a neat freak trapped in a messy’s body, and I desperately want out!
Movement gives the neat freak in me something to do.
A few years ago, there were these pictures traveling the web of the workspaces of some of the most successful and famous men in the world. I remember the images of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs the most. Their desks looked like a white-collar crime scene: piles of papers, books, and equipment strewn about the room as if thugs had been tasked with finding the last will and testament of their deceased crime bosses.
Ironically, viewing these mountains of mess made me feel both uncomfortable and unrestrained. I don’t want permission to live in a dump, but I wish I could feel as free as these men did to put the passion of their hearts over the position of their stuff. And that’s what it is, isn’t it? Permission. If only I could get permission to live in the mess that is life, then I’d feel a lot better.
Life is messy. And running around trying to keep it constantly tidy is like putting your paint and brushes away after every stroke. It might be tidy but your art will suffer.
One day I was running around hiding stuff when my ten-year-old said, “Why are you doing that? Don’t you want people to know a kid lives here?” She was right—a little mess is just evidence that life is being lived. I’d like to think that I prioritize children over checklists and that,
like tithing the first ten percent of my income, I give the best parts of my time to the people who count instead of to the counters that pile.
The trouble is, I can get so committed to my checklist that I miss those Holy Spirit moments that have so much more eternal value than my perfectly planned and put-away life. I’m not ready to run with my inner hoarder just yet, but I am ready to look at my mess as the evidence of a priority that is shifting from moving stuff around to loving the people around me. I never want to say, “Just let me clean this up before I love you.” That’s the kind of dysfunction that turns a little girl into an obsessive-compulsive woman. That’s the kind of bondage I want freedom from. Yet that’s the kind of thing my inner neat freak is screaming in my head. Meanwhile, my new- creature self turns away from the dirty dishes to run and get ice cream with my lovies. [excerpted from A Woman Overwhelmed, Finding God in the Messes of Life, releasing August 15, 2017]
If you’d like to see more of A Woman Overwhelmed trade book or even the Bible study, you can go to my book page for buying options.