Monday, March 22, 2010

before and after

Hear ye, hear ye, the Queen of Procrastination is making a speech:


On this day in March of the year two thousand and ten, I would like to announce to you (my treasured comrades) that I have officially and actually organized my room. It is now possible to walk from the door to the opposite corner and back without fear of losing life or limb. My armchair has re-emerged as a shapely and inviting piece of furniture (rather than a shapeless and desperate lump). The tall shelf has been cut in half (yes, I used a saw all by myself) and re-built and now sits pleasantly by the wall; its contents: organized. The bed has been made and is a vision of pristinely chosen linens, rather than an invitation into the mind of a restless sleeper with its twisted blankets and upturned pillows. The desk awaits its turn to order, as does the box of "to-be-done's" beside it. But my closet has announced with a pride rarely felt that if even HE could be organized, then the desk has nothing to fear. “Soon enough, old friend” came the reassurance from my Wardrobe to my Workspace.

From the pack-rat ways of my youth to the 14 times I moved in a 10 year span (ah, young adulthood), this has been a long and arduous journey. Every move included a box or two of “Miscellaneous”. You've had this too, right? Now imagine those boxes 14 times over. Add in there a schedule filled with “I can do this for myself later, I will do this for you now” and an overall overfilled calendar, and I usually had to squish my Feats of Organizational Madness into a weekend or an afternoon. My quick fix “organizing” jobs (when people were coming over) were often reversed and undone in a matter of days. (important distinction: I was disorganized, not dirty…blech). The funniest part is that I’ve made a living for years ensuring that other people were organized. Because in my head, I am organized. There is a side of me that is very Monica. I don’t like specs on the carpet, I like all my pencils to be sharpened the exact right amount, and my hangers and shirts all need to face the same way in my closet (don't even get me started on window streaks).

The problem arose when I got so busy organizing everyone else that I didn’t take any time to organize myself – hence, the rushed “morning before everyone comes over” organizing sessions; hence, the quick undoing of my work a few days later, as I was never home long enough to maintain a decent system. If I was home, I was only home long enough to brush my teeth and hop in bed. I was lying in bed one night a few months ago (perhaps in December?) and I had a moment of connectivity with my surroundings (rare, for one so overscheduled): My room was a mess. A very, very big mess. This mess wasn't just surface; it wasn't just clothes piled on a chair or papers stacked on a desktop. It was disorganized from the bottom up; from the very drawerest-drawer to the shelfest-shelf. So I got up the next morning (a weekend, thankfully) and decided that it was time to overhaul my surroundings. I took all of my storage boxes out of my closet (my hiding place for junk when people come over), and all of my clothes, too. I took every thing off of every shelf and I put it in the center of my floor. This method won’t make sense to most, but for me it was the only way to go about it. I had to start over. I had to go through every box and put everything left there in a place. I had to make sure there were places available. And, I had to make sure that everything that could go, went. The problem, of course, is that my schedule forgot to pay attention to my plans, and I was soon off and running into 2010. Home only long enough to sleep (and sometimes, not even then).

Like any good intention, it soon rose to the top of my list of “musts!” Like any list item set beside an overstuffed calendar, it got pushed back, and pushed back, and pushed back. It was so hard to ignore though: the entire contents of my room were in the middle of my floor. From corner to corner; from carpet to kneecap. It was overwhelming, and annoying, and real, and…didn’t fit in my schedule.

But as I have been learning about budgeting my money and managing the whole of life, I have been thinking a lot about how I budget my time. And I’ve realized: I kind of suck at it. So after about a week or so of slowing down the wheels of busyness, I finally stayed home and organized my life. Saturday AM after a very satisfying run, I started. Like a long drive through familiar territory, I don’t actually remember most of it. I looked at my room on Sunday morning and I had to remind myself what I did to get it there. I pictured the folding of all the clothes (oh, the clothes), and the organizing of the boxes and shelves, the vacuuming of the carpet and the making of the bed and it was then that I felt a wash of pride all over again: I took time for myself. I actually took time for myself.

Like any major epiphany, this one hardly happened on the weekend alone. It’s taken me years to sort through and prioritize a lifetime of belongings. I have purged through more household items and wardrobe choices and pieces of paper over the span of my life than most people collect, ever. I have re-taught and re-taught myself what to keep and what to toss (in a more instantaneous fashion). I have begun to prize simplicity and I am proud to say I think I’m actually starting to see the effects of it on my tangible life. I am learning how important it is to have a place for everything. And last night, I enjoyed the fruits of my labour, as I sat in my cozy armchair and played guitar. When I looked out over my room, I could see my whole floor.

Perhaps as you read this you are brushing off the urge to judge the mess I’ve just told you I created. But like my finances, I eventually stopped being embarrassed about the mess I’d gotten into and decided instead to embrace it so I could move on. It took awhile (a long while, just ask my patient roommate), but it's done.

I think we’ve all got things like this. The messy room in my life was a tangible one – it was my actual room. This room of mine is incredibly symbolic in so many ways, though, and as I worked through the mess I am sure that somewhere in my soul, another mess was being sorted out. So this is where I leave you: it may take you years upon years of trying, but sorting through that enormous mess you’ve been ignoring is worth it. So, so worth it.

With Love,
The Queen of Procrastination
(formerly known as the Queen of a Messy Room)

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