As a child I had a fierce longing for order in my world. I wanted a place for everything and everything in its place. The oldest of six children by the time I was 10, my early years were spent trying to manage a lot of toys.
This was difficult, because though I loved playing with little people, wooden blocks, and Duplos, when I outgrew these things there were still younger siblings enjoying them. They would leave pieces strewn about the house. When it was time to clean up, everything came back to me.
Whose toys are these?
While technically true, it was immensely frustrating. I was the first, and as such they were mine originally. I scurried to try to pick up and bring peace and order to the situation. If only I could get it right.
There was great tension between reality and fantasy. The ideal in my mind could not match what was actually able to happen. This played out while cleaning my room, a space that I shared with several littles.
We had a light blue wooden toy box with a hinged lid. One had to be careful when opening it, because the lid could easily slam shut. Cleaning the room often involved tossing everything into this toy box. When closed, the top doubled a seat. The trick was to get everything flat inside so that the lid would shut all the way. Not easy.
I tried organizing the toys. I sorted them by category, gathered all the pieces of different sets together, and carefully placed them inside the toy box, hoping the propped lid would not come slamming down on me in the process.
My efforts were thwarted by eager younger siblings as they scrambled and dug through and dumped out their newfound favorite things as quickly as I could tidy and sort out and put back. As much as I longed to bring order to the chaos, chaos always prevailed.
There was just so much to manage. So many people with so many things sharing so little space. I remember my mom’s frustration with this, also. She tried making containers out of recycled plastic milk jugs to use for sorting the toys. It was a valiant, hopeful effort.
As a mom myself, I recognize the feeling that if I only had the right bins and boxes to collect items, everything would fall into place, but there is also the piece of teaching children how to pick up after themselves. There were so many children. There still are so many children. There have always been many children.
Instead of calm, orderly space with things tidied and put away, there were toys everywhere, and tension and stress. My dad would say am I the only one that sees XYZ on the floor and I would see it too.
After all, the mess came back to me. I felt like the common denominator of the endless clutter. I would pick things up and hurry to try to put them away, but the cycle was never ending.
I remember having these when I grow up thoughts such as when I grow up there’s gonna be a place for everything and everything in its place or when I grow up I’m not going to have kids to make messes everywhere or when I grow up I’m going to have matching furniture.
Somehow I lost myself between that space and the space of growing up and then ended up just replaying the same story over again and again.
After watching several episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I have still not made it through one with dry eyes. Something always stirs inside causing a tear to escape or a torrent to let loose. These tears prompted me to explore the story with tidiness, or lack thereof, in my life.
I understand the desire for order. I get the feeling of futility that it will never happen. I feel the weight of being a child who does not know what to do with all of the things and the mom who is just trying to do her best with what she has.
I grieve not having had a space and season that was my own to settle into and navigate on my own while learning to adult. I fight the fear that something will happen to the one I love before we have a chance to figure out our life together.
All of these themes present in different episodes and prompt conversations between my love and I in our living room. The bottom line, I have discovered, is that there is no right way other than to learn from the past, to sit with the present, and to move into the future with new knowledge and hope for repair.
I still long to bring order to the chaos. With some new grown-up skills in place and the kind understanding of those in my world, these days, order is catching up.