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Crazy Scary Mom and The Clutter Shuffle

He was standing there holding a sock in his mouth…his eyes daring me to try to take it away. There was no trace of malice in that big sweet puppy face. It was all a game: one that would end with tiny pieces of fluorescent purple sock strewn about the house, were I to lose. After quite literally straddling the coffee table in an effort (and a successful one, at that) to cut off any escape routes, I edged my way forward in that most awkward of positions and then proceeded to convince our almost 80 lb puppy…who was supposed to stop at 50 lb, by the way, but apparently nobody informed him… that the imaginary treat I was “holding” was sooooo much more worth his while.

Then I got a better look at the recently freed hostage sock. It was not just any sock, you see. It was THE sock that I had asked my eldest to remove from the mudroom floor mere hours before. THE sock I had also asked her to remove the prior evening…and, if memory serves, THE VERY SAME SOCK whose removal I had requested sometime that morning. Though, in her defense, socks do tend to travel in pairs…so I might be ever so slightly mistaken as to the exact identity of the offending foot wear.

For some reason, maybe it was the glaring fluorescent color of the sock, or perhaps it was the look in the puppy’s eyes as he scanned the room for his next victim. It could also have been the Lego man I spotted timidly peering out from behind the armchair. I imagined he was wondering where his friends had wandered off to. Well, I knew exactly where they were! I had seen them while cleaning the dog poop in the backyard, staring up at me from unsavory places from which they would never return…because even I have my limits when it comes to salvaging. Anyhow, whatever the reason the clutter that had at first seemed inconvenient at most, began to jump out at me…almost assault me…and that’s when she appeared: Crazy Scary Mom.

Crazy Scary Mom has the super keen hearing of a snow owl (though I have been told…by Little Man, obviously… that it is moths that have the best hearing. And BOY do I LOVE being corrected when I am sarcastically throwing out similes and metaphors), the eye-sight of an eagle, and the olfactory capabilities of a bloodhound…which is why Crazy Scary Mom is so easily overwhelmed by clutter. She must also have a certain aura or a look about her, because my kids can spot her before she even opens her mouth. (I’ve been told it’s the protruding veins and eye bulge that give her away).

Raise your hand if Crazy Scary Mom has paid a visit to your home. Anyone have their hand up? Am I all alone in this? I mean, it’s fine if I am. You can totally walk right up to me, tap me on the shoulder, and let me know that I am alone…because, honestly, that’s how Crazy Scary Mom can make me feel at times.

I mean…I’ve been around a lot longer than Crazy Scary Mom has. Not that I remember the exact moment when she first  breached the threshold of our home. Fun Silly Mom was there WAAAAAAY before Crazy Scary Mom ever saw the light of day…and I would like to think that she is still a much more frequent…even permanent… guest. However, when your kids’ interpretation  of her looks something like the sketches below, you begin to wonder…

I am definitely not a clean freak or anything…I think. I mean…does a “clean freak” actually know that they are a “clean freak”? If I break it down in my head (and I will admit to being a chronic over-analyzer), the mere fact that Crazy Scary Mom has a chance to make an appearance means that the clutter exists, at least occasionally…which means, by definition, I cannot, in fact, be a “clean freak”. Seems logical.

My first memorable jump towards neatness happened when I was around eight years old. I had a cluttered room like many other eight-year-olds and don’t recall really noticing it. Every now and again I would tidy up…or arrange things in a way that I considered tidied…when my mother’s pleas reached a certain pitch or an attractive enough carrot was dangled. Then, slowly (and sometimes not) but surely things would begin to make their way to the floor when I played with them and forget to make their way back to the toy box or shelves. In my mind, it seemed logical. I mean, heck, I was not ever truly done playing with them. They were just waiting for me to return from school, or dinner, or wherever I had to be between play times.

Then, one evening, while Nana was staying over on one of her visits, she came up to say goodnight after I had gone to bed. I do know that my room was pretty cluttered that evening…because that was a defining moment in clutter awareness for me. She looked around the room, nodded her head ever so slightly back and forth with pursed lips. “Sweetie,” she said softly, “you need to tidy this up. I’m afraid if there is ever a fire, you are not going to be able to find your way out of this mess.” She then strolled over, gave me a big hug and wished me sweet dreams on her way back out the door.

Now, I’m not going to say that my room was perfectly clean after that (just like I’m not going to say that the fire nightmares have completely gone away), but it was much better from then on, and there was always, at the very least, a path to the door and one to the window! And before anyone gets upset with Nana (who has long since passed), please remember that these were different times: back then a bedtime favorite was “Little Orphant Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley, which she read from a beautifully illustrated book titled “The Golden Book of Poetry: 85 Childhood Favorites” and which told of naughty children, like the ones that didn’t say their prayers (and, one could infer, the ones who didn’t clean their rooms), being snatched up by goblins. I’ll admit that my three “modern day” children would not have slept for a good while after a bedtime story like that. Anyhow, I definitely am not suggesting anyone tell their children that they are going to be trapped in a fire if they don’t clean their rooms…and I absolutely did not use this “tactic” on my own three. I’m just remembering (or over-analyzing) my own experiences…

I have noticed one thing, though. Crazy Scary Mom has tended to show up more as I lose control (and rightly so) over my children’s lives. So, maybe Crazy Scary Mom is actually Crazy Scared Mom. Maybe it’s not the clutter that is really bothering me when all is said and done. Ok…at times it totally is, but maybe that is just something that I can still feel that I have a say in, as they spread their wings wider and wider and make more and more decisions that are only theirs to make. Perhaps, seeing things in order in the house helps me to deal with the fact that once they are outside of the house…and out of my sight… I have so little control over what could happen to them (something that every glance at the news drives home).

I am hoping that by recognizing this, I can move toward calming Crazy Scary Mom (or Crazy Scared Mom) and giving Fun Silly Mom a little more face time. Not that I am going to completely let the place go. I’m just going to try to ease her into more of a Calm Serious Mom…

I can say, after an interesting experience in college (a story for another time), that there’s nothing like living with someone way more disorganized than you are…and flat out messy…to make you reevaluate your own neatness habits. So, I will be expecting thank you cards, or at the very least some kudos from the parents of whoever rooms with my Moon in the future!

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