I don’t mind putting clean dishes away but I haaaaaaaaate loading the dishwasher. Part of it is the gross factor of other people’s leftover food, but mostly it’s that I get no thrill out of the sticky tetris of finding the perfect place for everything, when “everything” is elementally different each time I have to deal with it. Much to my chagrin, I have the gene that makes me thinks there is a perfect place for everything. The most practical. The most efficient. The most aesthetically pleasing. The best. It’s not enough to find something that works if I know there’s a better way, and there is almost always a better way, and I almost never have time to discover and then implement it.
I also really hate that the fridge is constantly a mess. The milk goes on the top shelf because that’s the only place it fits, but everything else is just a hodgepodge of whatever we have being thrown wherever it fits in the moment. I wish I could just organize it once–everything in infomerical-approved stackable clear containers, with possibly the involvement of a labelmaker–and then keep it that way forever. Same goes with the kids’ clothes, all the paperwork on my desk, and our attic and basement full of odds and ends–craft supplies, music equipment, old baby gear, luggage, holiday decorations, Costco overstock, paint cans probably leaking lead into my childrens’ developing brains, and a ton of other stuff I’ve forgotten about because I haven’t seen it since we moved in seven years ago. A bike is a pretty big thing to lose, and I just recently remembered we have four of them in the basement. Four bikes! A while back I had a dream that I’d discovered a massive sunroom in our house that I’d simply forgotten about. Five hundred square feet I’d carelessly misplaced in the clutter of my brain.
Part of the problem is that we simply have too much stuff (#hoarders), but the other part of the problem is that by either nature or self-indulged nurture I’ve become a thrilling combination of perfectionst and layabout, which usually means that if I can’t do something perfectly and with relative ease and speed, I’ll probably just not do it at all. You can imagine how well this works in real life.
It’s like I have this kind of whiny teenager attitude that’s persisted into my mid-thirties as basically, “But I took a shower yesterday! Why do I have to do it again?” and then I flop dramatically across my unmade bed. You’ve seen Hyperbole and a Half’s post about the ideal of being able to officially attain adulthood in “one monumental burst of effort,” a feat then rewarded with years of sitting back and admiring the accomplishment instead of, like, continuing to act like an adult day after day after day (after day after day after day after OH GOD IT NEVER ENDS)?
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that there are organized pockets of my life, and although they’re small ones, they’re big enough to prove that order is possible, which only makes me wish everything else could be so easy and then exasperated when it’s not. For instance, I can organize the linen cabinet and expect it to stay in good order for a long time because it’s all just the same stuff going in and out. No one is growing out of towels or using half of a bed sheet and saving the rest for later (and then forgetting all about it) or buying new pillowcases at the grocery store in an endless loop. We have our linens and they all have a proper place and everything is neat and tidy and conforms to a grid, and the only way I’d improve on the situation is either making the cabinet bigger or myself smaller so I could crawl inside and live there where everything is organized and pretty and nothing ever changes.
But life is not a linen cabinet. Life is a refrigerator.
You can’t put perishables in the linen cabinet. You can’t keep a family alive on room-temperature chicken.
Yep, all those thousands of moving parts that make up life–all those things I wish would just get in line and hold still–those are the perishables. And life is a giant shelved box whose contents are constantly changing. Things move around, are used up, go bad and get thrown away, and are replaced, either by more of the same or by something completely unexpected. (Somehow we ended up with a mystery bottle of Boone’s Farm Blue Hawaiian? That must be a metaphor for something.) When I think about life as a fridge, I realized there’s very little in there that will still be around a year from now (although we can count on the Boone’s), and holy shit, that’s terrifying. Like I needed another reminder of the swift passage of time and the impermanence of all things and the ever-expanding nature of the universe. Happy existential Wednesday, everyone! Yay.
Anyhoo, as pleasing as this metaphor is, it doesn’t really change anything. I still have to restock the fridge and reload the dishwasher and relearn to cope with adulthood every other day or so. To expect a linen cabinet to function like a refrigerator, or vice versa, would be to expect life to be something different from what it is. It’s not a puzzle comprising pieces that each have a single correct position in the whole, but more like a…I don’t know, a giant tub of bath toys that constantly drift away from where I put them.
But you can’t do a puzzle in the tub. And you can’t keep the yogurt next to the beach towels. Go ahead and needlepoint that onto a pillow. I’ll wait.