23 Apr
2014

Perishables

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)?

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 9.31.20 AM

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.

Mmm-hmm.

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.

By    15 Comments    Posted in: Regular Entries


15 Comments

  • I love the “combination of perfectionst and layabout” description. That’s definitely me.

    I was trying to clear at least a little bit of the junk all over our counters today, because once this baby is born there will be all sorts of relatives at my house – visiting, taking turns watching the older kids while we’re in the hospital, etc – and I don’t want them to see such a mess. But clearing counters is so futile. Why do I even try?

    • Growing up, I used to whine about making my bed. “Why should I bother when I’m just going to mess it up again the same night?” My dad said, “Well, why bother wiping your butt if it’s just going to get dirty again?” Me: “GOOD POINT.”

      (I still think making the bed is dumb, but I do continue to wipe my butt.)

  • This is me, and it’s the thing about myself that annoys me the most. Why can’t I be an all-the-way perfectionist?! Also, can we be friends, because I would rather load the dishwasher any day than put the dishes away!

    • I’m lucky to have married someone who also likes loading the dishwasher, but I still don’t think I’ll ever understand it. Putting the cleans away is so much more pleasant; everything in its place and nothing covered with food slime!

  • Not stuff, but time – I keep waiting for this next thing to be over so that I can just [start exercising regularly / get some freelance work / organise stuff / whatever] but after whatever that thing is there’s another thing just staring down the barrel at me and so I never do reach that nice calm point when I can start getting my life in order. It’s so hard to organize life while living life. One or the other, please.

    • OMG YESSSSSS. I keep thinking if I could just have a month off of EVERYTHING, I’d be able to get my act together and organize and catch up on the million things I’m behind on (and then, of course, presume that it would stay together like our beloved linen cabinet), but that’s just never gonna happen, is it? I’m always wishing life had a rewind button, but now I’m thinking “pause” might be more useful.

  • We are twins! Except that unloading the dishwasher is the WORST THING EVER and my fridge has places for EVERYTHING. Everything is else is like a bomb exploded.

    • It’s funny to hear you say that because you’re one of the people I imagine has everything all organized all the time because you seem to have boundless energy to deal with it. Because let’s be honest, a big part of my problem is that at the end of the day, I’d rather flop on the couch than do anything else.

  • You just described my life. And my apartment. Somehow I haven’t gotten the knack of half-assing anything, I just don’t do it if I can’t do it perfectly. And, yes, that Hyperbole And A Half page is PERFECT because I cannot sustain adulthood for more than a day at a time.

    • It’s exhausting, isn’t it? And it’s not even that I wish I could manage to go to the bank and the grocery store and the gym but that I wish I could do it without having to summon superhuman levels of motivation. It’s so easy for some people; why can’t that be me?

      • I’m working full-time now (with a commute, too) for the first time in many years and I am SO TIRED. I barely do anything at home, let alone actually clean and prepare stuff (which of course makes everything take longer to do). I end up stopping by a grocery store on the way home for a half hour or so some of the days of the week because an actual Trip To The Store would take ALL THAT EFFORT so I cram in little trips because once I get home, I am d.o.n.e. for the day. Right now it’s a success if I manage to eat half the bananas I buy before they go bad because I can’t coordinate buying them with planning to eat them.

  • I have been relating so much to your recent posts about this kind of stuff. Just left my house to head to work and looked around to realize things were a bit in shambles and it’s been a rough week in terms of keeping our household shit together. Sometimes it just doesn’t come together! Good to know there are other “adults” who still sometimes feel like teenagers when it comes to this stuff.

    • A real thought I had when coming home from picking up the boys the other day: If someone broke in and ransacked our house, I probably wouldn’t even know because that’s what it looks like every day. Damn, that’s sad.

  • Oh my – we have a relatively big house (2400 sq ft) with rooms we don’t use that much and I’ve had that exact same dream about having extra rooms that I never knew about and immediately started planning out how I’d use all of that additional space.

    • Obviously if we have room to forget about four entire bikes, we have more space than we’re using. Maybe my dream was a signal that it’s time to clean out the basement? :)

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