It wasn’t so bad when Max was a cooing infant. I could organize the chaos around us, create a manger of inanimate onlookers with my swaddled miracle in his bouncy chair smack dab in the middle. (Our black and white pooch also bears a striking resemblance to a cow. Bonus.) There were breast pump attachments curled up on tabletops, receiving blankets and teeny tiny facecloths stacked to the sky. It wasn’t necessarily clean, but it was neat. Even the dirt was categorized into perfect little piles: cooties here, scuz there, crud up there, gook and gunk over there. Everything had its own spot or shelf or basket. I even have a basket for orphaned socks; as we all know, the dryer eats them.
“Another fuckin’ basket?” the husband would scold when I’d bring home yet another wonder of wicker weavery. He just didn’t understand. “It’s not a lowly basket, honey. It’s a cozy home for a bunch of CRAP!” As my dad used to say, even Moses was a basketcase.
Then, my perfectly immobile baby turned into a wrecking ball. I remember when I first declared on facebook that he was walking. A co-worker and father of three boys commented, “Take it from me, push him down, push him down!” I quickly understood what he meant. I have scratched “trip wire” off my shopping list at least twice.
He skipped the walking stage and graduated right to running, his tootsies chauffeuring his hands to the next item on his list of “Things I Must Destroy”. He climbs the couch, King Kong style, and throws the remote behind it, where adult hands fear to forage. He hurls toys into the bathtub, then stands there, watching them lie facedown and helpless at the bottom of the porcelain ravine. He jabs his mini hockey stick at the flatscreen TV, a frequent cause of Daddy Angina. As soon as I put his wooden blocks into their designated basket, he dumps them out. And God forbid I try to build a tower with them. It’s crashing down before I get to two, which means it’s never actually a tower but a pathetic block on a sticky floor.
Around his first birthday, sitting amidst the clutter, compounded by the dread of going back to work, I snapped! I needed to simplify this house and this life – pronto. A clutter-free home is a clutter-free mind. Amen, Oprah, amen.
I realized the key to this endeavour was having less. Getting rid of the excess. Not necessarily spending less, but buying fewer - but higher quality - things. Things that last. Overall, I needed to have less “stuff”, and, in turn, lessen my carbon footprint. (Eco-Mother of the Year award imminent.)
So I started giving things to charity. The guy driving the truck with the clothesline on the side - my hero. And I started saying no to charity. Do I want your hand-me-downs? Nope. Stuff with stains on it? Dude, we’re in Torbay, not Bangladesh.
I was getting things under control, embracing my newfound simplicity. Then, a couple of months ago, I met someone, and my Sort-of-Utopia began to unravel. His name is Thomas. The cheeky one. And he wasn’t alone. He brought his whole red and green and brown and blue posse with him. There are trains and tracks everywhere. On the floor, in the couch, in my butt crack. Max goes to bed with a smiling locomotive in each hand, and wakes up with them, still in his death grip, often with a chassis impressed into his face. By Christmas, our living room will have morphed into the Island of Sodor. If Sir Topham Hat walked into my front door right now, I would not be surprised. But he would get a startle, because he’d be getting a swift kick in those high-waisted pants.
And apparently this is just the beginning. Next up? Dinkies, then Transformers, then Legos, then what? Little parts and doodads and gadgets up the yin yang. Clutter-free simplicity up in smoke. But hey, while my matchbox home is chock full of stuff and toys and trains, my beautiful boy is brimming with joy. So what are ya gonna do? Buy more baskets, that’s what.