A guide to embracing your imperfect Solo-Mom self
Decluttering your life is the “gluten free” of this year. Women with sparkly eyes take you aside to whisper ecstatically about how organizing your closet is transformative. They describe amazing weekends going through their closets and throwing away their prom dresses: Like spa weekends, only empowering! Like time spent in Hawaii for work! Like eating a pizza with no bloat!
Not for me. Clutter, like gluten, is part of my daily regimen. I like stumbling upon a piece of paper I put up in the kitchen from my daughter’s year in kindergarten on which she identified the first letter of the word river as a w because that is how she pronounced it. And although I deplore sentimentality, I sentimentally hold on to things way past the time I should, which is why I have damaged dioramas on my bookshelves and poorly painted objects on my mantelpiece from our long-ago vacation at Bruin Woods, the first vacation we took as a family without my ex. It’s the Solo-Mom conundrum: tough exterior, mushball inside. (Shh! Don’t tell anyone.)
As a Solo Mom, I do find myself apologizing for the mess quite a lot. I know that it has embarrassed my children. My house seems to be overflowing with things I probably should have filed or thrown away. The fact is that I have done several purges, cleanings, and changes. We no longer have a crib, a changing table, or Barbies. But like everything else involving raising children, there seems to be no end to novel detritus. I’ve picked up and put away Jenga so many times I forgot we owned it. So for me these days, organizing for pleasure is like going on a diet. I know it has benefits, but it makes me pretty darn cranky. I did, during one of my purges, throw away the bathroom scale. Does that count?
Since this has been a long-gestating problem, I have developed some justifications for the mess.
The Pooh theory
You never know when you may need something. A honey pot can be a boat or something useful in which to put things, such as a burst balloon. As a Solo Mom, there is a feeling that life is precarious; having things around you that you might be able to convert into other things is sort of a practical safety net. You never know when you are going to need that glue gun! There will be that moment when a project is due and you need poster board. Why rush to buy one when you have one saved? Recycling is good!
Before kids, I was different
That’s right. I’m blaming my children for the piles of unread magazines on the once-pristine coffee table. I had one clever chip bowl, that looked like a swimming pool, arranged just so. And that was it. My CDs were alphabetized! My closet went from pants to skirts and blouses! I did not throw my shoes into the laundry basket by mistake. Now I have a pile of way too many T-shirts from supporting my offsprings’ causes—everything from elementary school fundraisers to family beach cleanup events. Ahh . . . the memories!
The creative theory
We all know what they say—that a cluttered space is a sign of a creative mind. I rely on this one to explain why my kitchen is always clean but the shelves are stocked in random order. Why my desktop on my computer is filled with random pictures I have not filed into folders. Why my bills are tossed in a basket and old notebooks now filled with my notes pile up on my desk. Because I am thinking, that’s why! If I know it’s around here somewhere, that gives me just a little more time to remember that thing I wanted to do with something else on the desk. Call it multitasking. Potato, potahto.
It’s not my job anymore
I think you will agree with me that once kids reach double digits, there are better things a Solo Mom can do with her life. When they were little, we organized toys and clothes and laundry and school charts . . . and later, playdates and carpools and . . .
Frankly, they can pick up their own room—it builds character. Amiright? Who knows, maybe someone will even locate those sewing scissors that disappeared from the once very organized drawer in my room!
Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.
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