I am someone who struggles with organization. Maybe it’s the husband, four kids, four cats and a bunny. But if I’m being honest, I was much more unorganized before all of that. I use a calendar on my phone, which sort of keeps things from going totally bonkers, but last week we showed up a full 24 hours early for a dentist appointment and I just got a text from a very patient therapist who we were supposed to be meeting with one hour ago. So there is room for improvement. And as a writer, I have always had a journal. Well, I’ve always started a journal. I have so many “this is me” style entries at the beginning of yet another pretty, lined notebook and then pages of nothing.
How many linen closets do you have? I hope it’s none, for your sake. I have one in the laundry room, but I recently discovered that linens are stored in no less than seven places in my house. I knew something was up when my husband kept saying “I’ll take care of the linens.” Not in a mafia hit man sort of way, which would have been troubling for other reasons, but in a sort of panicked way. He asked for my help and I came up to our room to discover this:
He started talking really fast about not being too sentimental about anything and how we should approach the sorting method. It might have been the three shots of espresso in his latte talking, but my takeaway was this: we had a linen problem, and in about 20 minutes he was leaving to pick up the kids and this would be my linen problem.
So here’s what I learned:
1. I have too many linens. Probably we all do. Actually, I don’t know how many you have, but I think it’s easy to have way more than you really need or realize. Linens don’t usually break, they don’t particularly go out of style and they fold up neatly. It’s easy to just keep them “in case.” Next thing you know there is not a tent fortress imaginable that could use up all the linens you have
2. I don’t have to keep linens for nostalgic reasons. I mean, if someone makes you a quilt or you have a personalized blanket, keep it. Even binkies can stay. But my youngest kids are 10 and I have three crib sheets. They were cute to look at, but I got rid of them.
3. Newer sheets are better. They came up with this thing called thread count. When I was first buying my own for college, Oprah was spending her billions on 1200 thread count but 400 was a pretty nice standard. Now, my kids have 400 and if I ever wind up sleeping in their beds (also another story) I feel like I’ve slept on sandpaper. I think that thread count is still maybe the same, but they’ve made cotton blends and any number of advances in sheet softness. Worth checking out.
4. Sheets come in sizes they are shy about sharing. I spent most of the time unfolding and refolding sheets and desperately looking for tiny faded tags that may or may not say the size of the sheets. Twin are easy to tell, but the difference between full, kind and queen is tricky. Plus: I don’t have that size bed anymore. Why do I have several sets of sheets for bed sized I don’t have? Are we going to fail sleeping on a king sized bed and get demoted back to a queen? That is not going to happen.
5. There’s nothing – other than making a sheet fort – to do with an incomplete sheet set. Sure some people will just put all different sheets on the bed, but you are a grownup now, and you can have matching sheets. You DO have matching sheets, and they are only going to make a giant mess of sheet tent if you don’t get rid of them
6. Those extra blankets can find a home. Our local animal shelter is always looking of old linens to use for their dogs and cats. And other charities will take sheets.Our local junior league takes just about everything. But call first to see what you have is what they want.
7. Keep enough for your beds plus a backup and that’s it. I was looking at a pile of old blankets and I thought “What if there’s an EMP and we have no heat. Won’t everyone be so greatful that I didn’t give away all these warmth-providing blankets?” To this I say: probably not. We already have enough for our beds plus a backup. Plus all our clothes! But then again, I’m an ill-prepared housewife, so maybe not the one to listen to about that stuff.
If there is one thing that is the bane of my existence, it’s stuffed animals. All of my children like stuffed animals. One of them really loves stuffed animals. And we are drowning in them.
Let me back up. Picture this scene: A county fair in the mid-Atlantic, circa 1981. There are horse rides, sno-cones and crafts, but where was I? I was at the zoo dip. The zoo dip, for the uninitiated, is a game of chance that was once popular at fairs. The player buys a ticket (or 3 for $5!!) that is cleverly folded up so that the user must rip it apart to see the number on it. The user then compares the number to a list of numbers on a board. If there is a match, BLAM-O, the user wins the corresponding stuffed animal.
In the summers of my pre-adolescence, it was my goal to win as many zoo dips as possible. My sister had started a make-your-own button business. One of those die-cast metal presses that enfolds the sticker or Tiger Beat teen dream photo of your choice into a round pin you put on your army jacket/painter’s cap. We spent our weekends traveling to state, county and craft fairs within driving distance of our Washington, DC, home. We all wore royal blue off-brand golf shirts and khaki shorts. Sometimes my neighbor would come along to help with a side business of face painting, back when that meant a simple Ms. Pac Man on your cheek. But I had other things in mind. Stuffed animals.
I was obsessed. It started with Rebecca, a train engineer my grandmother bought me from a taffy shop in Ocean City, Maryland. And there was Morgan, a charming pale pink dog with a wind up music box that played “How Much is that Doggy in the Window?” They were my favorites. But don’t tell the beach-ball sized frog with a jaunty black bow around his neck I got as a hand-me-down from my older brother. It started with four or five and grew to maybe 15 or so when relatives realized this was a way to my heart. Then came the zoo dip days. I don’t even remember any of the prizes exactly. I just remember the feeling of holding on to a little animal with paper eyes and styrofoam balls crammed inside it’s slightly softer than felt hide. In those days, there were no Beanie Boos or Webkinz, and plush was for rich kids who shopped in department stores. My one true wish was to own a gigantic stuffed animal, like the huge Paddington Bear my mom and I saw once at Woodward and Lothrop (or Woodies, as it was known). Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Until I found myself doing this last November:
My youngest daughters were turning 10 in a few weeks, and so, in an act of righting all of my childhood wrongs, I brought a life sized teddy bear (or pre-trash, as my husband likes to call it — and he is the camera man here and was totally complicit in this purchase) into our home.
It’s a weird thing, because I really loved all of my stuffed animals when I was growing up. So much so that when my mom actually got me a new mini-Snoopy knockoff after I left mine in a rest stop bathroom, I was not blissful because all I could think about was where my “real” almost-Snoopy was living now. But though I definitely showered my kids with stuffed animals at first (and passed Morgan on, though Rebecca remains in the “Repair Shop” at my parents’ house), it hasn’t been an easy relationship as a parent. Very quickly four children racked up enough stuffed animals that we were unable to close bedroom doors or traverse toy room floors. We instituted an aggressive recycling policy (we gathered them all up and put them in trashbags in the basement and only brought back those that were specifically missed). We even vowed never to bring more stuffed animals into the house.
But then it seemed almost cruel. When you are at Disney World with your kids and you say they may pick out one souvenir, and that one souvenir is always and forever a stuffed animal, you start to wonder why you would say no. It’s what they really truly want, to a kid, every time. My 12-year-old son has backed off a bit, but I don’t think the girls will ever change. And it’s still a little sentimental for me.
So now, we have stuffed animals in the house. A lot of stuffed animals. We still get them to choose their favorites and quietly phase out the others. And they don’t know anything about the zoo dip (if you tell, I will cut you).
So this is one of my daughter’s room:
I should mention that she is NOT the one who is obsessed. She just likes them.
One of the things about being an ill-prepared housewife that I struggle with (clearly) is preparation. Apparently, because I am the one who stays at home, I am also to blame when someone doesn’t have their “main ingredient” for breakfast. Which, today, is strawberries. No, actually, last week it was strawberries. And this week, now that we have an embarrassment of strawberries in the fridge, it’s bananas. Guess how many bananas we have? One. And the one we have is rather brown and of a soup-like consistency.
In any case, part of being the Chief Supplier for our family is knowing what supplies you need. Which is a moving target in my house. It might be wheat bread or it might be applesauce to put in the hamburger mixture. Or someone might say that they haven’t been mixing hamburger mixtures for the last 12 years. That someone might be right, because, as given to hyperbole as they may be, I have this feeling I’m slowly becoming dull to the world, my hearing and sight failing just as my sentience on time and place has made an exit. Hold on, I need to make the point size of this document larger so I can read it as I go. There.
Aside from figuring out what the heck these people want, there are some other things about getting supplies that trip me up:
I just want a bean burrito, man. I want it to be beans and stuff wrapped in a tortilla, and not at all spicy. That’s it. But I’m constantly fogging up the freezer door at the grocery trying to pick out the right one. Here’s what they look like:
And orange juice, why? Why is there even a juice that has Stevia in it right next to the regular juice? And for years, the blue cap meant with calcium, but suddenly, no, you have to read the package every time.
I think it’s been about six months since I’ve gone to Costco. I know I should go. Things are cheaper and better and in larger quantities there. We have room for storage and I don’t have to worry about running out of toilet paper for ages. But it’s just such a big damn deal to go there. Maybe if I got the Big Gulp–sized cup of soft serve, just this once? It’s only 49 cents!
The Cereal Dilemma
I want a cereal that fits in the little triangle sharing these three qualities:
But my children want this:
(or How I Learned To Love the Big Purse and the Bags That Fold Up Tiny)
How many reusable shopping bags do you have? I have approximately 742. How many times have I used them? Counting the times I have bought them out of embarrassment because I forgot other reusable bags? Once.
Until . . . This one day, I was at the farmer’s market and they had a funny looking folded thing which turned out to be a reusable bag that folded up to a size that would fit in my purse. This reminded me of another bag I got for free from Whole Foods that you can fold and stick into a littler bag that’s kind of like a compact umbrella bag. That one has been in the little compartment between the two front seats of our car for about 12 years, just waiting to be used. Now I have both in my purse, which is also roughly the size of a reusable grocery bag. Between those three, I have not used store bags for little shopping trips in weeks! I feel really superior, tbh.
Annoying frequent buyers’ cards
I think I have more of these cards than I do of reusable shopping bags. So it’s really fun to be in line behind me at Staples while I try to find that one card, needle-in-a-haystack-style. I even bought a special little pouch Martha Stewart sells just to keep them from taking over my wallet. It is typically unzippered, upside-down and almost empty, save for the Charlie Brown handshake card I haven’t used in 12 years.
You know what? I give up. I don’t really care that if I somehow fish out my frequent hosiery buyers card, I might get enough tights to qualify for a free pair one day. I have never seen the so-called benefits of my Staples Card (that was NOT easy). So I’m throwing that dumb little pouch and all of the cards of unfulfilled promises out! Don’t even worry about being in line after me, because starting today it’s just pay and go!
Recently, my husband pointed out to me that I keep a lot of stuff in my car even going so far as to call it my “purse car”. This was drastically apparent to me when we had to unexpectedly buy a new car and clean out the old one (my husband was in an accident that totaled the car but he was unscathed).
Anyway, I want to point out that I do not mean “car purse” that would be this:
I mean, very consciously, a purse car. Meaning, instead of carrying around a purse, I just keep everything I could possibly need for any event, emergency or opportunity in my car.
Now, I actually have a love/hate relationship with the idea of purses in general. So much so that I have actually come up with a theory about how women need to have a purse because clothes designers have caused women to have to carry bigger and bigger purses because they refuse to allow women’s clothes to have pockets comparable to men’s clothing. I lovingly call it “The Tyranny of the Purse” but as we like to say, that is grist for another mill!
So when I went to to the auto shop where our car had been towed to clean it out, I ended up loading up 6 bags of stuff from the car (and lucky for me, I had all those resusable grocery bags in there!)
Here is a partial list:
1) Small binoculars
2) 47 pencils (more grist)
3) 12 grocery bags
5) 13 maps
6) Extra Fleece jacket
7) 3 pairs of socks
8) 5 books
9) Spare key to my parents’ house
…to name a few.
I mean you never know when you might need to go for a walk, to watch birds, near your parent’s house but in a place you aren’t familiar with so you can read a book after you get your period, right?
I really want to make sure that I don’t fill up my nice new car with all that junk.
Here is a picture of my new car, day 4: