Friday, December 14, 2007

Let the bragging begin . . .

I have doubts that anyone is really that interested in my closets, especially since I don't have a camera to illustrate the amazing transformation our apartment has undergone in the last two days. But I know from many years of living with myself that one of these days I will contemplate some afternoon project--writing a full-length novel, for example--and doubt my ability to be that productive. So this trumpeting of accomplishments is really for my own future memory-jogging.

Yesterday I reorganized all my kitchen cabinets and "found" an entire shelf. I filled this with all the canned goods from the "pantry" closet near the front door. Coincidentally, we also discovered that that kitchen cabinet was falling off the wall. Eric called our landlord who implied that maybe it was our fault that the cupboard was falling down because we were, um, storing food in it. He also suggested that maybe we could just consult with friends and fix it ourselves. Why are we renting, again? Eric did fix it himself, actually.

Today I completely emptied everything else from the front closet, found new spots for it all, cleaned that closet and refilled it with a double stroller, a guitar, a yoga mat, an ironing board, and a basket of winter accessories, all of which were cluttering our main living space. Then I went to the laundry closet, pulled everything out of it, pulled out the bookcase serving as shelving in there, cleaned out the closet, put the pantry shelves in the empty closet, refilled the closet (it holds more, now) and dragged the empty bookcase down to Joseph's room. I put the empty bookcase in an under-utilized corner and filled it with fiction books from the other rooms of the house. I used the new empty spots that formerly held works of fiction to shelve all the double-stacked books in the living room. Then I reorganized all of Joseph's toys.

Basically I found an entire closet and an entire bookshelf today and put them to excellent use. And I did all this between 2:00 and 6:00 and had a 14-month old on my back almost the entire time.

I have discovered an important thing about myself. Rest is not all that restorative for me. So often I finish some tiny project, like changing a diaper, and think, "Now I deserve a break!" I usually read a blog or write an e-mail. Sometimes I look at a book or magazine. But I never feel rested after my "break." My breaks do not refresh me; they do not renew my energy for the further tasks at hand. Work refreshes me. I conceived of this huge project just a couple of nights ago. Several minor problems that had been lurking on the periphery of my brain suddenly coalesced into a complete solution. Eric was skeptical and he had every right to be. Usually I approach projects like this one step at a time. But chipping away at closet reorganization one step at at time would have created so much sustained chaos that I would have gone crazy and given up and felt depressed. Instead I just worked. I never stopped moving this afternoon. I feel tired, to be sure, but I haven't felt this good about life in months.

I have some idea of trying to adapt this new insight to smaller things. After all, I only have so many closets. Sometimes I don't need a break, I just need an accomplishment. A mother's life is full of repetition and maintenance. There is joy to be found there, and much meat for reflection, but it can get wearying and sometimes I need a little shot in the arm of accomplishment. I'm going to try looking at my running to-do list from now on when I need a "break" because there is usually something there that can be finished in five minutes or less and that's what I really need most of the time.


Robyn said...


This was so inspiring!!!

Jennifer F. said...

Sometimes I don't need a break, I just need an accomplishment.

Wow, this is so insightful. Thanks for sharing. I'll definitely link to this!

Leslie said...

Hi Susan,
I found your blog through 4real. I just want you to know I LOVE the idea of keeping the running to-do list and using it to renew myself. What you wrote is so true of me too! Thank you for sharing. Reading all of these great catholic-homeschooling-mom blogs has been SO inspiring to me. And I'm not homeschooling yet either!
Mom to Kyler 6, Maddie almost 4, Lucas almost 2
Not brave enough to have anyone read my blog (just beginning) yet