I am a Messie. I came by it naturally, as my mother also was a Messie. Clutter is both my nemesis and my best friend, and I struggle with it daily. Giving up alcohol years ago was easier for me than learning how to be creative or comfortable without stacks of precious “stuff” nearby. Mom used to ask me if I had ever wondered how much room my books about being a Messie, or books and magazines about organizing my space, would free up if I got rid of them.
When I was young, my parents developed a code that very succinctly covered “messie” situations. It was our custom to greet Daddy at the driveway as he arrived home from work each day. It often was a competition between my siblings, our mother, and me as to who would be the first one to reach him to hug and kiss him hello. Mom usually lost. But on days that Mom’s creative genius would have won the day, she would greet Daddy with, “That Woman was here today.”
That meant, “It is only fair to warn you that I have been creating all day today, so you will have to walk and sit carefully because the house has been overtaken by my projects. But dinner will be ready soon, so Welcome Home.” As is the case with many creative people, Mom worked best when the ingredients and inspirations for her projects were surrounding her, whether it was beautiful fabric and trims to encourage costuming an antique doll, beads and found objects to help her re-purpose old costume jewelry so that it could be worn again, or pages torn from her favorite magazines to spark her latest research.
Daddy always smiled patiently, as he was smart enough to know that while Mom was creating she was happy, and to him her happiness was paramount.
In her later years, Mom struggled with the tension between having inspiring things and being owned by them. She knew she had too much “stuff”, and worked tirelessly to lighten her load so that she could control her treasures and have a proper place for everything. Many of our telephone conversations over the years started out with, “I spent today sorting out in the Little Building (her storage building in the back yard). I think I’m beginning to make some progress.” Today, four years after her death, I am still sorting things out in the Little Building, and in her play room, and in my old bedroom. There are so many wonderful things and my time at the Coast is so limited. It doesn’t feel like I am making progress, although Daddy assures me I am.
So here I sit, in my bedroom in the home I share with my daughter and her family, surrounded with precious things. And with more than a few things that are not precious at all — they are just things. My computer table is heaped high with papers, photographs, and correspondence… some of it essential, lots of it just plopped there. There are books and boxes under the table…some read, some waiting to be read, some needing to be shared with someone else. Because I have more stuff than room, there are boxes stacked in my room, ready to be returned to my rented storage room, or donated to the Rescue Mission. There are toys that the girls brought in to share with me, and left behind when something more exciting caught their fancy. And then there are the things that defy categorizing or storing, that look me in the eye and remind me, “That Woman was here today.” And there are photographs in archival storage boxes, in beautiful albums, in frames, and on bulletin boards.
My goal is to have the clutter cleared before Christmas, and my computer table bare enough for Christmas decorations. Then perhaps I will be able to get into the left side of my closet, where most of my sweaters have been stored since Spring. And then maybe, just maybe, when That Woman comes to visit it will be because I, too, was in the midst of creative chaos.