Thursday, August 20, 2009

A little more beauty and order - four minutes at a time.

At a thrift store yesterday, I picked up The Shabby Chic Home by Rachel Ashwell. The book cost $1.50 and flipping through I LOVED what I saw. Lots of antiques, lots of whites and creams, lots of lovely linens, lots of eclectic flea market finds, lots of natural materials, feminine but not "girly" - in a word - the style I wish I had been born with.

Reading the book last night, I came across this passage "Every cupboard should hold things of beauty or function. I allow for one junk drawer or cupboard in my house. Otherwise, whenever I open a cupboard it should be like Christmas, beautiful and sumptuous. It doesn't need to be organized perfectly."

And again later in the book, "I try to make sure any cupboard I open anywhere in the house gives me pleasure."

Now after a short, very unfeminine snort (see before pictures of my cupboards), I pondered how wonderful it would be to open a door and see beauty and order. How I would no longer hope guests were distracted when they asked for a drinking glass so they need not see the piles of mismatched Tupperware, some rather grimy glass casserole dishes that even SOS could no longer save, and some giant, hideous plastic ELMO mugs gathering dust on the top shelf.

What would it be like to "feel like Christmas" when I opened a cupboard?

I was especially intrigued as I grew up in a crazy messy home. The sort where if the doorbell rang, we all froze and stopped speaking for fear the ringer would know someone was home and there was NO WAY any outsider was going to see the chaos inside.

It helped a lot that my good friend since fourth grade, grew up in similar surroundings. Now we try to one up each other sharing our horror stories and I find myself laughing until tears stream out my eyes.

I remember the time someone who knew our family came to our garage sale and asked to use the bathroom. We tried to explain the place was "a bit of a mess" due to getting ready for the sale and maybe this wasn't the best time to use it.

She was insistent and finally my mom let her go in and to this day I can remember the shell shocked look on her face. Another time we'd finally convinced my mom to hire a cleaning person but we got the dates wrong. She showed up when we were gone and to add to the usual disarray, our dog had gotten fleas and in those pre-Frontline days, you set off "flea bombs". To make sure it really got the job done, my mom had taped giant sheets of Visqueen between all the doorways and as you entered that cavern of chaos, the smell must have knocked her out. She never came back.

Clearly we had it a lot better than children who may have grown up in a pristine environment devoid of emotional support. Along with lots of clutter, we did have love and laughter. My mom always had a sense of humor. Christmas Eves were spent in a wild frenzy of cleaning for soon to be arriving relatives. When my brother or I would start to weary, she would start hollering, "WE DON'T STOP CLEANING UNTIL WE SEE THE WHITE'S OF THEIR EYES!!!" - a takeoff of the battle cry supposedly given at Bunker Hill - "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes."

Later in life, I found I'm quite sure the wonderful woman who founded this website to help those who live in CHAOS - Can't Have Anyone Over - will be richly rewarded in the afterlife for all the confused souls like myself who grew up not having a clue how one kept a clean house. I now keep a fairly tidy house, helped by an occasional cleaning "expert".

But the closets are another story. Oddly enough, growing up, my mom's closets were one of the few oases (not a misspelling, but the plural form of oasis- I looked this up;-) of tidiness to be found. The sheets were tidy in the linen closet and Christmas decorations were carefully marked and boxed. I guess it's an example of perfect being the enemy of the good. By the time she got those few areas so perfect, the thought of tackling the kitchen, family room, living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, and basement play area probably was just too much.

So today I set the timer for five minutes and tackled one cupboard. I donated about half the contents, moved a few things to another area, and reorganized the rest. I was actually done in four minutes and while this cupboard wouldn't make the editor's cut in an Ashwell book, I think I may be on my way for the insides to match the outsides of my house;-).

I have fifteen more kitchen cup boards to go. And at just four minutes a cup board (assuming the others go as quickly) that's just 60 minutes out of my life - four minutes at a time - and maybe I'll find myself humming Jingle Bells every time I open one up.

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