Tidying up the Piles

Tasha's desk 7-17

I remember vowing as a child that I would never have small heaps of stray things around my house the way my parents did. I can clearly remember the way it looked then. My memory of the past has not eroded to the extent my short term memory has, and I have a clear image in my mind.

As I visualize my parents home, I can see the small piles of unread papers here and there, along with the mail that needed to be answered, the notes concerning phone calls on stray bits of paper, as well as other notes about things that were important or that needed to be done. Then too there were the little piles of items that had not yet been put back where they belonged.

Sometimes these various piles would sit for a long time, most probably my parents had gotten used to them being where they were. However, because my father liked to entertain, the house nearly always got picked up just before the guests arrived. That meant the piles would suddenly migrate elsewhere or possibly be distributed somewhere they actually did belong.

It’s only fair to say that my mother had plenty to do with caring for my three siblings and me so it’s no wonder there was little time left for tidying. And of course as they all got older they added to the various piles with their toys, books, and school projects. When I cleaned out my mother’s storage last year I threw away quantities of items that had simply lingered long after their owners had departed the home.

I fear I have no excuse for my piles. I have no little children to attend to and my time is pretty much my own. I do have the time, I think I lack the motivation. I have noticed that one good way, perhaps the best one to get tidied up is to invite someone over—especially someone who may not know us very well and upon whom we wish to make a good impression. This is wonderful motivation to redistribute the piles and get things cleaned up.

It is also true that tidying up may help me to find things that have been lost or misplaced. I really do like to keep things in good order, however, like my parents I fear I have the same attitude that promoted their piles. “I’ll just put it here for the time being until I have time to put it away.”

My desk is a good example of my doing that. For several weeks I have promised myself I will tidy it. The last time I did I found an overdue bill I hadn’t paid. The strange thing is I thought I had, and in fact even had a distinct memory of paying it. But I had not done so.

I suppose I need a better place to put the unpaid bills. Or else I might pay them as soon as they come in. too often something more immediate takes precedence over what I intend to do and things get disorganized. I fully intend to get that desk organized very soon, however, I do have these deadlines to meet and so I’ll do it soon, very soon, but just not right now.

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Tidiness by Tasha Halpert

New Home 1          Once upon a time it was quite usual for a household to have someone who was paid to help out. this person might live in or come in to work there during the day. There were not as many conveniences as we have today, and my mother was happy to have someone to help with the household tasks as well as my care and do what she couldn’t always manage to get done.

I don’t remember how old I was when Emily came to live with us. I believe I was around two or three to help my mother around the house and also look after me. She also taught me a great deal about being tidy. I loved her dearly and she loved me as well. I still have many pictures she took of me when I was small. We did many things together and had lots of fun. When I was eight she left to get married. I missed her very much. I remember thinking if I was very good and kept my room the way she liked, maybe she would come back.

I believe Emily’s encouragement inspired my fondness for the tidiness I still practice today. I can remember her encouraging me to put my toys in a row, lining them up neatly. Later, when I was older I enjoyed putting my doll house in order, arranging and rearranging the furniture and putting the dolls that lived there where they belonged. As an only child until I was eight and a half, I had to make use of my imagination to entertain myself. Both Emily and my mother encouraged me to be creative. I made the stories and plays I wrote into small books, carefully sewed together. Rebuses–stories with pictures for some of the words were favorites to make.

Today I also prefer order because it helps me find things. If I know where I put something I can easily find what I need when I need it. Toward that end I try to put whatever I use often back in its designated space as soon as I am finished with it. Because I feel it is such a waste of time to have to hunt for things, I have special places to put important items like car keys, eye glasses, pocketbooks, shoes, and so on. I also make lists of what I need to do, another form of making and keeping order. Being organized is an aspect of tidiness. A difficulty with this is that not everyone is equally tidy.

Stephen, unlike me needs to have things where he can see them or put his hand on them easily. This leads to piles and untidy heaps of items that to me are all higgly piggly with no sense of order. It also makes it difficult for Stephen to see what he needs when he needs it, so that I often have to help him to locate items that get buried. He does not deliberately bury items, it just happens that there are too many things of immediate interest in one place. Still, after 38 years of being together I have learned to relax and allow for his way of keeping things available. At the same time, I rejoice that I can usually find what I want relatively quickly.