Groundhog Day: Why Decluttering Isn’t Always Enough

Isn’t it too bad that wishing you were mainstream never makes it true? You just become that person rowing frantically with a stick wondering why all the other boats are passing you by.

I purposely don’t write a lot about my specific challenges with decluttering. There are so many reasons a person gets into trouble with clutter, and so many reasons we can all benefit from getting rid of it, that I don’t think my idiosyncracies warrant much press.

However, everyone has their unique challenges, and my family is no different.

Squirrel and I have learned from our journey through the fascinating workings of our oldest son’s brain that I share a few of his genetic variations – if you will. For example, we both have a poor short-term memory and experience a great deal of difficulty in the area of motor planning.

Squirrel likens our challenges to living a perpetual Groundhog Day where we relearn the same thing over and over again without really automating anything. Fortunately, it doesn’t affect general intelligence but it is a little hard to explain when I’m reading the directions on the box of pasta for the fifth and sixth times or when I suddenly forget how to turn on my car’s engine.

There have been many times in my life when I’ve told myself –  if I can’t make a paddle out of this stick, I really should head for dry land. But since I became a mother nine years ago, I’ve found myself drawn back into the current, striving towards my vision of a normal Mom while the kind of Mom I can be and want to be passes me by.

I know the road ahead for my son is a difficult one and my hope for him is that he builds his life around his talents and that those successes buoy him up for the daily challenges that he will undoubtedly face. And, I hope he pins his hopes on extraordinary instead of the ever elusive normal.

Getting rid of our clutter was a giant step forward for our family. Still, there are many things in our lives that we can eliminate or automate to free us up to struggle less and enjoy more. In the next few weeks I’m going to attempt to put our meals on auto pilot. Despite all my magical thinking, it turns out there is no healthy dinner fairy, and that the longer you wait for her, the more likely you are to get a visit from the pizza man.

What’s the first thing that you would eliminate or automate to simplify your life?

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25 thoughts on “Groundhog Day: Why Decluttering Isn’t Always Enough

  1. WHAAAAT? No healthy dinner fairy? Oof, you totally burst my bubble.

    Making dinner is one of my least favourite daily activities. I find that by shopping at Costco infrequently (every 2-3 weeks) in larger quantities it is easier to manage the frustration I experience around meal-making. I know it’s not glamourous, but we tend to eat the same foods repeatedly, so just sticking to basics (lean meats, rice, pasta, fresh veggies and fruits, and some snack solutions for the kids) makes cooking a heckuva lot more simple. Oh, and the rice cooker – that thing is golden.

    Good luck and be sure to keep us posted on how you are coming along!

    • Frustration around meal-making is an understatement around here. Thanks for the Costco suggestion. The less time I spend shopping – the better. I’ll take repetition over glamour any day.
      Funny you mention the rice cooker. When we were in Hawaii my oldest (who eats very few foods) was in heaven because he could get rice everywhere.
      Do you have a brand recommendation?

      • We like the jasmine rice from Costco – the brand is “King Food.” 🙂 It comes in a huge bag, but it’s enough to last a few months and it’s nice not having to think about buying it more than a couple of times a year.

        Oh, and I just found this recipe online for Chicken Fried Rice – the recipe looks very simple (which is right up my alley!) and delicious: http://www.delishmag.com/2011/02/10/chicken-fried-rice/

      • That looks delicious Erin. My oldest is so limited that even though he likes peas, carrots and rice, he won’t eat any of them mixed together. But it looks as though I could make this for the rest of us and keep his separate without too much trouble. Or even prepare some of the ingredients ahead of time to freeze and make the dish a few times a month. Thanks!

  2. Dear one…I’m sure you already know that your Mama is a member of the Groundhog club too! SOOOOOOOOO frustrating…exactly what you describe…I tend to isolate myself in part because I don’t want others to witness my quirks…I admire your ability to be much more open about yours to others…this is much healthier! I also love that you can see the humorous side!

    As for what I’d eliminate if I could…HANDS DOWN, cleaning bathrooms…have always done it…always hated it! LOL Once I exchanged ESL lessons with a student for cleaning our 3 bathrooms! It worked but then she moved back home!!! To this day, I’d gladly do this same exchange again at any time.

    Now I don’t cook because your Dad is much better at it than I, and even more importantly, he WANTS to cook…LOVES it! However, back in the day, I used to cook all the time and I was considered to be a “Good Cook”! It could be frustrating but not nearly as bad as those damned bathrooms! :o)

  3. Normality’s fine in its way, but isn’t it your quirks that make you fascinating and irreplaceable? So long as your oldest son shares your sense of humor, I bet he’ll build a great life. Also, telling the world about your non-common traits might help other people feel brave enough to share theirs— and then we’ll all find out that lots of those normal people were bluffing all along.

    I’d be much more interested in cooking if I had a self-cleaning kitchen. Currently, I look at recipes and think “How many dishes will this generate? Sticky messes? Scorched pans? Maybe we could just have carrot sticks for dinner instead…”

    • I don’t know what I struggle with more – the cooking or the shopping. I once turned to Squirrel and asked: “What would you like for dinner? We’ve got veggie dogs and cranberries.” Most of the time, it’s just the laughter that sustains us. Carrot sticks sound good – so does trail mix and champagne for New Year’s. You’re my kind of cook Mrs. Jaunty.

  4. My son and I are big re-inventors of the wheel, heh heh, I totally get it!
    My current adventure is trying to do better meal planning in hopes of automating that whole process. I sort of mentally fall apart around 5pm every day, so having that together would be a huge help. It is hard because if I don’t plan delicious things I fall off the plan because I don’t want to eat it, but if I plan delicious things, which are mainly harder to prepare, I don’t feel like fixing it. *sigh* I just found your blog recently and have been catching up—love it!

    • Thanks Shannon. So glad my son and I aren’t the only ones taking the road less travelled. I fall apart a little earlier than you. By 3pm, I’m only capable of the simplest things. Meal planning will no doubt be a big part of our streamlining process. I look forward to reading your blog!

  5. Ha! Oh my, I can so totally relate to the concept of forgetting how to turn on the car engine. I’m generally fine as long as I don’t think about it, but once I engage my brain, I’m sunk. It happens all the time with music. CatMan and I will be playing a song, and I’ll be just enjoying playing the guitar and singing, until I start to think “what’s the next chord?” As soon as that happens, it’s all over but the cringing!

    I’m also with you on the dinner thing. I think it’s really easy to end up making yourself totally crazy with stuff like that. I know I’ve got it easy because I usually only have to feed myself, and then when CatMan is here… well… he values consistency and predictability above all else where food is concerned, so I never have to worry about getting terribly creative for him. Lately, all he wants is lasagna. So, about once every six weeks or so I have “lasagna day” where I make up a bunch of 2-person sized lasagnas and freeze them. It’s really easy because you don’t even have to bake them before you freeze them. So then on days when he’s coming over, I just take one out of the freezer and pop it into the oven.

    Even when CatMan isn’t a consideration, I find that my life is much easier if I make huge quantities of things. Generally when I cook my goal is to make enough to enjoy some now, have some leftovers in the fridge for the next day or two, and freeze a few meals worth for sometime when I don’t feel like cooking. It really makes life soooo much easier.

    • “I’m generally fine as long as I don’t think about it, but once I engage my brain, I’m sunk.”
      Amen. Yesterday I got stuck (literally) between the cart and the cashier kiosk at the grocery store. I think that about says it all. Great tip on cooking in quantities. Squirrel is always suggesting I have a lasagne making day. I’m always hoping he might do the same but that’s about as likely as a visit from the dinner fairy.

  6. Can I eliminate work, or is that too big of a thing to tackle first? Next would be cooking, but the boy does most of that so it practically is eliminated. I don’t mind cleaning really, but I hate cooking.

    • An Uncle of Squirrel’s once had so much work stress that he planned his escape, saving up enough money to get by on. Then he realized that when he no longer needed to work, it was much less stressful and he stayed on. I think it’s a case of what you wrote about in your post Downshifter or Slacker?. You have to reserve enough of your life energy for your life.
      As for cooking, if only we could stockpile enough meals to retire from that!

  7. No Dinner Fairy for you either? FUUUUUUU-dge!

    And I totally feel you. I beg for normalcy through my idiosyncrasies. And would involve everything surrounding food and eating. If I could find a human version of dog chow, I’d be golden. I’m just waiting for the future where you just have a take a pill to meet your nutritional needs per day. That would be glorious! Maybe the Dinner Fairy is designing one, so that’s why she’s been missing. Just my guess.

  8. I will definitely say that menu planning has been HUGE for me in simplifying my life!

    After years of menu planning I have it down to a science, but at first it wasn’t easy. My advice – don’t try to go searching for great recipes to make a meal plan, start really simple with a list of the days of the week with a main idea like Monday – beef, Tuesday – pasta, Wednesday – chicken, etc. and work with it from there.

    Creating a plan from taking inventory of what you already have in your freezer and pantry and then brainstorming meals that can be made from those things can help too 🙂

  9. I was overwhelmed for a long time.
    Years ago, I discovered Flylady, still just starting back then. Although I was soaking up everything from there, I knew I couldn’t change overnight. (I implemented more eventually, but this is about the food!)

    What really helped me was just to limit what could be on offer each day – so Mondays was anything with beef, Tuesdays pasta, Wednesday pork or chicken, Thursday pizza, Friday veggie and at the weekend my husband liked to cook for fun so I left it up to him… Just the fact that my choice was narrowed down made all the difference to my crazed brain. It was nothing fancy and is easily tweaked to suit any family’s diet, but I really can recommend just having this simple plan.

    • Swissrose – I’m so excited. I looked up Flylady and realize that she must have been the source of some advice I read (and loved) years ago – that is, to get up and get dressed first thing every morning:
      “Today I want you get up and get dressed to lace-up shoes when you first get up in the morning. This means fix your hair and face, too.”
      I’ve been doing that this week and found my days to be much more productive. Sometimes it is the simplest things that work. Thank-you so much for reminding me of this. And you’re right, simple is the only way to go when it comes to food around here!

  10. I’m so happy to have discovered your blog. Inspired by your example, I decided to see what I could get rid of in my bathroom. Since I have some minimalistic tendencies I came up with only three items to get rid of – 2 packages of flosser picks, a vintage bandaid can and a bottle of vanilla oil. I rather regular floss to flosser picks. The bandaids really don’t need a can as they can stay in their box and the vanilla oil is at least 20 years old. It was a big dissapointment as my cabinet is still full. The thing is, that it is all useuppable stuff that I will use but I just happen to have an oversupply. For example, I don’t need to buy hair conditioner for about five years. Tomorrow I am going to tackle my bedroom. Somehow I think I will come up with more than three things.

    • Hi Susan. I’m so glad you found my blog too! And I’m glad that you got rid of 3 items. (I had a few ancient bottles of essential oils too.) I’ve found that the number is nowhere near as important as your intent to declutter. At least you discovered that you won’t need to buy conditioner anytime soon. Good luck with the bedroom! Let me know how it’s going.

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