When I told my parents that I was doing Apartment Therapy's January Cure, they suggested I move my project to their basement — where the dark truth behind my seemingly organized New York City apartment lives. In this large, suburban storage room, relics of my college student/single girl in New York/newly married woman life are preserved with the stratigraphic precision of an archaeological site. Every two feet into the storage room represents a year back in time. If you walk ten feet into the room, for example, you can see the year I met my husband; this place marks the appearance of a retired decor that would be at home in any charming bachelor pad/brothel.
It's been a while since I've used my parents' basement as an organizational crutch, but my first realization while starting the Cure this week is that I am still somewhat faux organized. While my home already adheres to certain Cure principles — housing only natural cleaning products, more often than bearing fresh flowers or other pick-me-ups and regularly purged of unneeded clothing and household items — there is disorganization lurking behind the good stuff. So my goals in completing the January Cure are to really get organized, to push beneath the orderly veneer, and, both metaphorically and literally, to avoid my parents' basement. That is next month's project.
As I blog each week, I will break down my progress into my real-life challenges and successes. I invite my fellow participants to do the same by comparing their experiences with my own. The most meaningful task so far has been the first assignment: List-making.
I love making lists. I'm good at making lists. I have a huge Excel folder, embarrassingly titled 'Lists', which is filled with a maze of overlapping documents even Claire Danes couldn't crack. Like many people, my problem is often following up on lists. But since action isn't the immediate task here, my January Cure list does not feel overly threatening. In this innocuous form, the list gave me freedom to really get specific about what needs to get done. Some often overlooked, micro-tasks I added include: scrubbing my large windows, which currently make even the sunniest day look like an ominous Hitchcock scene, cleaning the gook from the soap dispenser, scrubbing the rubber seal of my washing machine, and tackling the tiny carrot stain on the rug in my baby boy's room.
But what I realized from making my list is that my biggest challenges aren't tasks that need fixing, but very basic ones that require getting done for the first time. Following many years of holding on to too much stuff and a pledge in recent years to live a more basic existence, I'm so overly cautious about getting "the wrong" thing or too much of it that I spend months deliberating about the most basic purchases. Selecting a mouse-pad to rival the streamlined look of, say, the piece of printer paper we currently use and framing the art in my son's room should not take years. Days? Yes. Weeks? Why not. Months? Pushing things.
While I might not have visual clutter or the specific mental clutter that is an extension of this, I have another kind of home-related mental clutter — the clutter of too many options and the fear of not getting it right. When I did Monday's assignment of sitting in an infrequently used space and meditating on my interior, the voids on my walls seemed all the more apparent. The problem wasn't the clutter of things, but the clutter of ideas that I have to fill the bareness.
Everyone's Cure is different. My ultimate challenge for the first week is to commit to trashing my mental clutter, the thing that holds me back from just getting the job done, the anxiety about not getting it perfect and the notion that my possessions and design decisions must be serious and forever. The salient point for me is the distinction between italics and caps. Interior design should matter. But it shouldn't MATTER.
What kind of mental clutter have you uncovered at the start of your January Cure? Do you have a organizational crutch? Where or what is the "parents' basement" in your life?
(Images: Laurie Siegel)