Why I Look at Pottery Barn Catalogues

At this moment, it looks like 17 teenagers and at least 4 preschoolers live in my house. I assure myself that it is just the five of us. There are the two fortysomethings who would certainly live in a very clean, calm home if they were left by themselves (with the exception of our piles of books around our chairs and desks–those will always be there). There is the one preschooler, who has scattered Legos, blocks, and Playmobile castle stuff across our basement in such a high density that I cannot walk across it. I have chosen, instead, to avoid the basement for the past three weeks. There is also one teenager, who lives quite small and takes up very little space. His room is filled with his art easel, light table, and art supplies and a bed–that’s really all. I hardly know the difference between when he is living here and when he is living in his college dorm room–with the exception of the extra shoes by the door. And now, for five more days, there is a twenty-one year old in our house. The contents of her dorm exploded all over the main level of our house last Sunday when she arrived home after graduating and she (and by she, I really mean “we”) still are sorting through the wreckage as she decides what to bring with her into her next phase of life. Questions she (we) are asking: What will fit in the trunk of her car as she moves to the west coast? What items can she live without going forward? How can she live smaller (when she’s never really lived small before, except perhaps in Japan)? What stuff should she donate? What stuff should she store in the closet of her room, putting off the inevitable decision to pass the items along to others?

I’ve found that these are the same questions that I need to ask myself on a continual basis in my own life. When I put off the questions, I rapidly find myself weighed down by the amount of stuff that I have accumulated. It all requires thought and care. Theoretically, I know that excess stuff detracts from my enjoyment in life. Yet I’ve observed now since my early twenties how I seem to go through periods of expansion and contraction. I have a weakness for accepting other people’s cast-offs, I guess. I’ve always loved garage sales, estates sales and The Goodwill. Anyway, I am nearing the end of an expansion period (I think) and beginning to feel the need to contract once again. In the meantime, however, I have lots of stuff to deal with today because somehow, I unwittingly invited people to my home on Monday for a farewell get together for my daughter. At this moment, there would not be any free place for house guests to sit as every chair is covered with the often mysterious entrails of a now expired college life.

Here are my choices today: I can either sit here drinking tea, looking at the clean, organized rooms in the new Pottery Barn catalogue that just arrived in the mail or I can begin the process of picking up into cleaning up. I know that tomorrow everyone in the family will be around to help me and so my tendency is to put it off but if I don’t begin the cleaning process today, I know I’ll feel anxious and unproductive, even while I turn the pages on the perfection that is the PB world. Did you ever notice that PB’s fantastic entry room organizers are never filled with the multiple shoe collections of a five or more person household? I have yet to see a system out there that can handle our family’s many shoes and make it appear neat and tidy. But if you know of a system that works for shoe clutter around the door, please let me know. I’d be forever grateful.

For now, here is a picture of the guest bedroom/my writing space, when it was last clean. I’m kind of inspired.

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My cup of tea is nearly finished and I might make just one more cup. Just one though . . . then, I’ll get busy.

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