Julie Lyles Carr: QuestFest Continues...

Monday, June 15, 2009

QuestFest Continues...

A few weeks ago I opened the blog floor for your questions and have been thinking over what my responses should be ever since. Today I want to address a question that came up in a variety of forms from several different readers.

In essence, several of you asked me if I was a naturally organized and motivated person, thereby allowing me to homeschool and keep up with the house and all the kids and all the laundry.



That's me.


Uh, in reality, that would be a no. While I'm not too shabby at keeping up with my own stuff, the addition of so many little people in my world, all apparently assigned from birth with the rearrangement of every object in the house, has derailed me many a time.

It's not that I come from bad stock. It's just that I spent my younger years in public education and extensive after-school activities. I did have a few assigned chores at the home front, but the actual process of full frontal home management was not something I observed on an hour-by-hour, day-to-day basis. I left for school in the morning with very few clean clothes in my drawers, I arrived home that afternoon to drawers full of folded fashion. Clean clothes and hot food, restocked pantries and decorated rooms, those things just seemed to sort of magically happen while I was away living my life, studying at school and navigating the social injustices of teenhood.

I did okay with keeping up with my stuff through college, admiring the neatniks who lived adjacent to my dorm room, but chuckling to myself that I had more important things to accomplish than organizing my sock drawer. I figured out the laundry thing, avoiding it as much as possible, and I did find that I had a love for cooking, though not for kitchen clean up.

And then I married Mike.

I mistakenly thought that the domestic talents I had witnessed his father exhibit would somehow be passed on to my Prince Charming.

Apparently not.

Michael has always picked up his dirty socks and can always locate his cuff links; he's just not so concerned with the rest of the state of our domicile. His one attempt at laundry was a Polly Pocket disaster; he washed all of my 'television on-camera' clothes that were supposed to be dry clean only. They came out as if they were Shrinky-Dinks consigned to the oven. Tiny. Clean, but tiny.

He's not supposed to touch laundry equipment any more.

While I was no paragon of Better Home and Gardens, we did fine. For a while.

He generally took care of his socks and cuff links.

And I did the rest.

And then 1 of 8 came along.

Who knew there was so much stuff required for the rearing of a spawn? We moved into a townhouse that seemed rather spacious until our baby shower. The room relegated to be her nursery began to fill up like a pastel warehouse and I didn't have the first clue about how to organize all this new paraphernalia. The first few months after 1 of 8's birth were a learning curve on home organization. It wasn't caring for an infant that threw me; I was a natural at that. It was the whole product placement thing that I found confusing.

Through the years I began to figure out what worked for me. Sometimes my ideas have been a little unconventional, but I have learned to customize for us, regardless of what someone from HGTV might think. I'm still mildly surprised that bathrooms need to be cleaned frequently, since I did such a bang up job just a few days ago. I still fight against the reality that I will have to unload the dishwasher at least twice a day. Four loads of laundry to wash and fold throughout the day still seems crazy to me. When people question me about being able to meet the emotional needs of eight kids, I have to smile. That part has never been daunting to me. It's keeping everyone in relatively clean underwear that I find flummoxing.

I have learned to streamline. We declutter on a weekly basis. I constantly have bags of giveaway items in the garage. The moves over the last five years have made this such a necessity; we have gone from mid-size homes to apartments to small lease houses to our big dream house to a temporary domicile. We've had big square footage and places that felt like square inches. Keeping the stuff reduced is the only way I've found to maintain some sense of sanity throughout my nomadic season.

I've given myself permission to ignore the standard organization rules. They just aren't made with a big homeschooling family in mind. I hang up very few of the younger kids' clothes. I use one closet in our present home as a 'Toy Store' where all the toys are stored and 'checked out' for use. I use another closet as our 'Clothing Store' where I have all the out-grown and growing-into clothes and shoes organized by size, hanging and folded for easy grab. I keep a drawer in our master bath full of the twins' jammies and diapers, since that is where we generally get them ready for bed. I keep all my homeschool supplies in cabinets in the garage, out of reach of small hands, but more easily accessible since the garage is close to the dining room where we school.

And still, I fight the mess.

Because the truth is, I'd rather be writing, reading and running, in that order. I believe in a well-run home. It just does not seem to come easy for me. I have to really work at it, and in the wake of ten people, it all seems to come undone so quickly.

But when I survey the jumble of little shoes, action figures, half-eaten sandwiches, the lone bottle of sunscreen, sippy cups and bits of paper that make a merry confetti of my living room, I'm reminded that this is the anthropological evidence of living, the very mark of an active, busy family life. It might frustrate me at times to find all this stuff leaking from its assigned places. But it is the very stuff that bears testimony to this time and this season.

And I've gotten pretty good at stepping over all of it and focusing on what matters the most to me.

And that would not be the condition of my grout, just in case you were wondering.

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