Do the Worst First

When I was a kid, my brother and I had to do chores around the house. Naturally, we felt this was  just too much to ask of us. And so, like millions of teenagers before us, we fought it every step of the way up until we left the nest and realized that toilets don’t clean themselves when you have four roommates.

Forced to work as servants in our own house.

Forced to work as servants in our own house.

My mom would try to inject a level of cheeriness into the task. “Whistle while you work!” she would suggest, before launching into song. “Just a spoonful of sugar!” she would remind us, bribing us with a plate of cookies.

My favorite, and the one that still gets me through most of my household drudgery to this day, is “Do the worst first.” But it really doesn’t sound all that cheery, does it?

I'm still trying to maintain a cheery disposition. My brother, not so much.

I’m still trying to maintain a cheery disposition. My brother, not so much.

I would often contemplate which of my chores was worse. I actually liked ironing because it was one of the rare times I got to watch TV, and I would stretch it out for as long as possible.

“Aren’t you done yet?” my mother would ask, poking her head in and frowning at the still large pile.

“Uh, no,” I would say, my eyes glued onto Days of Our Lives. “I really want to make sure Dad’s shirts are perfect.”

Eventually, watering the plants became my absolute least favorite job.

My mother loves plants and she had easily 40-50 houseplants in all of our houses, many tucked into tiny, delicate teacups and placed high up on bookshelf just beyond reach.

It was my job to hunt down every one of these little bastards, many times teetering on the edge of a chair, mere inches away from some horrendous injury. When I finally tracked them all down, my mom would sing out, “Oh Milllllllly! There’s eight more in the bathroom!

WTF?

I can’t help but think about this as I “gird my loins” (my mom’s expression) for the great house packing up. I swore when we first moved in that I would never unpack another box again, and yet here I am.

Our garage is one hot mess.

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In my defense, I do go reorganize it two to three times a year. I pull everything out, get rid of what’s not needed and try and come up with ways to keep it organized and accessible. And yet … it so quickly descends into chaos again! How did this happen? Again?

I know why. Because we expect too much from our garage. It not only holds our bikes, treadmill and washer/dryer, but my husband’s home winemaking venture, his drum kit, my Girl Scout stuff, our pantry and kitchen overflow, not to mention decorations for every kind of holiday, my son’s old crib and stroller, way too many hand-me-downs. It’s just too much.

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Our remodel will address much of this, so I’m firmly holding onto the hope that this mess will eventually get resolved. Permanently.

The biggest solution will be my husband’s man cave. (Because 90 percent of what’s in our garage belongs to him. And it’s all large and awkwardly shaped.) And it will almost literally be a cave. In fact, he was quite annoyed when the city told him it had to have windows.

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I’m also hoping that the new kitchen will finally be able to hold everything it’s supposed to. As it is now, I store food and supplies out here, in addition to several serving bowls, etc.

Because our garage will be the first thing to be demolished, it is the first thing that needs to be packed up. Hence, I’m following my mom’s advice and I’m doing the worst first.

Our POD arrives in two days. And then it’s GAME ON in the purge and packing department. I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to having a clean slate. The actual doing part of it? Not so much.

But at least I’ll know that the worst is behind me. (Or is it?)

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Turning a blind eye

My kids recently went to the dentist and at the end of their visit were rewarded with bouncy balls! Yay! I knew these things were a bad idea as I struggled to listen while the dentist lectured me about plaque, my face pinched in concentration.

My 2-year-old son, Jack, delighted in throwing that ball all over the place, bouncing it off the coffee machine, our heads and countless times under the couch.

The fun continued when we got home. No sooner had he thrown that thing than he would run up to me complaining, “Where my bouncy ball, Mommy? Where?” in a continuous loop.

It wasn’t long before I made the kitchen completely off limits to bouncy balls. You see, in the five years we’ve lived in our house, we’ve never installed those damn toe kicks on our bottom cabinets.

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That’s five years of squashed grapes, dusty trains, water damage and general filth that have built up in the great abyss underneath. It’s positively gross under there. Not even my camera wants to focus on it! Naturally, if the kids ever lose anything, like that bouncy ball, of course that’s where it ends up.

It’s not that we couldn’t install the toe kicks. Oh, they’ve been sitting in the same Ikea box that we had when we assembled the cabinets. But it’s just low on the Honey Do totem pole.

My husband made all of the right promises. “I’ll do it this weekend!” “Maybe when we get back from our trip!” Eventually, I stopped asking and even once considered throwing out the toe kick boxes when I did yet another of my “I can’t stand it!” garage overhauls that never seem to stick after two weeks anyway.

I gave up. And turned a blind eye.

It’s because I’m overwhelmed by all of these eyesores and half-forgotten projects in this house. And now, with the remodel “right around the corner,” what’s the point of fixing anything when we’re about to rip this place apart?

It recently took an Internet repairman to really open my eyes to the travesty that is my bedroom.

“Can I take a look at your modem, ma’am?” he innocently asked, causing me to blink. That meant he would have to gain access to the inner sanctum that housed my deepest, darkest decorating sins.

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Reluctantly, I led him up the stairs, taking note of the sprinkling of coffee stains that marked my many blurry-eyed morning descents. I had grown accustomed to just rubbing it in when I spilled, but I now noticed how completely ineffective that had been.

I flipped on the light switch in my room, taking note of the tilted lampshades and unmade bed.

My toe brushed aside the bed’s too-long skirt, revealing one of the last areas my dog barfed upon mere weeks before he died. I still hadn’t “gotten around” to cleaning up the crust eight months later.

The walls and ceilings laid naked and bare, covered with patches of bright, white plaster. We never followed up with a fresh coat of paint when we built out a closet and installed canned lighting to create a moody retreat and love den.

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“Behold,” I directed the technician with a wave of my hand. The modem sat in a dark corner upon a nest of snarled cords. As he traced the various wires, many serving no purpose, great puffs of dust billowed in the air and he had to shake off the invisible network of spider webs that ensnared his hands.

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Poor guy. I’m sure this is the worst part of his job. (Probably not.) I didn’t even bother to come up with a self-deprecating excuse. I just sat down at my husband’s desk (yes, that’s stuffed in here, too) and sighed at the discarded mail and stacks of messy papers that he swears is actually part of a highly organized system of intelligence.

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It seems every room in my house contains an area that just plain sucks.

In my dining room, it’s the gallery wall that took me days to complete and has been slowly – and literally – crashing down around us. My plan had been to swap out the kids’ adorable artwork each year so we could celebrate their accomplishments, give me something to look at while my husband chatted about his day during dinner and add an element of “aww” that would amaze our friends!

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Well, five years later, my daughter’s preschool picture is still perched on top. She’s 8 now. And no longer drawing scribble scrabble, I might add.

It was around the time that some of the frames fell off and smashed to smithereens that I completely gave up trying to maintain it. Now, when I look upon it during dinner, I see nothing but my own lack of follow through and have to look away. The kids have gallantly attempted to pick up the standard and replace the empty spots with some hastily crafted art. God bless them.

But it’s this turning of a blind eye and sense of giving up that most scares me about this remodel.

I talk a big talk. I mean, I am trying writing a home decor blog, right?

In my mind, this new home is going to be perfect. Not-a-hair-out-of-place perfect. The kids are going to have so many friggin’ canvas storage bins that they won’t be able to help but stay organized. I’ll eagerly anticipate the change in seasons and seek out my muse for the perfect fall mantel. I’ll mix things up and seek out new and fresh ways to use my carefully curated accessories and found treasures from my many thrift store jaunts. Fresh flowers will be everywhere.

You get the picture.

In reality, I’m worried that one whiff of failure or loss of momentum will stymie my interest in trying new things or, at the very least maintaining what I have. I won’t leap up to clean those stains. I won’t celebrate all the things growing in my garden and bring them indoors. I will only go as far as heaving a horrified gasp at my children’s messy rooms before, once again, turning that blind eye and moving on.

As we enter autumn, my most favorite of seasons, I can safely say that I have done nothing to “fall-ify” my house. I’m actually just depressed by how much needs to be done to prepare for this home remodel. Which reminds me … I can’t wait to show you how entirely depressing my garage looks!