The Pursuit of Tidiness

A horrible mess in the Play Room. Dreaming of minimalism.

I’m currently sat here, typing this in a sea of debris. 

At a glance, you’d think we’ve been ransacked and the thieves must have thought we store all our valuables amongst the Hot Wheels collection or the Arts & Crafts box. 

One of the dressing up boxes has been upended and all the clothes have been strewn across the room. A play tent has been erected. A bunch of stuff including ball-pool balls have been chucked inside it but that appears to be the extent of its use.

And as I look through to our living room, there are teddies set up in front of an easel for a game of Teachers and little plastic characters have been haphazardly scattered across the floor like someone has put them all in their mouth and sneezed them out. 

In fact… one moment…

[15 minutes and two tidy-ish rooms later. Checks pulse. It’s slowing.]

That’s better. When it’s like that… well, the claustrophobia! It’s like when someone pulls the duvet over your head and introduces you to a Dutch Oven – not a place where you can relax nor breathe easy.

Before we had our son and it was just the two of us, pretty much everything we owned had its place in the house. For the most part, everywhere was tidy. The house was never spotlessly tidy, but at the end of the day we’d come home from work and everything was in the same spot where we’d left it that morning. It was all very predictable stuff. 

Then we had our son. 

And initially, not much changed. Everything he had was so tiny it barely registered as encroaching on the space we had. 

But then a toy or two crept in. Teddies too. Soon a baby walker claimed a corner of the living room and a steriliser planted itself on our kitchen worktop. High chairs, moses baskets, buggies, nappy boxes and mats, all claimed their place in our home too. And these are to name a few. 

And then we had our girls and it all started again…

The word tidiness, therefore, has changed its meaning over the years in our house. In the past, tidy meant tidy. Everything was in its place, behind a cupboard door, in a drawer or box. 

Now, tidy tends to mean it’s not tidy tidy, but the stuff in the corner of the room is covering that slime stain, so we’re good.

I have to say, the more I age and the more kids I have, I can’t help but be drawn to the idea of Minimalism. Now there’s a movement that’s really tidy!

Actually, I’m welling up just thinking about it. 

There’s the sweeping expanse of an uncluttered kitchen worktop, a chest of drawers you can actually pull open without looking like you’re trying to heave Excalibur from the stone. Perhaps a bookshelf consisting of a single Kindle. 

I love the idea of unexpected guests announcing their imminent arrival and, in readiness for their visit, only needing to fold a tea towel or shape the end of the toilet paper into a point. 

But alas, I’m pretty sure we’re not destined to be Minimalists. 

The last time we were on holiday and I suggested we leave our inflatable flamingo for the next family to use, my daughter sobbed like I’d asked her to bag up some kittens and drop them in the pool. 

So, sure enough, that flamingo came home with us. 

And these days when I happen to rummage through the Outdoor Toys box where it’s now lived for over four years in its crumpled and (literally) deflated state (rather than bobbing around on a pool in the south of Italy), I can imagine it murderously looking up at me and counting the ways to send me to a grisly death with a bike pump. 

So, yeah, I guess Minimalism is out. 

Except for free time. As a parent of three, I’m definitely a Minimalist in that respect.

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