I've set one goal big goal for myself this summer: to bust through the clutter hot spots around my house.
It's a Martha kind of goal, one with shades of both Martha Stewart and Martha from the Bible; however, trying to create some kind of home organization perfection at the cost of ignoring the beauty of the present moment isn't my intent.
What I have found by trial and error after ten years of doing the mommy gig is simply that I am a more peaceful and productive person when my home is tidy. There is something to be said about the old adage a place for everything and everything in its place.
I've not had too much time to work on my clutter hot spot list, those places around my house from dark corners in closets, tangled messes in drawers, and high-and-out-of-sight laundry room shelves that I can close a door upon or shut with a flick of the wrist and poof! make the clutter disappear in an instant. June found me scrambling each day from one kid activity to the next; now that the fireworks of the 4th have come and gone, my lazy summer days are now here.
I used to be slightly red-cheeked when friends from the different towns where I've lived would stop by for a moment, maybe dropping by for a cup of coffee or dropping off or picking up a kid from a play date; the rooms of my house are usually picked up and neat, my kitchen counters are mostly clean and bare, and the beds are made.
When they'd say something nice about how my house looked, I'd make a little joke about my OCD tendencies and shrug with a laugh.
Inside, part of me - let's call her the Tiny Feminist - would sigh and flip her hands in the air.
This, she would say, this is what you're good at? Keeping a clean house? Oy, she'd say, you had such potential, shaking her head at me slowly, a look of resignation spreading across her face.
But the truth is that I am good at it; I've had to become good at it whether I wanted to or not.
When I signed on for a tour as a stay-at-home mom (and re-upped for more time at home with every child I brought into this world), I made a great deal about making a mental distinction within myself.
I was choosing to stay home to raise my children.
To be a mother.
I was not, nor would I ever be, a housewife or homemaker.
A funny thing happened along the way, though. I discovered that I couldn't be much of a mother without being something of a homemaker.
Groceries need to be bought and meals need to be planned, seemingly in a infinitely exponential manner as my kids grow bigger and eat more...and more...and more.
Laundry needs to be washed and folded and washed and folded again and again and again and woe to the one who leaves a wet load of laundry in the washer overnight on the verysamenight that one or two or three children wake up drenched in their own vomit. Woe, I say.
Toilets need to be cleaned, sometimes on a daily basis when raising boys who, while fully capable of recognizing the urgency of their need to pee are simply too busy building Lego's, playing on the swingset, or watching a Phinneas and Ferb marathon to be bothered to go until the very.last.possible.millisecond.
Doctors and dentist appointments need to be made; schedules need to be kept and coordinated and updated and changed and changed back again.
And then there is the stuff, the endless stuff of childhood. Baby clothes and sleepers and car seats and high chairs. Teething rings and pacifiers and Fisher Price toys that never.ever.shut.up; dolls and their outfits and accessories. Lego sets (I believe I could build a small cabana in my backyard from the Legos in my home and still have some leftover for my boys to play with) and sports equipment and shoes and backpacks and books and papers - oh the papers! The school papers and craft papers and I-just-drew-you-a-picture-Mommy papers! Oh, the poor trees that have died all for the sake of my children's creativity.
At some point on the journey to becoming Mom, I figured out that my job was more than just loving them and keeping them safe and fed; my job as Mom also meant managing our household and keeping our home running smoothly.
I also figured out something about myself as a writer: when my physical space is messy, my mind follows suit. My inner to-do list (toss the laundry in the dryer; pick up the books off the floor; deal with the pile of toys in the basement) chatters at me non-stop like a crazed squirrel; with all the work I see that needs to be done before day's end, there's no room left for simply thinking.
And thinking, having the mental wide open spaces to simply think and create, is paramount to writing.
I've got lots left to do on my clutter-busting list for this summer but I am looking forward to getting it done for fall is coming; school will be back in session for not just two of my kiddos but for all three.
And for me, the accidental-but-very-competent homemaker, the coming of fall brings a close of one chapter and the beginning of another in my life as Mom.
I'm looking foward to walking under big skies in those wide open spaces of my mind, looking forward to just what I might find waiting there for me.