Keep Calm and Carry On

by Stefani on 25-June-2007


So about this life change business… it’s harder than it looks. As predicted, we had rain today. Both in the literal sense, and in the aforementioned “we’re ’bout to clean house” sense.

I half woke this morning to a vague feeling of, “hmmm… today is special for some reason…. oh yes, the operation Blue Yonder Storm! The Cleaning and Greening of us!”

I hopped up, all hopped up and ready to roll! I hustled those boys off to camp, plopped my youngest in front of Max and Ruby with a milk and a snack (we’ll deal with our TV issue later – one life-change at a time, thanks), and I prepared myself to tackle our family’s worst hold out of clutter and excess… my middle son’s room.


His name is James, and he is golden. He is well-intentioned, good humored, silly and fun to be around. He is incredibly creative, and it shows, all over his room. The boy is something of a stasher turned inventor. He has piles of unidentifiable junk oozing out of every nook and cranny…. toilet paper tubes, K’nex, Legos, Lincoln logs, bits of crayons, shreds of paper, bread twisty ties, marbles, painter’s tape and twine… I can clean that kid’s room every four seconds, and somehow, it always returns to it’s natural state in short order. It can be incredibly demoralizing, for both of us, actually, the whole room cleaning thing.

So I tried something new. I completely emptied his room of everything but his clothes, shelves (bare) and bed. I pulled a small desk into his closet, and an overhead work light. I put the puppet theater in front of it, and gave the whole thing a sheet roof. (I’d show you pictures but the cable is lost at the moment) It is now offcially known as his “Laboratory”. I moved an empty dresser next to it, and told him he can keep all of his raw materials in there. Then, we painstakingly went through, sorted and arranged all the remaining junk. We had a trash pile, and sell or donate pile, and a few special things that would return to his room, provided he gave them a specific home.

He is VERY proud of his room and his laboratory. I am SO hoping that by giving him room to be who he is, and to do his thing, the rest of his room might stay relatively clear. He did catch on rather quickly that it is so much easier to create when you can actually see what you have, and when you have space in which to work. Let’s hope it sticks.

So, while I DID make progress, it is SLOW! One room. Hours and hours of work, and I have ONE bloody room to show for it. When I am bent on ridding my house of excess, changing our habits and habitat, reclaiming or connection to our place and our food… ONE room does not look like much.

I am working to “Keep Calm and Carry On” in the face of this thing. You’ll recognize the phrase as one the British government put forth to its citizens during World War II. While I am not being bombed daily, I do sort of feel as though there is such a humongous change to be made, so very many things to think about, that I can’t possibly handle it all. I am trying hard to just lean in, focus on each task at hand, keep on paddling, and not look up at the ocean before me.

Does it strike you ever, how difficult we’ve made our lives? Despite all of our “modern conveniences” I think that our grandparents had things so much simpler. Maybe I’m idealizing things, but it seems to me that they tended to have less, so they didn’t have this kind of “manage your massive crap” issue. I’m willing to bet too that they didn’t have to think so hard about what it meant to eat seasonally or locally, that’s just the way things were. Simplicity was not something you planned or set out to achieve, it was just what was. How silly we are, we humans, creating ways to save ourselves trouble and give ourselves more time, only to land ourselves in an ever more tangled web of complications.

Tomorrow… I’m moving a few feet down the hall to Luke’s room, and hopefully Ryder’s too. Those aren’t so daunting, so maybe I’ll manage two in one day. Also tomorrow, I’m hoping to give you the low down on this whole local eating adventure. I really have no idea what I’m doing, but I DO know why, and I’ll share that with you in the next post!

Until then, be well!

Sarah Taylor June 25, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Wow. I could relate to this post on so many levels.
The ever-mess in my boy’s room, the creative child who dreams of his own laboratory, and the desire to clear the clutter and simplify life.
Good luck on room 2.

erin June 26, 2007 at 5:20 am

oy! i hear you – it took me 7 hours to trash out our playroom and get it back together in a nice orderly way. you will get there, you will!

Leigh-Ann June 26, 2007 at 10:34 am

i was the James of my family. Wish i had his sa-weet freckles too! i’m still james, only with more freedom/space. i’d rather not be, but oh how hard it is to not keep those little gems of potential!

brit June 26, 2007 at 11:09 am

This is why I never clean, I just end up overwhelmed at how much there really is to do. I mean once you start on the refrigerator the stove looks even dirty then then next thing your moving appliances to get behind them. Who needs that stress?

Once I found someone else kid behind my fridge. Weird.

Good Luck!

Chris June 26, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Just found your blog a bit ago, and the more I read, the more I’m convinced that we’re living parallel lives, but in different countries. I have 3 young sons and our middle one is a packrat too. He won’t throw anything away because he knows he’ll think of a use for it someday! I’ll admit that he probably gets that from me….but I too am trying to simplify our life.

Heather June 26, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Lord, girl!!! You crack me up. First off, our grandparents were every bit as overwhelmed and stressed but in totally different ways. There is no way to quantify the differences between apples and oranges. Even if you’re stress is keeping up with the intervals of beans and carrots… it’s a stress. No need to romanticize. You are wonderful for making changes in your life… some people never step out of their comfort zone. I didn’t get a chance to email you back today, but today was a wash for me too. And my kid’s room didn’t even get cleaned or organized in such a wonderful and creative way. Still…. we’re on the path. It all counts… all our intentions and then those days of acheivement. At least your changing! And I’ll say it again… You’re changing! How beautiful and courageous! Now I have to go feed my kids!!!

Sarah Jackson June 26, 2007 at 5:39 pm

umm… when did you go into my middle child’s room? Your middle son sounds just like my son. Seriously though, his room used to be like that, and we did something similar. He has kept it clean-ish ever since. Of course, he’s 9….

Have to mention that your title is my favorite quote. We have the framed poster hanging in the living room. It’s my mantra in our current limbo phase of life.

Excellent start on the new you!

Ellie June 26, 2007 at 10:35 pm

I always find that there is an eternal amount of *mess* before the calm of clean. You have to purge so much to get through it all. Good on you for starting – thats the hardest part (well, sort of!!). Whatever you achieve is excellent, and a move towards where you want to be going. Maybe you need to be going slowly so that you can mentally process the changes you are making for your family. Good luck with the next step.

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