Friday, September 18, 2009

Chaos therapy

I realized today that in this smaller space I have developed some habits that are already so ingrained that it's stressful to know certain things are not in their proper place or state of completion. If I am distracted from making my bed as soon as I rise, then later I see it not made, my brain screams, "WRONG!" and it becomes very hard for me to tear myself away from the idea of making the bed *right now*.

What is a creature of habit? Is it good to be one?

I'm relatively new to the idea of household order. My childhood home and our family homes exhibited what I will call "benign chaos" in the placement of things and the routines of people. Though I was once teased that I'd decorated my home in the style of "nouveau crackhouse," we actually kept it above squalor, but well into "lived-in during construction" territory.

We now have islands of order in the chaos, as well as an underlying plan of what "order" looks like when it returns. There's a place for everything. And every once in a while, everything is in its place. This makes me happy. Maybe a little too happy.

I almost always notice deviation from the household plan. A toy left out, a pile of someone's clothes, a glass that will probably be used again before it's washed, but there it sits -- in plain sight, obviously not clean and put away, not dirty enough to offend, but in dish limbo!

I'm pretty sure this comes from a sense that I need to meet some ideal standard of housekeeping; a worry that I won't meet it; and the consequent guilt that I haven't. I identify too closely with the state of my home: I'm the MOM! I'm supposed to keep things shiny and faces smiling! (Especially mine! But that's another post.)

Most variances I can note and quickly discard as unimportant in the moment. I know it will be okay, and I don't worry about fixing it, cleaning it, putting it away right now, because if I did I'd do nothing but correct things all day long.

If I had a family that indulged my neuroses, I might approach the insanity of Petunia Dursley, or the mother in the novel Bee Season, who both have elaborate nightly rituals of sanitizing (if not sterilizing) every surface in their kitchens, among other signs of psychological maladjustment. Ever so grateful that my family is not so indulgent, I have only to choose between eternal frustration and lightening up a bit, letting go a bit, knowing it will be okay.

If you're wondering whether moving into a tiny home with a very manageable inventory of household goods and strictly defined stowage is going to be good or bad for my mental health, you've caught up to my point.

Is a creature of habit someone who lets absolutes of routine create who she is? Would I ever want to be that? Am I flirting with that possibility with this new lifestyle?

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