Bottom of the List

A lifetime of last

I write this not to boast or brag about a cleaned office. Not to say depression got me here and this is how I overcame it. Not to say I will never let it get this bad again. And definitely not to say that I will never put myself last again. Because I will. Time and time again I know there will be moments where I put myself last for others, for the house, for a job. To be first and top of the list all the time is perhaps too much self absorption. But I will tell you about how it wasn’t only depression that got me here. I will tell you about the evolved DOOM pile that usually becomes a DOOM room. I will talk about how this as always followed me and that someday my office will be full of doom and dread again eventually. This also involves a cat and a houseful of people learning to love each other through their anxiety, depression, and hyper-focusing dopamine searching tendencies.

It starts with laziness. At least that was the label I gave myself for years. Lot’s of kids do not clean their rooms, I was one. Lot’s of people have messy cars, I am one. And many people live with the clutter and disorganized chaos of adulting, parenting, and surviving in a fast-paced and instant-gratification woven life. I am one of those too. I just quit fighting the hate and paralysis that came with any organization for me and embraced that I may be just a little lazy.

Cleaning a space but chucking things into piles is common. More so is the DOOM pile (Didn’t Organize, Only Moved). We have given this pile of crap an official drawer in our spaces, usually in the kitchen, and have even given it a prestigious name- the Junk Drawer. Batteries, pencils, three pennies, a light bulb, random key to who knows what, clips, pins, things broken you will fix… oneday, a few marbles, an extra pair of shoe laces that are unopened, a crayon, and perhaps a pair of scissors and a tape roll only with a couple of inches left on it you will curse when you realize this in an urgent need for tape.

Anyway. The larger items stay in larger piles, or DOOM piles. They get sat aside on our dinning tables or counter spaces. Perhaps on a book shelf, nightstand, or coffee table. Or, in my case, a specific room that isn’t used often by others besides myself. Now I personally am not bothered too much by the sight of a DOOM pile or two or five. However, my husband is (even though he makes them too!). Lovely to understand (and embrace) many years later into our relationship that my anxiety makes me sit down and crave rest (ultimately adding to the DOOM piles) while many times my husbands anxiety, often triggered by my DOOM piles, sends him into a spiral of frantic cleaning. The end result is usually something getting tossed that was important because I left it among a pile of…well…crap that needs tossed. Before we understood what was happening I often used the title lazy for myself and was angered by his frantic cleaning that sometimes had no warning it was coming. To avoid this for years I began to pile things out of his sight. Still do now and then but I do try to only with my items and now I sort these piles before piling them so garbage mail and papers or whatever do end up in the garbage.

The problem with this “improved” method is anything out of sight meant in a room that is mainly used by me and therefore the sight of the sort of sorted piles of clutter were only a burden on my eyes. Only a box left unchecked for months on my list. Only a stressor on my shoulders. And thankfully (sarcasm), I’m blessed with a nice dose of depression and anxiety so as the piles grew so did the overwhelming anxiety of where to even start and the depression of not being able to use said room left me too mentally exhausted to try to even figure that out. Ohhhh, and throw in sprinkle of people pleasing tendencies I’ve learned to make normal on top of everyday tasks such as laundry, dishes, and my own homework from classes meant that the room stayed at the bottom of the list.

Then Peanut, our lovely nine-year-old cat decided one day to urinate all over our bed. After numerous attempts to help her stop this new daily habit, vet visits, medicines, special foods, and countless retraining attempts etc. we decided to keep her and her own litter box in my office….wait, I mean the DOOM Room. She uses the litter box just fine when separated from our other cats. But this only added to the anxiety and depression. It is sad to keep a beloved animal you’ve snuggled everyday locked in the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” room. Not that I already didn’t care for the animals on my own but Peanut now became another thing on my list of worries and to put a shiny gold sticker right in my task avoidance column she too, along with the room of doom became the bottom of list.

Now the children are back to public school, I am writing fulltime now (and puppysitting for some side income), and I realized something scary- I was going to have to face the dread at the bottom of my list. If I was to write fulltime then I would need my office back. To have my office back meant that I would need to clean it, figure out the Peanut situation, and do so without the well intended help of my frantic cleaning husband (ironically he is a really good cleaner and organizer when he isn’t accidently throwing bills out). It hit me like a heavy weight. It wasn’t that I put these piles last or the cat last. I put my self on the bottom of the list. I did so with a smile. With my back already crushing from the weight of motherhood and adulting stress and said that “I will take care of it” (usually followed by the word tomorrow…I wonder when tomorrow will come though…. the phrase seems to usually be stuck on repeat). I would take care of it. I could handle it. But it was last. Always last and I put myself and my tasks, my writing, and my space last because the only person sad about it was me. Thinking back on all the places we lived together as a couple I realized I always made my space the DOOM room and therefore put important things to me last because of the heavy burden of the mess I caused preventing me from doing what I needed to do in said room. In the house before this one and the apartment before that I did the same thing only it was my art space then. I realized while it was a well meant notion, to take care of other things before my things, it left me sad and half-assing the other things as well….creating more DOOM around the house. Fighting even more stigma of “lazy housewife” which only made the task of actually succeeding at organization even harder. And I did this with more than just “secret” clutter. I order food last, I sit down last, last out the door half ready after getting everyone else ready, last to buy myself anything for fun, last to go to bed sometimes…. and some of these things won’t change. I’m a mother afterall and those boys will be first in most situations.

This past year my husband and I have committed to major mindset and mental health changes in our lives. I’ve had to face the people pleasing nature I have used as the framework for existence. I had to flip my list upside down. I spent three days cleaning and organizing. Now I’m down to just one little DOOM box full of mail to sort. MY office is clean. We have a system for the cat to be out during the day and back in the room at night. My desk is cleared. I’m typing this from a spot where I can see the window and watch the birds. And there is a post-it note on my desk that says “This room is not DOOM and the person who sits here is not the bottom of the list”.

Now the pictures to follow are embarrassing but hopefully a reminder to others to not put themselves or their passions at the bottom of the list all the time. Real life happens and you cannot always take care of yourself the way you should, but try now and then to write your name at the top of the to-do list. Have a space just for you that you don’t clutter with other people’s things! Open the shut rooms and let them breathe a little. Avoid the DOOM and make ROOM for YOU…. DOOM rooms are GLOOM rooms…. There is no DOOM when you can walk into the ROOM…(without tripping)

I could go on with little quirky sayings but that is just task avoidance for proof reading this blog, isn’t it? 😉

Published by elizabethridge

A poet and author from Iowa. Just trying to make feelings into words and make it mean something. Or nothing. You read and decide

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