January compels order. Once that last pine needle is swept out of the rug and the last wreath is put away and the final crumbs of fudge are fingered out of the Tupperware, I look around , hands on my hips and attack the pockets of chaos that I have let slide around me.
First, the fridge. Toss that last half cup of butter cream frosting hardening in a container. Take the butter out of the silver butter dish and put it in the crock. Dump that salad that you righteously vowed to eat from the zip lock bag. Wash the selves. Throw out condiments from Thanksgiving. Start over.
Then it spreads to the bathroom. Fill the wastebasket with expired vitamins and medications. That old brush? Really? Arrange the shelves so the hot curlers and the wires that keep them on your head are in the same vicinity. (Hot curlers? Yes. Why should I stand there for 30 minutes going section by section with a curling iron when I can roll these in and put on my makeup?)
Towels, cut the ragged ones into, well, rags. fold and color code. Rags? Fold and stack under the cleaning fluids. Cleaning fluids? Consolidate the Windex and the other spray bottles. Throw the empties away except one which you wash out and save for emergency spraying.
See how it spreads, like a sickness. Drawers are attacked, books re-shelved, the junk drawer, the tool box, the jar of screws and nails gets sorted. The stacks of papers on the desk get folders and labels and are placed in a file cabinet. The flashlights get taken apart and you figure out which need batteries (and what size) and which are goners. Sorting feels so good, so right.
But the sort is false euphoria. Because once work is sorted, then you have to DO it. You have to wash the windows with the full bottle of Windex. You have to use the Swiffer with the neatly stacked dry and wet pad boxes.You have to cook and you have to put new leftovers in Tupperware in the hope that you will save money and be efficient and make great soups.
You have to do the writing for the clients in the neatly labeled folders.
Not only that, sorting keeps you from tacking the real projects – painting the unpainted window frame; rubbing CLR on the bathtub pipe so you can find the threads to put on a new spout; cutting the woodpile into fireplace-sized pieces so you don’t have to pay $3.96 for a Duralog every night so you can save money on the heating bill.
The real sorting that needs to be done is things like organizing the tax paperwork or taking the car in to have the passenger seat fixed, which has been stuck in recline for a year or changing the two light fixtures that haven’t worked since summer or calling to find out about termite control because the floor molding seems to be crumbling or getting a repairman out to level the dishwasher so it doesn’t slide off tract every single, EVERY SINGLE, time you load it.
That kind of sorting marks me as responsible for myself. In charge, Capable of living alone and making the home and car functional and in good repair. And that scares me.
Look, look what I did. All the screws are in one jar and all the nails are in another. But why can’t I find a pen? I’m going to put a working pen in every drawer in the house in case I have to write a check. To the termite man.