Tuesday, May 19, 2009

brokedown palace

I am fixated on the dingy filth that coats my walls. It’s time to paint, but I’m paralyzed by the enormity of the can of worms that will be unleashed when that daunting project takes shape. When we moved into this house, we hired a guy to come in and paint all of the interior walls. He used a sprayer. We chose the same nondescript shade of white for the walls and the high ceilings in the common areas, and we had yet to tear out the carpeting, so it must have been the world’s easiest gig. Now, after too many years while toddling babies morphed into clumsy kids with wheels on their shoes and mud on their hands, the walls are trashed and it’s time to paint. But now the house is full of stuff. There is so much stuff that will need to be moved, and you know as well as I do that if you have to touch the stuff, you have to sort the stuff. Otherwise, if you move the stuff around without sorting through it, you’ve got issues and it’s likely that you will end up crying on Oprah’s couch while one of those hazmat turbo organizing teams cleans out your closets with a blowtorch.

I have been making vague promises to my girl for a while now that it is high time we spruced up her room. Her room is teeny tiny, and had become a catch-all for the weird stuff that had no place. We had this huge black bookcase in there that would sometimes self destruct under the weight of its random burden, and a shelf would crash down in the middle of the night, scaring the beejesus out of my poor girl. The other furniture in there was always at weird angles and never looked quite right, and the room was chock full of what Ellie would call buckets – because Ellie calls everything capable of holding matter a bucket. My girl’s buckets were varied in size and scope, but the common thread that ran through all of them was a bizarre system of organization that explains the existence of a Christmas gift bag filled with: an empty piggy bank, a newborn’s knit hat, one red sandal, a huge jar containing 7 marbles, and my dress purse full of littlest pets.

When I left for the gym last Saturday morning, I told my girl that if she cleaned up her room, maybe we’d go pick out the paint for her walls. She barely acknowledged that I had spoken, I assumed that I was in the clear. When I got home, I idly asked whether or not she had worked on her room. She jumped up and asked me to follow, she said I would not believe how clean her room was. I turned the corner to find that she had unceremoniously chucked everything she could reach out the door of her room. Destination? Unknown. There was a colossal pile of debris in the hall, spilling into the bathroom. Everything from dirty laundry to art supplies to buckets to books to step stools was heaped halfway up the wall – I could not even step over it. I was too stunned to speak. Too intimidated to shout. Too overwhelmed to even grab my camera. There were so many things, and I was going to have to touch them. And you know what that means.

48 hours later, my girl has a clean and sassy blue room. I want to hang out in there all the time, because now more than ever I am fixating on the dingy filth that covers my other walls. And everywhere I look, I see that my shit is broken down. I open a cabinet and the mismatched Tupperware falls out. I hang a towel and the hook falls out of the wall. I watch helplessly as my stupid dog runs through the screen door, again. The printer’s out of ink, the vacuum bag is full, and the camera battery is dead. The sunroof that I had installed in my car will not open, and the passenger window that I’ve had replaced and repaired three times since this unfortunate incident started to fall halfway again, so that a pointy peak was sticking up when I tried to open it. I went back to get it repaired and they wanted $600 and I got mad and insisted that I could find a better deal, so they locked it in the closed position. Know anyone who can fix that for me so I don't have to eat crow and pay the $600 after having a tantrum then driving around with the window locked shut for two weeks?

I need a burst of inspiration, I’m sure it will come in good time. I need to start small and focus on one thing at a time, finding pleasure in what I get done rather than giving in to despair when I think about how much more there is to do. It’s a brokedown pile of shit, but it’s my palace. And that makes me the princess.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Aw, Princess Schnook. I so wish I was there to help you sort out those buckets of crap. Painting is labor-intensive, and time-consuming, and exacting, but the payoff is *so* worth it, isn't it? Everything just pops with a clean shiny coat of latex on it.

I've got an idea! Teach that girl of your how to change out the vacuum bag. If she doesn't get dog hair all over your house, it'll be a win-win!

Love you,

Hsin-Yi said...

Give yourself (or your kids) a small reward after you complete one pile/ section of stuff. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, a piece of candy for the kids, a glass of wine for yourself. By the end of the day, you'll be so nicely buzzed that you'll starting throwing everything away!

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Hsin-Yi, you are brilliant! You are totally on to something - maybe we should make it a tequilla shot, then I'll be even less discriminating about what I throw out!

Last night in bed,I kept thinking of more brokedown stuff, like my mattress and my hall doorknob and my hideous computer desk. I was thinking of getting up and adding it all to my post before it published, but then realized that my crap infested life is perhaps less interesting to all of you than I had hoped.

And I can't stop singing the Dead song or thinking about the movie brokedown palace...that scene in the airport when they got busted? riveting.


mom said...

I wish I could help too Jacquie. Get that Goodwill pile going and don't put anything in the garage - throw it out instead. I miss you. love mom

Me, You, or Ellie said...

I never saw the movie, but I can't stop singing the tune, either.....

And Jacquie, your crap infested life is at least as interesting to all of us than you had hoped.

You should take Hsin's idea and fly with it. Invite friends over and make a tequilla-shot drinking game out of it. Whoever becomes the most incoherent gets stuck with all the crap.


Recoverying from Clutter in PA said...

oh Jacquie,
we have never met but I so get what you are going through. I love/hate finally getting a wall painted or a room organized b/c it magnifies ALL the other things that are crap!
last year I was on a roll and then hit a rut and now I have several rooms "almost" done. Those who know me, understand. But I avoid bringing the ones who think they know me into my home, b/c they might be inclined to call Oprah.
I really made a big difference with a can of black paint on all kinds of things; end tables, desk, chairs...made it look like I spent mucho $$ at Pottery Barn but I only spent $18 at Lowes. And the whole time the Rolling Stones "Paint it Black" was singing in my ears.
I wish you luck on your journey. It helps when the rest of the family sees the "new" room and wants a piece of the action...don't waste the momentum.
Good Luck!

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Well you've got two rooms down, look at it that way. You love your master bath and the girl's room, that's something. If you fix any kitchen problems (if there are any) then you could just exist in those three rooms. The rest be damned!

I have sorted and moved and unsorted and re-sorted and moved so much crap this yaer, that I'm almost to the point of not needing those tequila shots before donating and tossing.

And at least it's a good song.


Rita said...

*too many typos, I had to fix it a little, lol.

We go on vacation once a year and have someone whose opinion of our lifestyle matters to us watch our cats, so we are motivated to get things presentable so we don't look like slobs. We are slobs the rest of the year, but she doesn't know that. We start with the thing in the most obvious need of repair and work down.

A house is going to be a continuous project. You're never going to get to the point where it's DONE. Once you get through the list you have now, then other things will start to break down or wear down or just look crappy. It's a constantly rotating thing.

So, MY advice (for what it's worth) is to make a list, starting with the things that are the most bothersome to you and set a date sometime this summer and pretend that the Obamas are coming to visit on that date (I know, we all want to believe they'd be cool enough to find our shitholes "eccentric", but we'd still fix it all up if we knew they were coming). Make sure to get through your major irritants, and maybe a little more, but then just let go of the rest until next year's annual Obama visit. You can't relax with it all hanging over your head and you can't get it ALL done, so that's my advice, for whatever it's worth.

I really sort of wish I were still renting.

The Stiletto Mom said...

We painted cabinets last week. When I saw we, I mean the painters painted bc I can't color inside the lines. I stood and supervised, read blogs, whatever.

ANYWAY, OMG...the stuff that came out of cabinets! We spent all weekend putting it back bc I went totally ocd and demanded each drawer be gone through and scrubbed before going back in. We did get rid of a lot of old toys though..and managed to not get divorced in the process so it's all good.

Kathi D said...

It must be a Spring cleaning thing. I am seeing everything in the house through dingy glasses these days.

Kathi D said...

I will say that my frenzy of cleaning for last weekend's guests was a bit easier because of some de-cluttering (massive throwing-out and giving-away) that I had done a few weeks ago.

Always in my head is something I read once: "You can't organize clutter; you can only get rid of it."