As I have mentioned before, Sheepdog has a degree in chemical engineering. He is also a very smart lawyer and he is very mechanically inclined. Basically he’s an all-around smarty pants. Over the years I have picked up a science geek word or two from him. Very few of those words work seamlessly into the daily conversations of a stay-at-home mom, but I keep coming back to one word in particular that I feel applies so completely to my daily life – entropy. As simply as I can put it, entropy is the tendency of things to go from order to disorder over a period of time. It is the natural progression of things towards chaos. And it is the bane of my existence.
The very first time Sheepdog introduced me to the concept of this Second Law of Thermodynamics, we were driving from New Jersey to West Virginia on the highway. He pointed out a cluster of pine trees growing in the wild along a mountainside. At the top of the mountain the trees grew uniformly in rows, separate from each other. Let’s keep our tree limbs to ourselves, people. Nice and orderly. But as the trees grew farther down the hillside they started to cluster together, here and there, almost too close for sustainable growth. They were randomly growing all over the place – wherever the wind had blown them. It was bedlam! That mountainside forest was exactly how I first pictured entropy in my mind, and for some reason I never forgot it. Little did I know that it was incredibly accurate foreshadowing of my daily life as a wife and mom.
Every time I walk into a room and see all of the game pieces from every one of the board games we own strewn upon the floor, I think of entropy. Every time I wash dishes or clothes or my truck, I am reminded of entropy. Don’t even get me started on the accumulation of dust on my black (what was I thinking?) bedroom furniture – more entropy. Bedrooms and playrooms are breeding grounds for it. It is the natural tendency of things to head straight towards a mess. But there is hope!
Since I am partial to all good cowboy metaphors, I will call this the Wrangling the Entropy advice section of my blog. I will share with you all little tricks I have picked up on over the years and hope that they can help you to contain your own life’s crazy. Most things are common sense, some are tedious, some are fun. Most of them I have read about in magazines or seen on television or learned from the experts. These are the things that work for me and my family. Use what works for you, tweak it to make it better, pass it on.
Tip #1 – Bins and Baskets and Buckets
First, I’d like to tell you to just throw it out. Recycle it, donate it, consign it, or sell it for 25 cents at a garage sale. I don’t even care what “it” is. Don’t bring it into your house. You probably don’t even need it. Follow the one-in-one-out rule. If you must have something new, then get rid of something old. There is too much unnecessary stuff in your house right now. Get rid of it. Your soul will thank you. Clear your closet, clear your mind. Now take a deep breath, because if you have kids or a husband or a shopping addiction then you are still going to have too much stuff.
If Heaven even has an identifiable description, my guess is that it would look something like The Container Store or the Expedit section of the Ikea catalog. If cleanliness truly is next to Godliness then there must be a place for everything and everything in its place. I don’t care if you are a complete slob and think you are happy about it, you can not deny how much calmer it feels to be in a room that is free of clutter. I don’t think that there is one room in our house that does not have some kind of catch-all container for all of the stuff that just sort of shows up. Make it easy for your one-year-old (YES, even a baby can do it!) to throw her toys into a bin so she learns how to clean up after herself. Make her do it every time she makes a mess. Every time. Eventually, she will start to do it without even being told.
Kid C is a dreamer. She is constantly making things and building things and I can only display so much of it. I certainly do not want her to stop dreaming or creating, so I had to come up with something. Kid C knows that if she wants to keep it, then it has to fit in her trundle. For her, it was a giant drawer under her bed that helped to wrangle the entropy.
Kid A is a collector and a saver. Mostly she saves papers and notes and school projects. I got her some under-the-bed containers on wheels and she wrangles her own entropy there.
Kids D and E are little boys. They have trains, cars, legos, trucks, balls, marbles, plastic dinosaurs, wooden blocks and more legos. For this entropy I had to dedicate an entire wall to shelving for bins that can hold anything and everything. They carry their bins around the house, wherever they are going to play, and they put them back on the shelf when they are done. Entropy wrangled.
Kid B doesn’t keep anything. She doesn’t even have doors on her closet and it always looks organized. She is my hero.
Sheepdog has an entire workshop filled with his bike stuff. I just don’t go in there.
Ninety percent of a messy house is the clutter. Keep it at bay and you’ll fool most people into thinking that your house is spotless. Have a bin for sports equipment in your garage. Hang an organizer on the inside of the vacuum closet door and keep sunscreen and thread and bug spray in there. Keep a shoe basket by the door. Keep a container for kid snacks in the pantry. Keep a sorting bin for dirty clothes in the laundry room. Make it so easy to keep things picked up and organized that it just becomes second nature. Then when people drop by unannounced and ask, “How do you keep your house so clean with all of these kids running around?” you can just smile while you tip your cowgirl hat and say, “Aw shucks, I’m just an entropy wrangler.”