Year of the pack rat

God answers prayers. For a few months now I have been thinking out loud that I need two weeks, just two weeks, to get the house in order. From seemingly out of nowhere and when I least expected, that wish was granted. Initially it was just one week but because our executive producer for The Sweet Life realized that we had taped enough episodes in advance, she added a week more.

I have used up my one week, quite wisely if I may say so. I have one more to go.

What have I learned thus far? Shockingly enough (for me at least), if only for the purpose of getting the house in order, I apparently need more than just two weeks. At this point I can almost hear God saying “You’re confusing me, Lucy Marie. I just gave you exactly what you had asked for.” But really and seriously, dear God, forgive my ignorant first prayer. I honestly thought in my finite mind that two weeks would be enough.

It has been seven days and although I have made considerable progress I still am not fully past my desk and dressing room, much less our bedroom. Thus the need for an extension.

Homekeeping (my term for it) is such a joy and for it to continue being so I want to do it efficiently, but also languidly. Those two must go hand in hand. I want to enjoy the process, pausing whenever I feel like joining my daughter and husband who are cuddling on the couch, being silly with my daughter and her little friends when they ask me to, writing my random thoughts in bullet points on scraps of paper as they sometimes come pouring out of my heart. The latter does not always happen so I seize the moment when it does, even if noble homekeeping awaits me still. Yes, and I cannot say that often enough, rushing through the art and joy that is homekeeping defeats the purpose entirely. I liken it to arranging fresh flowers in the vase without even appreciating how beautiful they are, how much fun it is to touch and smell them. There just is so much about little things to enjoy.

At the rate I’m going, I’m sure you’re thinking how will I ever get things done? I’m thinking the same thing, actually. How and when will I get it all done? And why, you may I ask, do I even persist in this quest when it always seems to elude me anyway? Simply because our home is not yet the restful haven I want it to be. Almost, but not quite. And considering that both I and Richard (especially) work long, punishing hours, I owe that much to us, at the very least. It is my wifely duty to present and maintain a neat and orderly home and I truly feel validated in my desire to make every corner as much of a gentle, soothing space as reality and our activities allow. And how, pray tell, can that happen if everything is not in its proper place? If there are piles of something conspicuously peeking from here and there? The desire brewing relentlessly in my mind and heart — add to that the bits and pieces, chunks and chips I somehow manage to achieve every now and then — at times like this when I have a succession of many days off from work, it keeps me hopeful and it keeps me going. I’ll take what I can, what I’m given. Never mind if all my plans have not fully translated into reality yet; at least I know I enthusiastically keep at it when I can.

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So what has one week given me? I spent a day just organizing my files like a pro (pat on the back). I finally had the time to implement the system that works best for me. I bought 12 clear books from the bookstore and with some printed scrap booking paper (in stripes and florals that are predominantly blue to match my desk top and blend prettily but almost seamlessly in my busy workspace) I made pretty labels. I inched out the generic ones from the plastic sleeve and replaced them with the ones I made. What joy! I really love working with my hands. I made 12 categories: Home (everything that has to do with the home whether it is organizing or cleaning using kitchen concoctions); Pending/For Follow-Up; Purchases (for future price reference); The Philippine STAR (my drafts and all the little scraps of paper and loose sheets that I scribble on for my articles in this paper now have a home); The Sweet Life (to hold all my ideas for the show of the same title on QTV and its craft projects); Wishes and Ideas; Menus (from different establishments when we need catering); Clippings; Kashieca Best-Dressed (designs and inspirations for the line of clothing by Kris Aquino and I in Kashieca); Juliana (all her schedules, correspondence about school activities, brochures, kiddie invitations; Info (photocopies of passports and IDs, photocopies of policies, résumés, TIN numbers, and a complete listing of monthly and yearly payables); and To-Do List (projects and chores I still have to carry out and put into action).

These are the categories that regularly glide through my desk like a slideshow so I have to keep them within easy access on my desktop.   Each clear book has 30 pockets and I labeled them individually by hand on a thin strip of yellow paper that I glued on the floral paper. Why did I not do this sooner? Instead of being lumped together in one fat folder on the left side of my desk and sorting through them one by one in search of a particular file I can locate what I need very easily now. How wonderful is that?

What else has this week taught me? That I own doubles of too many things. My closet tells me that when I really like something I apparently buy two of them, only in different colors. What’s worse, what seem to me at the time of purchase to be classic items prompt me to buy more than just two of the same color and style. What am I trying to do, create a uniform? I’m a hoarder. Fault me for that. I’m still trying to think who taught me that because I really need a scapegoat, someone to blame. I will resist the urge to do that again in my future purchases, if only because the reverse is also true: when I decide I no longer like something, there are instantly two of the same item I do not like.

Mommy, who was here for Juliana’s birthday about two weeks ago, pointed out to me in pure motherly wisdom that I will just be cyclical in my attempts at organizing and keeping every corner neat and tidy unless I really have enough storage space. Trust a mother to say what I have not been able to comprehend at face value for so long. How can everything be in its place when not everything has a place? That is practical wisdom as old and as delicious as pie. Thank you, mother. What would I ever do without you?

It does not take a genius to figure out that I really do need an efficient basement. Only then can I achieve the clutter-free, gentle, soothing space I desire for my family and guests. Trust me on this, dear husband, if you’re reading me now. The one we currently have is not exactly big but it is a square space nonetheless and with professional insight (read: from a real interior designer and not just a wannabe like me) I know wonders can still and will happen. As it is now, the basement is a monster, alive and kicking and healthier than I ever want it to be. It feeds on intimidation and hopelessness — my otherwise efficient girls, in an effort to keep me happy and help me in my quest for a clutter-free house, mercilessly dump whatever they think belongs there into the basement. Only they do it in no particular order. So the monster’s belly just gets fuller and fuller, bursting at the seams with boxes and boxes of… everything. I clean it, it stays neat for a couple of months, and the same thing happens all over again.

I’m guessing they get intimidated by the work that needs to be done and when the enormity of that sinks in, all hope of ever achieving orderliness escapes them. Sigh. It must really be so hideous now because Yaya Lita told me tonight after I asked how chaotic the basement was “Naku, Ma’am, kung ayaw mo sumakit ulo mo huwag ka bumaba. Parang gubat.” Afraid. I trust Yaya Lita. I will not even attempt to so much as peep at this point. Not just yet.

The past week I gave so many things away, perfectly nice and usable stuff that I just know will be put to even greater use by others. I also put away in storage some of Richard’s and my clothes. Juliana also pruned her bags and books. We will do her toys next. But there’s still way too much stuff lounging around. I need to prune some more, be merciless in my editing. I also realize we need a charging station, that system that neatly organizes all the wires necessary for all the electronics and techie items we use. We need several, actually, most notably at Richard’s desk (being a techie there are way too many wires under his desk) and the living room entertainment area. The squirmy-looking things give me a royal headache.

All in, the past week has truly felt like a vacation, albeit a very inexpensive one. There was barely any shopping to speak of; just my clear books and organizers and storage boxes. The basement will definitely be an expense, in time. We are working on the kitchen now, and I’m thinking the basement will have to come next.

I like that I get to sleep for more than just eight hours, and when I don’t I can even have a guiltless siesta just like when I was a little girl with not a care in the world. What luxury! Juliana and I have been drawing a lot (we are trying to learn how to make pretty anime girls). This has been a nice time to recharge and a rested mind really does translate into inspiration and imagination. I am pregnant with a lot of wonderful ideas (although I hope I will also be pregnant with a baby soon) and I was able to touch base with a lot of family and friends. I’ve eaten at Felix in Greenbelt 5 four times in the past week alone (pardon the unabashed plug but do try our food, it is wonderful. If you like Bistek Tagalog try the Marcelino; that is what I have ordered all four times. Try, too, Gensan and Mactan. Yum!). Surprisingly, though, given all this time, I have not picked up a new book. But I have watched a lot of cooking shows on TV, enough to really, really want to learn some easy cooking.

And the biggest discovery of the week? There is power in the spoken word. I asked for just two weeks off, and I was given exactly two weeks. Tonight, I think I will start asking for a basement, the most efficient one that the existing space will allow.

I have one more week off. I tread the wooden planks in our home and although getting everything done by the end of it is as impossible as Gaston (our French bulldog who is a dog but looks and sounds like a pig) using my mobile phone, the rooms, despite the clutter that still exists, smell of Lysol and promise.

For now and until I get more days off, that is good enough.

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