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We (Over) Filled Our Home with Stuff. Now It’s a Disaster

There was a time in my life when I would say “My house is a disaster” with an oh-so-humble and polite twinkle in my eye, but now I really mean it.

Although our first apartment was small, I kept it neat and tidy. I made my own Christmas ornaments then. I’d invite people over for platters of brie and crusty bread. I had doilies. “Come on in,” I’d chirp cheerfully. “Please don’t mind the mess. I’ve just been baking cookies. Can I get you something to drink? I’ll set out a coaster.”

I was energetic and fashionable and accommodating. At the time, I even had a small child who grew up to be a toddler who got into all sorts of mischief in that two-bedroom corner unit on the fourth floor. I know I’m not making this up, because his cherubic infancy is well documented. I used to take pictures of him and carefully place them—by date—in photo albums. He even has a baby book that is filled with perfect penmanship that outlines his every word, action, and immunization booster in precise detail.

A Bigger Space and the Stuff We Added

Not long before my second child was born, we moved three miles down the hill to a nice Colonial on a quiet street in a lovely neighborhood. The yard was big and the house seemed huge. It had another bedroom, a walk-up attic for storage, a real dining room, and a basement family room.

It didn’t take long for us to fill the house to the rafters.

We added a third baby to the family. We added bunk beds. Then we added a string of cats. We added desks and computers and big-screen TVs and dotted the yard with colorful plastic playground equipment.

So. Much. Stuff.

We filled our home with love and memories. But we also filled it with stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

You know: electronic equipment, art supplies, movie collections, trinkets, and the like. And for good measure, we topped it off with about 4,000 pairs of shoes. We have a particular preference for sports cleats caked with mud. We enjoy keeping those in the dining room, mostly. Right near the stacks of notebooks and binders that came home in garbage bags from last year’s school lockers.

When I walk in the door from work, I have no clue where to begin. With so many different activities and demands and athletic wardrobes to manage, we blow in and blow out of this house like a hurricane. And what a mighty mess we leave in our wake.

Even the closets and dressers are fed up. When we’re not looking, it feels like they open themselves up and regurgitate clothes all over the floor.

I haven’t quite figured out how to get my kids to pitch in and care for their home environment. It’s a never-ending and overwhelming project, one that I really was going to tackle this weekend before I decided to write a blog post about it instead.

It didn’t help that my husband took my workforce downtown to help him organize his office (traitor!). No matter how appealing I might make it sound to change your sheets and sweep the floors and scrub the toilets, I just can’t compete with an onsite Starbucks.

Kathleen Osborne

Kathleen Osborne is a mom of two teenagers and a soon-to-be teenager. She’s head of communications for Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland, Ohio. And she’s a writer whose work has appeared in The Plain DealerCleveland Magazine, and now Your Teen.