Doing Battle with Chaos

I woke up in a panic from a dream one night this week.  I was trying to pack up the belongings in my house for a move but there was so much clutter and so many heavy things in my way, that I did not know where to begin.  In the dream, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated; trapped and powerless.  In the dream, I was ranting hysterically about all of the clutter in the house that was making it impossible for me to move on.  I woke up knowing that there were several things about the dream that were familiar.  The feeling in the dream, the sense of powerlessness, the feeling of being overwhelmed by the chaos around me, was incredibly familiar.

Growing up, I often felt frustrated by the chaos in our home.   My mother’s house was obsessively clean and tidy but totally dysfunctional.  You could never find a needle, thread, or scissors to hem a pair of pants.  You could not find a hammer or nails to hang a picture.  While our home was orderly on the surface, it was a chaotic underneath.  The drawers were full of junk, the cupboards were a mess; there was no storage place for the tools needed to run a household; and there was no place for a child to play.   My childhood home was a mirror for my mother.  She was creative, adventurous, and a rule-breaker, but she was also disorganized, depressed and angry.  The world seemed unpredictable to me as a child.  People could lash out at you for no reason.  I learned to be quiet; to read the signs; to be small and invisible.  I learned to be responsible; how to organize things for myself; how to create order out of chaos.

These skills have served me well in my adult life.  They have allowed me to create a home that is both organized and functional.  They have helped me to juggle the demands of a career with those of child-rearing.  But my need for order has also been a challenge because children are agents of chaos!  They accumulate belongings for every stage of life.  They create messes in every room.  They leave clothes on the floor, back-packs at the door, and belongings in every room.  It has taken self-discipline to “let go” of my need for order; to relax about chaotic bedrooms; to accept creative messes; to ignore clutter.

But now, with everyone leaving home, I am left in a home that is full of the detritus of life; exercise equipment that my husband no longer uses; toys that my kids have outgrown; a piano that my step-daughter once played; a work bench buried in tools and hardware; a garage full of soccer and road-hockey equipment that is no longer used.  I feel overwhelmed by the mess; frustrated that I don’t have permission to let these belongings go; powerless to move on.  I feel stuck in the transition; weighed down by the mess of what was; unable to see what could be; learning to live with the chaos that is life.

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About kp

I am a woman and a mother, a sister and a wife. I have called myself a socialist and a feminist, an environmentalist and an activist, a pagan and an atheist. But, at this stage in my life, none of these labels feel right. I am searching; trying to find an inner calm; trying to make peace with life's disappointments; trying to answer the big questions in my own small life.
This entry was posted in Empty Nest, Parenting & Family, Stages of Life, Writing, Writing for your life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Doing Battle with Chaos

  1. i so understand this. just a thought, could you put some stuff in a storage unit?

    • kp says:

      LOL….What a great idea, simple and easy. I think that would do wonders for the material realities of my problem. I will keep that in mind. I think the deeper problem, my fear of chaos, is going to take a little more work. Thanks for the suggestion….Kim :)

  2. I will be forever grateful to the man who came into my life after my divorce and tackled my garage for me, a project so monumental and overwhelming that I felt physically ill whenever I went into it. He also created an amazing mudroom/ laundry room, where every storage area was purposeful. It is a difficult thing to be stifled by our stuff.

    • kp says:

      It is interesting how our belongings can become more of a burden than a pleasure!! I would love to have someone come in and clean the place out for me…but i suspect that part of the lesson for me is learning to wait for the time to be right…to sit in the place of uncertainty with some grace and patience!!

  3. Pingback: Help is not always helpful | 3bean

  4. Shari Green says:

    This reminds me how I had to learn to let go of perfectionism when my kids came along (maybe my perfectionism was in part a fear of chaos? interesting…will have to give that some thought!). It took a while before I could relax and actually embrace the creative messes and cluttered bedrooms. And now I’m dealing with the same they’re-gone-but-their-stuff-isn’t, LOL. Putting it in Rubbermaid bins and labeling it has helped… ;) It’s an interesting transition. I hope you find peace and joy as you move through this time.

    • kp says:

      Thanks Shari…It is always reassuring to hear from others that they have struggled with the same or similar issues. Rubbermaid bins sound like a great idea; one we have actually used for the duplo and lego and wooden train sets that none of us seem able to let go of. But perhaps I need to be more imaginative with the Rubbermaid?? I’m sure the peace and joy will come. I feel like I have been sorting the emotional mess with these posts; and that has been helpful. Be well….Kim

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