I Know Where the Scissors Are!

I started reading Zen and the Art of Housekeeping weeks ago. And still haven’t finished it. I have, however, done the following:

Completely emptied every drawer and cabinet in the kitchen, and discarded anything chipped, broken or superfluous.

In consideration of questions from the book such as,

“Is this item truly of value to me?”

“Does it make my life better in some way?”


“Is it meaningful to me?”

Baby has graduated to normal vessels of consumption (i.e. glass bowls) so we are down to only two ugly plastic sippy cups. Actually one because I forgot the other one at church last week. No more “kid” plastic lurking in the kitchen. This is just personal preference. I am not fond of plastic. I now have NOTHING in my kitchen that I don’t use regularly, save for just a few special things I use only several times a year (i.e. cookie press, piping bags/tips). I thought that I was a pretty clutter-free person but when I did the kitchen overhaul I had three giant boxes worth of trash/donations! You can’t even really tell the difference. Even when you open the cupboards. It just looks subtly more open, more organized.

(not that exciting)

(not that exciting)

There’s no “hidden” food in the pantry. I can see everything. The dead space (dark corner-areas of cabinets) are empty. All of the cabinets have been cleaned inside and outside before I reloaded all the necessities. It may not be an obvious improvement, but it is pretty great.

Last I wrote of Zen and the Art of Housekeeping, the kids rooms had been cleaned and organized (even the closets!) There are no clothes that don’t fit them taking up valuable space. Too-small garments have been donated.

Before you roll your eyes, please know that I am not an organized person and these all are major departures from my normal routine.

I throw caution to the wind and start painting, digging or writing (or whatever creative process) and make gigantic messes on a very regular basis. However, I am learning that it will benefit my creative process (and the people I live with) if I properly clean up my gigantic mess rather than pile it on the table down in the basement when I’m finished.

Like so.

Like so.

This table was clean one week ago. When you think you have all the Christmas decorations cleaned up, there always seem to be some forgotten trimmings coming out of the woodwork, right?!

My house is not always (ever?) sparkling clean. I like art. I view our home as a sort of canvas.

Clutter-free surfaces

Clutter-free surfaces,

Dusted artwork,

dusted artwork,

with clean glass to properly reflect the light,

with clean glass to properly reflect the light,

no visible electronic wires and a feng shui-ish use of



is my forte. So usually, Internet, I show you the artful side of Spy Garden Home. Most home and garden bloggers do the same, which is why you don’t see many photographs of artfully-lit dirty bathtubs that need scrubbing on designmom. Or mud caked into a rug on simplygrove. Or crayon covering a closet door on lalalovely. On mogs (mom blogs) you do see (and hear of) such things.

The simple statement of “I have a two year old, an eight year old and a golden retriever puppy” (in my mind) implies that my home is never entirely clean. I appreciate the style of the aforementioned home and garden blogs (and magazines), Martha Stewart, etc. and don’t get offended by the appearance of “perfection” because I know that they are images. I can value a photograph in an artistic way while knowing full well that no matter how la la lovely things look in photos, some common things are true for any person who has kids (or dogs, to some degree):

Getting 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep is a unexpected delight

All furniture shall be ripped/stained/broken (to at least some degree)

The unexpected happens (all the time)

This one may not be universal but also: One can never find a pair of scissors. Or tape. Or a pen. (etc., etc.) In real life, these messy moments usually involve much laughter and chaos. Just because people don’t showcase their chaos on their website, doesn’t mean they are liars trying to be perceived as perfect. That’s like painting a landscape of a colorful summer scene and calling it a lie because the landscape depicted is actually all gray in winter. Or something like that.

Of writing on the chaos of children, basically the same exact things happen to everyone who has kids. I usually don’t write about such things because so many other people do it so well. It takes a lot of effort to make jokes and be witty (at least for me) and if I’ve just completed cleaning up a mess (or looking for the scissors) by that point (i.e. the end of the day) I’m ready to move on to a new subject, perhaps one that does not involve chaos. Such as organizing (ha!). Or appreciating the artful side of things. But just because I tend to focus on the attractive angle does not mean the rips, stains, messes aren’t there.

But back to Zen and the Art of Housekeeping

My junk drawer is now organized and really, quite bare. For the past year every time the junk drawer was filled to the brim I would just dump all the contents into a big plastic Rubbermaid bin and put it down in the basement. FOR A YEAR. I finally brought the bin up and told Spy-Wonder Boy it was “TREASURE!” And to “Please separate into piles of tools, art stuff, his toys, Baby’s toys, etc.” He did the whole bin, it took hours! One year’s worth of one little junk drawer.

NO MORE! Now junk drawer contents have a home. On top of the fridge.

Out of the reach of the clutches of the tiny destroyers. Though let's be honest it was usually me leaving the scissors somewhere (i.e. out in the garden).

Out of the reach of the clutches of the tiny destroyers. Though let’s be honest it was usually me leaving the scissors somewhere (i.e. out in the garden).

And now, I know where the scissors are. Joy!

I’ve also started a cleaning schedule.

Spy Garden Home Cleaning Schedule

Spy Garden Home Cleaning Schedule

I haven’t religiously followed it, but I if I skip a job (i.e. cleaning the fridge) the next Monday I know I skipped the previous week and it gives me more incentive to just get it done.

Posted right under the calendar, can't miss it!

Posted right under the calendar, can’t miss it!

I used to clean things when you could visibly see something was dirty. But if you just clean everything once a week, the jobs are SO MUCH less involved! I’ve left room for other chores to be added as we think of them. The home pictures are there for motivation and Baby especially loves looking at the pictures of her room.

I haven’t stuck very closely to the sweeping schedule. I love to garden, ergo I love dirt. Dirt on my floors doesn’t really offend me. Smoochie and Baby the Spy and I are constantly tracking it in and I don’t worry about it. To me dirt isn’t dirty. Soil is lovely. Old food on the floor would be unsanitary and I would classify that as dirty. However, food on the floor doesn’t last long with two puppies in the house. So what I sweep up is pretty much all plain dirt. And when you think about it, dirt is just teeny-tiny rocks. Granite and marble floors are much larger and perhaps more luxurious, rocks. If you think about it. HAHAHAHa

So dirt’s alright. But I don’t like clutter or too many tchotchkes. For the most part I don’t block windows with furniture. A fireplace or picture window is the ideal focal point of a room (i.e. not a TV). We pick up the toys. The kitchen counter is cleared. None of this is actually cleaning, they are really just interior design preferences. At a glance, our house usually looked clean and organized. But the drawers, the closets, the cabinets and the basement were a real mess. Shoving things in a closet does not equal organization. Zen and the Art of Housekeeping has made me face this and start to create a more organized Spy Garden Home.

If you read regularly you may have noticed Spy sister (my sister, aka Aunt Spy) and her golden retriever puppy, Magnolia, making frequent appearances. That is because she is living here. Not forever, though we sort of wish it would be forever. She has moved to St. Louis and is staying with us. We have a pretty small house (something like 1200 SF). It’s a basic ranch, with three 10 x 10 bedrooms and one bathroom. As “chaos” is implied within the statement “I have kids”, implied in “one bathroom” are 753 jokes. The man cave is the house’s saving grace, a large, cozy room that doubles as family room and office.

The Man Cave (where tchotchkes are permitted)

The Man Cave (where tchotchkes are permitted)

We have a living room which I regard as the “girl cave” that is now serving as Spy Sister’s sleeping quarters. Living Room Living, if you will.

Living Room Living

Living Room Living: nighty night Aunt Spy!

When you have multiple people (and animals) in the same home (with one bathroom), keeping things clean and organized is sort of mandatory. If I lived alone I would probably have all my clothes piled up on the floor and I’d shove them in a closet when someone came over. In fact, my own clothes are piled up mishmash in my closet. But I’m going to go organize them now. And then maybe I’ll finish reading the book.

14 thoughts on “I Know Where the Scissors Are!

  1. shamainrhallett

    There is something so liberating about cleaning out closets and drawers. It is like all of a sudden you can breathe. A sense of weight that you weren’t even aware of is now gone. Or maybe that is all the animal hair I vacuumed up.

    1. Spy Garden Post author

      Throwing things away is one of my favorite things to do. So I do it often! ;) Spy Sister came equipped with a Dyson which is probably ANOTHER reason cleaning has gotten more enjoyable: that vacuum is the best!!

  2. Rachel Demas (@TaoOfPoop)

    This post just gave me such a feeling of calm. I know why too. It’s because you have found that balance here — realizing that keeping things organized is good for you and your creative process, but not too clean as to forget that we are human and we need air and space to breathe. I aspire to be you!

  3. narf77

    Nothing like having your sister move in to make you suddenly “see” how your cleaning schedule could be ammended ;). I agree with you…who wants to head to someone’s blog and see how they REALLY live?! Who want’s to see the spilt milk, the dog pee on the decking posts, the grime in the corner of the windowsill…as humans we like to see order in chaos and unless those images are followed up by a lovely “clean” shot, we are left disturbed and malcontented (love that word ;) ). Same goes for landscape design. We like, what we like and if we don’t see it we have a problem internally. I agree with you on the clutter thing BUT I have this active hoarder that inhabits me. I am a product of my parents who were both astute hoarders of absolute rubbish. Mum had cupboards full to the brim with jars and dad had jars of rusty screws and nails and even saved his cigarette packets in a wardrobe!!! There was really no hope for me from the start to be honest but my hoardings tend to be bits of washed sea glass, smooth round rocks and seeds…I hoard seeds that I find on my daily walks with Earl the wonder-dog and bring them home in order to grow them on Serendipity Farm. I have so many seeds in small bowls (that I also hoard ;) ). Maybe there would be salvation in that Zen book of cleaning but I doubt it. When someone still loves their addiction, there really isn’t any way to break through that diamond coating of adoration to talk sense or reason to them. Steve knows ;)

    1. Spy Garden Post author

      Seeds, rocks and sea glass are lovely collections NOT clutter :) yes I like little glimpses of chaos but being subtle about it, leaving room for imagination is far more appealing! Well put!

  4. Hannah

    I love the idea of emptying out all the closets, drawers, cupboards ect and getting rid of the unnecessary. I keep saying I’ll do it when I move out. . . Although I should probably start now lol

    1. Spy Garden Post author

      Thanks. Appreciate it. I kind of felt like it was loooong and all over the place. My favorite part was likening dirt on the floor to marble floors. HAHAHaha

      1. Eliza Waters

        Yes, (surprisingly) one of your longer posts, but I really enjoyed reading it.( I need all the help I can get in this area of domestic life!) However, since the apex of having 2 furry dogs, 3 shedding cats, 2 active boys and 1 spouse, to 2 cats, 1 dog and 3 grownups, my house is, and stays, much cleaner than it used to, praise god. It also goes without saying that I am much older now so the energy level isn’t quite as vigorous as it once was -ha!

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