Frustration, Motivation and the Least Effective Way to Clean

Occasionally I have moments when I get super-frustrated because I can’t find something I need, and should’ve been in the car five minutes ago. Last week, the sought-after item was a barrette to keep Emma’s hair out of her face during dance class. I usually keep a supply in her dance bag, but after class the clips never seem to make it back there. And so I went digging through the linen closet and then her bedroom, getting aggravated and mad at myself for not being able to find something because I had to deal with clutter along the way. I never did find a clip, but am fortunate that my kid attends a dance school which understands frazzled parents, because they keep a stash of hair bands on hand.

Yesterday the missing item was a notice I needed to bring to traffic court. Back in November, I got a ticket for going through a stop sign. Even though I felt pretty sure I stopped, I didn’t see the point in trying to fight it so I went to court a few weeks later to pay the fine. The very nice court officer took the ticket, said, “OK, you want to plead not guilty. Sign here. See you in a few months.” It had been about twenty years since I’d gotten any kind of non-parking ticket, and I’d just spent several minutes competing with my fellow defendants for a parking spot in the pouring rain, so the whole experience rendered me clueless and speechless. In January I got a notice with my court date.

I have a few designated places for papers. Since Bob handles the bills, most of the papers I deal with have to do with Emma and school, and generally those go right into their designated spot. Because papers dealing with court dates are not a regular part of my life, I don’t have a spot for them. I left the notice on the entry way table until I was doing some last-minute cleaning before Emma’s birthday party. When I run low on time before company comes, I usually end up stuffing random things into reusable shopping bags, intending to go back as soon as the event’s over to put away all the stuff I stashed.

I never go back. Even before yesterday, this was never a good strategy, and it’s still not.

Which means yesterday I carefully sorted through lots and lots of stuff, tossing and recycling lots of things along the way. I circled through all  possible spots several times, thinking I  missed something. it was only when I felt truly panicked that I realized my court notice had probably fallen victim to my very inefficient mode of last minute cleaning.

Sure enough, it had. For once my brain did what I wanted and I quickly remembered throwing those bags into the garage, and sure enough, I found it in the first bag, sitting among random magic markers, a couple Barbie dolls and a shoe.

GarageInProg

Slightly better than last time, and yielding a solution for once.

I had time to make myself look presentable and spent three hours in court. I came home  $175 poorer but I finished a book so the evening wasn’t fully wasted.

By the time I got home, I felt only happy that the experience was over, and amused because I almost enjoyed watching the wheels of justice spin in my small town. (Well, not really, but it was interesting.)

But I felt none of the fear and frustration I’d experienced earlier or at other, similar times, which would have been ok. I wish I could bottle those feelings of frustration because they always come at inopportune times, accompanied by a need to be somewhere else. If only I could stay home for a little longer, I would be able to get rid of so much stuff. I always find myself thinking When I get home I am going to give away that and that and that. And then I leave, my negative feelings fade away, and when I get home I no longer feel that drive to get rid of things. It ends up being wasted motivation.

I’m glad I was able to get rid of a few things, but I wish I always felt that motivation I only get when I’m frazzled.