I like to think I’m a creative genius, but really, I’m just messy.

On Christmas Day, Ben grabbed me by the elbow, “I need to show you something amazing.”

He ushered me to the closet next to my mom’s kitchen, “See this! THIS is a pantry. The dishes are lined up neatly, the tablecloths are folded. There’s a shelf just for paper plates! Canned foods stand in rows and boxed foods have their own section.”

I couldn’t help but join him in admiration as we stooped to see the basket filled with pasta, stood on tiptoes to caress the cake platters and lovingly counted the hooks holding brooms and aprons.

In Ben’s defense, he does a lot to keep our pantry organized, but he has no control over me and my disaster in the back.

Like everyone, I’ve spent the past few days clearing up, finishing tasks, trying to make order out of Christmas chaos. I’ve spent several hours searching for a VIP (very important paper) that I put in a VSP (very special-but unknown- place) so I wouldn’t lose it. At least I found my gym pass and some photos for my dad. I promptly put my gym pass in an envelope to mail to my dad and didn’t catch my mistake until I tried to put the photos in my wallet. It’s sad. Truly.

Still, I take heart. My mother didn’t have a clean pantry until she was in her fifties and she was still unstructured at heart. She used to give me tips on how to survive in the hyper-organized world of Mormon women: “When you sign up to bring food put your phone number next to your name with a note that says, ‘Please call and remind me. I’m forgetful.'”

There’s something so powerful in acknowledging “this is the way I am.” Mom worked hard to keep track of birthdays and bills and very important papers, but it was work. Ordered efficiency didn’t come naturally to her.

And like me, she often worried that she’d “made a mess of things.” I know she felt misunderstood and judged and melancholy on dark January days. So I’m trying to remember “We have so much happiness ahead of us. So much happiness.”

I’m trying. I’m trying.

If you need me, I’m cleaning the pantry.

p.s. TravelinOma wrote a fantastic this post this week about being real; I think she’s really fabulous.

January 5, 2010
January 8, 2010



  1. jennie w.

    January 7, 2010

    At least you’re trying. I generally go with the “head in the sand” approach.

    Lately I’ve been locking my bedroom door so I won’t have to acknowledge the disaster it’s become.

    Thanks for the photo of Michelle’s Imperfect World. I was beginning to wonder if it existed (despite your claims).

  2. Kerri

    January 7, 2010

    Yesterday I wouldn’t have even bothered trying to think, “We have so much happiness ahead of us.” But today, I’ll try. (I think you’re pulling thoughts from my brain, but writing them in a much more lovely way than I would.)

    It helps that today the sun is quasi-shining.

    But I still don’t think I’ll attack the pantry.

  3. martha corinna

    January 7, 2010

    I need to clean my pantry…and my fridge, and the mudroom and the closet(s).

  4. stace

    January 7, 2010

    so funny you should blog about the very thing making me feel inadequate lately. I am the same. I get organized only to watch everything find its way back to chaos. I marvel at people who keep it all together and wonder HOW??

    Glad to know I am not alone.

  5. Selwyn

    January 7, 2010

    My pantry is messy, but with a chaotic sort of order that makes perfect sense to me 😉

    I still haven’t unpacked my books which is driving me absolutely berko, particularly as I know just how much happiness I’ll feel when they are all perched up on shelves again.

    Leave your pantry – I’ll help you when I come over! =)


  6. Carrie Kay

    January 8, 2010

    I recall saying those same words today, when my husband couldn’t make sense of the leftovers in the fridge. How old is this? Should I eat it?

    Carrie (Brett’s sis)

  7. Denise

    January 8, 2010

    Want to hear something funny? I grew up thinking I was untalented. I am NOT a creative genius. I can write, but I’m the only sister in my family that doesn’t play an instrument. I’m a horrible seamstress. I do not craft or create. But I am organized. I finally realized well into my twenties or maybe even early thirties that my knack for cleaning and organizing was a talent. My sisters have actually flown me to their homes at various times to help them clean and organize. But alas, I’m a terrible photographer. So it’s a wonderful thing that we are not all alike.

    I put you all on the prayer roll tonight at the Manhattan temple. Always thinking of your family and hoping you’re hearts are healing.

  8. Sue

    January 8, 2010

    I don’t even have a pantry…just a grocery cupboard. (Which is probably just as well because I’m not the most outwardly organized person either.)

    But still, I am organized in my own special (rather messy) way.


  9. Melissa

    January 8, 2010

    I can scarely believe it were possible, but this post has made me love you even MORE. Bless you, Michelle, for giving us a peak at the less-than-perfect. That snapshot there is my whole world. Truly. Ugh.

  10. Clint & Karen

    January 8, 2010

    As I said on facebook a few weeks ago, I would just like to have an understood agreement with people that I don’t ever need to apologize again for a messy home. My good friend, Laura, responded that she thinks we would all be much happier if we all showed messes sometimes. Thanks for sharing your “mess” with us.

  11. Tracy

    January 8, 2010

    I am so glad that I don’t have a pantry – as I am now thinking of all the crap I would shove in there.

    Yours really doesn’t look too bad to me! 😉 Just keep the door closed and do fun stuff.

    Well, that is what I would do anyhoo.

  12. Linkous

    January 8, 2010

    That’s exactly what I’ve been doing today–trying to bring a tiny bit of order to this house. Ryn’s room flooded a week before her birthday and all the books, toys, and dress ups were just piled in laundry baskets in Elle’s room since then. With Christmas and all of its own loads of laundry, boxes to pack up, etc, etc, I just hadn’t gotten around to putting that room back together again. But I finally couldn’t take it anymore :). All we CAN do is keep trying.

  13. Reluctant Nomad

    January 14, 2010

    I’ll make you feel better. I’ll send a picture of my very scary closet that houses anything from rugs to skiis. As soon as I can find my camera. And charge the battery. Oh hell…it’s probably not going to happen. But know…you’re not alone. I used to think I was creative. I’ve accepted the fact now that I’m just messy.

  14. Michelle

    January 17, 2010

    I vascillate between “I’m trying” and “I give up; I’ll never get there.”

    Anyone else find that when they do try to organize, they can’t find anything anymore? 🙂

  15. Jan Russell

    January 22, 2010

    Well, so long as nothing falls on your head when you open the door, I think you’re fine 😉

    And Protestants? When we pass any sign-up sheet, there is always a line for your name and a line for your email/phone#. Thank goodness, or there would be a lot of hungry people recovering from surgery…

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