Clutter pushes Lizzie over the edge, but Ollie drags her back

Ollie’s attempts at decluttering the Banks household are kindly meant, but less than effective, as far as his wife Lizzie is concerned. She sets him right on one or two points…

“What kind of crazy non-system is this, Banks? Putting CDs into alphabetical order would be fine, if we didn’t have anything else to do, which we do, but why is all this Beatles stuff under ‘T’?”

It was just another day in the Banks household. Two adults and two children getting along fine for most of the time, except when baby Jack was awake for half of the night for reasons unknown, and five-year-old Alice flew into a tantrum because she wasn’t able to ride a real unicorn. Just the normal things that lots of families lived with every day; a finely balanced mix of love and chaos.

A by-product of their lifestyle was an ever-present degree of clutter. A layer of toys, coats and shoes, empty mugs, CDs, and letters from insurance and utility companies tended to grow over everything like untended weeds.

It got Lizzie down, and she’d often said to husband Ollie that cleaning up their house was like clearing snow when it was still snowing. He was doing his bit to help by bringing order to their CD collection – not that there was ever much time to listen to the whole of one tune, as he’d pointed out to her. However, it was his tidying activity that was getting him into hot water.

“What’s wrong with that?” he wanted to know. “The Beatles starts with ‘T’, so that’s why they’re under ‘T’…”

Lizzie bit back instantly, just as Jack was sick on her pullover. “Yes, just like The Rolling Stones, The Jam, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and most of the other CDs we own. They’re all ‘The’ something or other. You might as well throw them in the heap they were already in if that’s the best you can do!”

She was so animated that even Biffo the family Basset Hound looked up from where he’d been sleeping on Alice’s favourite woolly coat. “Look – even Teddy is exhausted by it all,” she said, pointing to a stuffed bear who was slumped in a chair beside a half-eaten orange and scraps of another meal.

Lizzie becomes calmer
When Ollie had looked after Jack for a bit and made a cup of coffee whilst Lizzie changed her pullover, she felt a little calmer. She said: “Did you know that mess equals stress, Ollie? This house looks as though there’s been a riot in a toyshop. If we were just a little more organised I’m sure it would have a beneficial effect on our mental and physical health. I’m not even sure we need to declutter, because I don’t think we have too many things. We just need to store things in their proper place, rather than the nearest available flat surface. And put them away properly.”

Ollie agreed. “Better storage would help, and teaching Alice to put toys away. And I’ll try to take over doing the washing, so it’s washed and dried and put away promptly.”

“I’d like that,” said Lizzie. “Because between drying washing and putting it away comes ironing, and you’re more than welcome to have a crack at that.”

Ollie realised what he’d said. “Oh. Would I have to iron all of the shirts, or just the bits that show when I have a jacket on?”

Dressing in the dark
“Left to your own devices you’d look as though you’d got dressed in the dark with things you’d found in the laundry basket,” she muttered, and then said, so he could hear her: “No, I’ll iron, because you’re not much better than useless at it. You can be in charge of encouraging Alice to tidy up. You could make a game of it. We’ll start by going out and getting some of those plastic boxes on wheels that can roll under the bed, and you can play with those between you. You know, Lego bricks in one, dolls in another, that kind of thing.”

“OK,” said Ollie. “Let’s go now. No time like the present!”

A woman in control
Lizzie reined in his enthusiasm. “Not so fast, Banks. There are CDs everywhere. Let’s tidy those first, since you started the job, and then you can measure the space under Alice’s bed so we buy plastic boxes that will actually fit.

“As for the CDs, think ‘Beatles, The’ and ‘Rolling Stones, The’; then your alphabetical notion might even work. I’ll lick you into shape eventually, even if it does turn out to be my life’s work,” she added, throwing a cushion at his head.