The Pile High ClubFeb 29th, 2012 | By admin | Category: Alison Lebovitz, In Every Issue, Life With Kids
THE PILE HIGH CLUB
by Alison Lebovitz
Hello, my name is Alison, and I am a pile-oholic. It has been twenty-one days since my last pile and I truly believe that I am finally on a path towards a clutter-free life.
When I was twenty-four and living in Chicago, my best friend took me to her grandparents’ house for dinner one night. When I asked her grandfather what he did for a living he replied, “Well, the Mrs. and I are both pilots.” A little shocked and very impressed I replied, “Really? You are both pilots. That’s amazing!” He laughed and said, “Oh yes, just look around our house. We pile it here, we pile it there, we pile it everywhere.” At the time I was single, living in a 610-square-foot studio apartment and didn’t have the need, much less the luxury, to pile anything anywhere, except for my clothes on the floor of my closet. I never imagined that someday I would become a pilot too.
As a mother of three, I have to keep up with the countless papers, bills, magazines, invitations, solicitations and junk mail that are the necessary evils of my daily life, while simultaneously contending with the many notes, worksheets, artwork, notices and other surprises that come home in our kids’ backpacks on a daily basis. And no matter what I do, it all ends up in piles on our kitchen counter. Sometimes the piles are strategically organized according to owner. Sometimes I try to stack them according to theme – school piles, work piles, personal piles, no idea what to do with them piles. But these tactics only prove futile and frustrating. So I usually end up consolidating everything into one huge pile and arranging the documents in order of priority, with the more time sensitive papers on top. And while this minimizes the number of piles it also yields a tower so tall that it threatens to topple at the slightest touch.
Unfortunately, the kitchen counter is merely the first stop along a series of piles carefully constructed and strategically placed around our house. It is essentially the initial port of entry to a sea of endless sorting and piling that ultimately leads to either a final resting place or, more likely, the recycling bin.
But three weeks ago I had a cluttervention. While having dinner with a group of women, I started confessing my sins as a proven pile-oholic and then asked my friend Lisa if she happened to suffer from the same syndrome. Not wanting to hurt my feelings, she reluctantly admitted that she was actually pretty tidy and that her house was essentially clutter-free. “You have zero clutter? No piles? No stacks? How do you do it?” I begged. I had to know her secret and somehow learn from her example. She told me, “It’s all because of my mother’s one-touch rule.” She went on to explain that her mom had always required them to find a place for everything in their house on the first touch, and Lisa has since carried on that tradition. For instance, when she wakes up in the morning and pulls the sheets down, she then gets out of bed and, still holding onto the sheet, proceeds to make the bed. One touch. When she gets the mail she promptly sorts it, putting the trash in the recycling bin, the bills in a special basket and all other materials where they need to be without waiting until later. One touch. And even when she does laundry the clothes go from the dryer to folded stacks that are instantly put into drawers. Once again, one touch.
This sounded so simple and yet completely revolutionary. Our boys have always followed a strict “one-touch” rule as well, but theirs entails grabbing clothes out of their drawers and throwing them onto the floor if they don’t feel like wearing them that day. Not quite the same “one touch” she was suggesting. That night I came home and immediately sorted through every pile in ever corner of my house. I decided that my house would start to mirror my cutlery drawer and I would find a consistent, neatly organized and appropriate place for everything in it. By midnight I could finally see things I hadn’t been able to view in years – including my kitchen counter, the laundry room shelf and even the desk in my office, which apparently is made of glass and not copy paper. Instead of a twelve-step program, I have been following the one-touch rule ever since.
My husband came home from work a few days ago and joked, “I am really sick of not seeing any more piles around here.” Luckily he hasn’t seen my closet.