Jacob’s eyes sent surreptitious glances at Kaye’s side of the bed as he dressed for work. She wasn’t moving. Generally, she’d be up making breakfast for all of them, but she was either sound asleep or nursing her hurt. Sophie’s cry didn’t faze her. Great. This was much more serious to her than he’d realized. Kaye didn’t play the kinds of emotionally manipulative games that so many of his co-workers endured from their wives. She might get upset, fly off the handle, but she’d come around by morning. This was a whole different ballgame. She had to be livid not to respond to Sophie’s morning cry.
Discouraged, he went to get the baby, closing the door quietly behind him. Maybe she needed a break. It’d been a whirlwind of a December, she’d started the whole organizational kick in January and hadn’t stopped since. Here it was closing in on Valentine’s Day and she seemed worn out–overwrought. He expected the boys to bombard him with questions about where she was or why she wasn’t complaining that they were eating granola bars for breakfast, but they didn’t say a word. Instead, Miles and Trent exchanged nervous, silent glances and sipped their orange juice between nibbles of granola bar.
“You should eat a stick of cheese with that,” Jacob added absently as he fed Sophie her morning oatmeal. That kid loved oatmeal.
“Do we have to?” Miles questioned? He’d do it without a fuss if he “must,” but otherwise, he usually resisted any hint of expectation. His motto from birth seemed to be, “only if you make me.”
It took more self-control than Jacob cared to admit to himself not to snap, “Yes. Just do it for once!” Instead, he reached into the fridge, grabbed two pre-wrapped sticks of cheddar cheese and set them in front of each boy. “Eat it.”
Sophie inhaled her oatmeal, sucked down a sippy cup of apple juice, managed to cover herself in both, necessitating a new outfit and brushed hair. As he carried her to her room, he whipped out his cell phone and dialed his mother’s number. “Hey, ma. I’ve got a huge favor. Can Sophie come over today? I’m not sure what time Kaye could get her– she’s feeling a bit out of it today.” He listened to a few seconds of excited rhapsodies and then interrupted before his mom got on a roll. “Thanks, ma. I’ll be over in a bit.”
Jacob snapped his phone shut with satisfaction. At least this way, Kaye’s mom wouldn’t know about the continuing drama. That’d mortify her. This much he’d learned in ten years of marriage. Don’t mortify the wife.
Fuzzy-headed, Kaye dragged herself from the bed and into the bathroom. As if on auto-pilot, she went through her morning routine, an unsettled thought niggling at her. At last she emerged and went to make her bed. Sheets, blankets, bedspread, pillows, grab their glasses– “Oh, no!” Eyes wide, she rushed from the room, heart pounding. Ten-twenty! What–
The house was silent. She dumped the glasses onto the already overloaded counters and raced from room to room, trying to think about where Sophie might be. At last, sense returned to her and she hurried to the fridge. There it was on the magnetic chalkboard. “Kaye, I took Sophie to Ma’s. Get some rest– maybe go out to lunch or something. I’ll help clean up tonight. I love you, Jacob.”
Fresh waves of tears bowled her over. The guy was too good for her. She’d thrown a first-class temper tantrum, stayed in a snit when he woke up that morning, and now he says, “Oh, I took care of the kids, go have fun for the day.” Killing with kindness was underrated these days. She felt strangled. As much as she wanted to do penance and eat PBJ with stale corn chips, Kaye decided to meet in the middle. She’d order Chinese delivery and work like a madman before and afterward. This could work. This could definitely work.
Between bites of low-calorie yogurt that promised to reduce her thighs in six weeks, Kaye went back to work on her overloaded kitchen. She had ten 13×9 pans. What was she supposed to do with that? Just as she grabbed half for the thrift store box, a new thought entered her mind. Once-a-month cooking. She’d always planned to fill the freezer with lasagna and enchiladas each month so that they wouldn’t be as tempted to eat out when she had a busy day. Resolved, she carried six of the pans downstairs. She’d decide later.
That “later” pile was becoming monstrous. It was nearly impossible to count the things, calculate the cost, and pile it up much higher. Everything from next season’s clothes, to exercise equipment, to things for repair, and now kitchen appliances and pans were piled up there. What would happen when she started bringing down books and movies? Tools… oh the tools. Every time she thought her husband finally owned one of every tool ever manufactured, he brought home more. The worst part was, she couldn’t get rid of them!
Half an hour later, she panted her way back up the stairs. The workout was killing her. How did they have three toasters and four waffle irons? That just seemed crazy! Two waffle irons made sense. One for regular, one for Belgian. She could handle that. She had four different sandwich maker type things. where had they come from anyway? The moment she asked, the answer came. Jacob. He bought her some new kitchen gadget for every holiday, occasion, or as a “pick-me-up” gift. That would have to stop. Now. She’d have to have a talk with him.
A partially completed set of dishes, dating back to their wedding, mocked her. What would she do with three dinner plates, four salad plates, six serving platters, and five bowls? What idiot had convinced her to choose a setting that you bought by the piece, ensuring that she managed to have more pieces than settings? It was insane. She eyed it critically. The service was ugly. Why had she let her cousin Felicity talk her into something so very not “her?” It was insanity. She started to dump them in the thrift store box, but a glance at the number of pieces told her she’d probably be able to sell them on eBay. That was something worth the hassle– particularly since she’d never had them out of the boxes. Despite the guilt level it produced, she carried the pieces down the basement stairs and tried to think in terms of calories burned rather than junk accumulated.
The drawers were infinitely worse. Six beaters to mixers that she didn’t own, sixteen spatulas for turning pancakes, nine silicone spatulas for cleaning out baking bowls, and a whopping four sets of mismatched measuring cups taunted and teased her. She tossed five of the spatulas immediately. Plastic bubbles along the edges did not make for a nice turning surface. Six of the silicone ones were relegated to the thrift store box, and she tied one set of measuring cups together and shoved them at the back of the drawer. Another set was placed in their usual spots while the rest went in the garbage. That felt good.
She tossed the half-melted bowl that she’d shoved to the side for the past six months. Why hadn’t she just tossed the thing? How ridiculous was that? A staple gun and a box of staples–how strange to find them together– sat next to three vacuum sealing machines, two of which were useless. One didn’t’ work, the other no longer sold the bags for sealing the food in the first place. There were parts for an ice cream freezer they no longer owned, six bottles of expired medication, including the amoxicillin for Sophie’s ears when she was four months old. Yeah, that was probably moldy enough to create new toxic waste cures. She shuddered.
Three turkey roasters. How on earth had she ever managed to accumulate three. She’d only done Thanksgiving three times in her entire marriage! Twice, someone else brought the turkey! Unsure, she carried all three down to the basement. At this rate, she could start her own thrift store. She could ask the moms to tell her which was theirs and that’d free up two. Score! A gift bag with wedding bells on it confused her. Where had that come from and why was it next to the box of untouched crystal from her wedding? She reached inside and pulled out filmy garments of obscure origin. “Was it a gift I never opened?” She dug around in the bag and found a note from her maid of honor. “Oh, great. No thank you, no acknowledgment, and I’d never fit in those things now… Ten years later… TEN! What a waste.”
Hungry, she called the Panda Box and ordered lunch. Then, while cupboards were empty, she loaded up the sink with hot water and began scrubbing down every cabinet. As she finished each one, she reloaded it with bowls, dishes, appliances, and one third of the ice trays that she’d previously owned. It felt good, though. She was on a roll. She still hadn’t found the dough hook, but at least she knew where the vitamins all were. Her pantry mocked her. She’d needed to go through that too. “Focus, Kaye. Focus. Cupboards first.”
One bright thing in the whole mess was that she hadn’t found evidence of critters in her house. That was good, right? Well, it was cold as Antarctica out there, or close enough, but still… the house was toasty so nothing could have been living inside since fall or there’d be signs.
The crystal mocked her. She’d always planned to put it in a nice cabinet or have pretty shelves built for them, but it hadn’t happened. She’d owned it for ten years and hadn’t used it once. With the kids, it was crazy even to consider it, but the kids wouldn’t be little forever. They could use it for family dinners once Sophie was seven or eight, right? It would cost a fortune to replace once things were conducive to fine living. As much as she hated the idea, she carted the boxes downstairs and shoved them in a corner, piling the sleeping bags on top.
When the doorbell rang, one counter was clear. There was just enough room to pull up a bar stool and enjoy her lo mein and broccoli beef right there. It’d be perfect.
Once on a roll, she worked through the afternoon, the fact that her sons didn’t arrive home, registering only long enough to call her mother-in-law to be sure she had them and then get back to work. She cleaned out the pantry, including twenty-nine cans of unmarked food leftover from the “pounding” she’d gotten as a new bride. The genius who had removed all the paper from the cans had ensured a lot of waste after the third can of dog food. They’d just bought more and ignored the cans on the shelves.
A glance at the clock sent her into overdrive. At five fifteen, she wiped down the last bit of the counter, carried the thrift store boxes to the van, and raced for the shower. By the time Jacob came through the door, she was curled on the couch reading another book, Finding Your Organizational Language, and sipping tea.
“Have a good day?”
Jacob nodded. “You?”
“Yeah. Got the mess done. Sorry about that. I was pretty much a jerk.”
“You were overwhelmed.” He came to hunker on his heels beside her. “You sure you’re ok?”
“I’m good. Didn’t get dinner made, but you should check out that kitchen! You can find things. Oh, and I know where your yellow set of drill bits are now.”
A smile appeared at the corners of his mouth. “Did you find the dough hook?”
“Just buy another one.”
“Maybe when I’m done doing the rest of the house,” she agreed.
A new look covered his face. “Um, Kaye, will you do something for me?”
“What’s that?” She sounded as wary as she looked.
“Will you find a new hobby. You’ve always wanted to take up scrapbooking with Carrie. Will you start soon? I think you need something to break up your–” he hesitated and then chose to avoid the word ‘obsession’ “–passion for dejunking. The kids are starting to fear for their toys.”
“Well…” She thought for a moment. “Scrapbooking is probably just another way to feed the clutter–” One look at Jacob’s face and she couldn’t do it. “I’ll see if there’s a crop coming up soon. I bet I can find a way to keep control over my spending and accumulating and still have fun. It’ll work.”
“I suppose this means I’m taking you guys to dinner.”
She grinned. “Unless you want to feast on the gorgeous kitchen in there, you’ll have to.”
“Bad joke. Bad.” He kissed her nose. “I’ll go take a shower.”
As she heard the shower come on, Kaye flipped the page and read further. Each person has their own organizational style that speaks to them. The key is to ensure that you do not try to speak a language that you’ve never learned. Yes, people can learn new languages, but it is most effective to work with the one you know best at first before trying to become bi-organizational.
Frustrated, she tossed the book aside. “Bi-organizational. It sounds like someone who can’t say no to civic duties.”