The scrap room buzzed with conversation. Still new to the group, Kaye listened from the sidelines as she planned pages, used the tools, and shopped for necessary embellishments. A voice from the far side of the room called to her. “Kaye, give it up. You can’t keep up such a regimented way to scrapbook! It’s counter-intuitive. You’re spending almost as much time gathering everything and drawing it out as you would just making it.”
She’d heard it all before; people had strong opinions about her “obsessiveness,” but she frankly didn’t care. The way she set up her scrapping time was exactly what she needed to feel as if she accomplished something without feeling like her hobby controlled her life or her space. Carrie came to a backhanded defense of her methods. “Kaye has become a little fanatical about decluttering her life. If her inherent frugality didn’t scream in protest, I’m convinced she’d buy a box of brads for a page and then toss the rest so she wouldn’t have a bunch of unused and unwanted things cluttering her organizer.”
“How can you do it?” another woman asked. “I always say I won’t buy any more paper, and I always do. It’s like a compulsion with me. See paper. Buy paper. Horde paper. When the time comes to make a page, buy paper but don’t touch the stuff I’ve been saving for just that purpose.”
“I know what you mean. My husband swears that I could wallpaper the White House into a psychedelic mess and still have leftovers,” another one interjected.
The quiet little Asian woman nearest Kaye nodded. “I like a very orderly home– minimalistic. My craft room on the other hand– it looks like it belongs in another house.”
As the women compared horror stories about their respective craft areas, increased resolve entered her heart. She wouldn’t let this hobby override her good sense. Why had she chosen such a cluttery hobby? Even the scrapbook pages themselves were a study in how much stuff you could add to a page without it being too much, which was the opposite of her goal for her home. She wanted to create a warm, inviting house with as little stuff as possible without making it sterile. “I have discovered, as I’ve been reducing the amount of things in our home, that my life is much more peaceful when everything we own enriches our life in a very tangible and reasonable way. I don’t want to lose that for a hobby. I’ll take up marathon runs instead before I’ll do that.”
Kaye felt quite smug about her profound and firm stand on what one book had called “stuffitis.” People needed to get serious about not letting stuff rule their lives. There was so much more she wanted to say– preach even– about her new passion, but she could see that the women around her didn’t want to hear it. Carrie’s face was a study in shock and disappointment. Had what she said really been so offensive? Maybe Carrie was just feeling the burden of the weight of her own stuff around her neck. Feeling quite encouraging and supportive, Kaye smiled at her friend, but Carrie’s return smile was more like a grimace.
Anxious to assure the ladies that she was still in the journey to a less materialistic lifestyle, Kaye spoke up once more. “I hope you all know that I’m only trying to do what is best for my family. I know everyone doesn’t have the same priorities as I do. I–”
Carrie’s head shook slightly and then interrupted. “Did you figure out what to do for the pages with that adorable pink coat?”
Had she said anything else, Kaye would have gone on the defensive, but the decision to get rid of the coat was still raw. She wanted it. She liked it. It was just ridiculous to own something so unnecessary and impractical. “I found some black and white plaid paper that I thought would be cute. I can use pink matting behind it. I’m thinking about using a couple of white pom-poms and white cording around the edges to simulate the ties around that hood. What do you think?”
A volley of suggestions flew at her from all directions. Had they been arrows, she’d look like a porcupine. As she assembled her supplies, Kaye listened, getting new ideas all the while. Despite the overwhelming amount of information to process, Kaye slowly relaxed, the stress of her weeks of intense focus on her home evaporating in the company of women who shared the love of family stories. Paradoxically, she also felt invigorated. Each idea spawned new ones until it seemed as if she could scrap every moment of her life and still never use them all.
The Asian woman near her waited for a lull in the conversation and then asked, “So, what have you gotten done in the past few weeks, Kaye?”
“Well, I finished Sophie’s room, the kitchen, my closet, and–”
“I think she meant on your scrapbook,” Carrie interjected, just a hint of sharpness to her tone.
“Oh! I think I have six pages done now? Maybe seven. I don’t remember. It’s been a long week.”
“Sounds like it,” a gray-haired woman across from her said. “When do you have time to scrap with your attention so fully focused on housework?
Kaye missed the sarcasm. Happily, she began another long and quite annoying–if the faces of the other women could be believed–lecture on her quest for a life of “less is more.” At last, Carrie seemed to lose her patience with it. She shoved back her chair and beckoned for Kaye to follow. “Can you come help me with something, Kaye?”
Unaware of the storm brewing, Kaye hurried to follow her friend outside. Out of sight of the window, Carrie stopped. “What has gotten into you?”
“Do you realize that you can’t open your mouth without droning on and on about the virtues of emptying your house of anything but a spare pair of clothes and a plate for every member of the family? You’ve made some very sweeping statements about how wrong people are for doing things that are different than your new religion–”
“What would you call it when someone is fanatical about their adherence to new rules and regulations and waxes eloquent about the tenets of their latest ‘enlightenment?’”
Protest formed on Kaye’s tongue, but considering that Jake came home every night with the same, “I don’t believe this” look on his face, Kaye wasn’t sure it wasn’t a valid accusation. “Was I really that dogmatic?”
“Judgmental is more like it. Just because you like bookshelves with empty space and all your scrapbook supplies in one small organizer doesn’t mean that it’s wrong if some of us like to have overflowing bookcases and scrap rooms stuffed with supplies to keep us working whenever we feel like it. What you see as keeping minimal, some of us see as wasting time, but you don’t see us waxing eloquent about it.”
“Well some of the ladies–”
“Have teased you– not condemned. They don’t care how you do it. It’s your life. You can only work here and have nothing at home for all they care.” The look on her face must have been quite crushed, because Carrie threw arms around Kaye and said, “Look, I love you. I know you’re just excited about this new thing in your life– again, kind of like a new convert to some religion. I just think you’re going to alienate the very women who want to be your cheerleading team– your friend– if you keep harping on them about how horrible it is that they own clothes they still hope to shrink into someday.”
As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Kaye could see herself in that accusation. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“This is your afternoon out. Forget about the house and your projects for a while. Just relax and enjoy yourself. I bet you’ll have a lot more fun if you aren’t planning your next work schedule while enjoying your break from it”
Feeling quiet chagrined, Kaye followed Carrie into the store and started to apologize, but the gray-haired woman shook her head. “We’ve all been there. Don’t worry about it. Just relax and have fun with us.”
As she pulled away from the scrap store, Kaye debated with herself. She’d had plans to come home and make a sweep of their room, removing most of the dust-catching decor that her mother had provided during those months of garage sale Nirvana. Jake hated most of the junk in their room, and when she’d really looked at all of it, she’d realized she didn’t like it either. It looked like space fillers rather than decor. Shouldn’t their room reflect their personalities and tastes? Well, it didn’t. Not at all.
Now she wasn’t so sure. Maybe even a room that he’d like to see dejunked would still be too much after weeks of constant clutter removal from every corner of the house. Was it really fair to take his one day that was truly “off” and add stress to it? She passed the first entrance to her favorite supermarket, but seeing the store gave her an idea. Kaye pulled into the next entrance, drove to her favorite parking row, and hurried out of the van. She slipped open her phone and called home. “Don’t start hot dogs boiling.”
Kaye hated the nervous tone in Jacob’s voice as he asked the single-worded question. “I’m at the store. I’m getting stuff for homemade pizzas. I thought we could all make our own.”
“Didn’t you have stuff you wanted to do when you got back?”
Stuff– how ironic that he used that word to describe her removal of stuff from their lives. “Nah, I thought pizza and movie night might be fun. I was going to grab that new Pixar from the RedBox.”
“The boys will love it. Thanks, Kaye.”
Thanks, Kaye. All through the store as she dumped sauce, cheese, pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, sausage, and half a dozen other toppings into her cart, those words taunted her. Thanks, Kaye. She grabbed two bottles of Sprite and added them to her load. Thanks, Kaye. The words were simple, natural, and shouldn’t have been necessary. Since when did her husband need to thank her for being reasonable? Carrie was right. She’d taken her new excitement a little too far. There was no excuse for verbally dragging everyone else through the growth and changes that she was experiencing. She could do her thing without making everyone around her live it too. Thanks, Kaye. The next time Jacob said that it’d be over something thank-worthy like mowing the lawn for him or giving him the best birthday present ever. It wouldn’t be for doing something that was once a normal thing in their home. Ouch!
The boys greeted her at the van and helped carry in the groceries, chatting all the while about their game of hide and seek with Sophie and the snowball fight they’d had in the back yard. “Dad is so fast! He’s so old that I didn’t think we had anything to worry about, but he just–”
“I wouldn’t say anything about him being old in his hearing,” Kaye warned, laughing. “I’ll roll out the dough, you guys start opening things.”
She set the oven for four hundred degrees, grabbed her rolling pin from the cabinet where it always stayed now, and sighed happily at the thought. These were the things she needed to keep in her mind as she worked– the rewards, not the negatives to avoid. That was probably the whole problem. She’d been too caught up in all the bad to eradicate instead of setting up her house to enjoy it to its fullest. Maybe it was time to crack open the one book she had almost not purchased– The Power of Positive Organization. It sounded so New-Agey and psychobabblish. The last thing she needed was more clutter for the mind and house without results. However, something on the back of the book–what it was she couldn’t remember now– had tugged at her heart. She’d have to drag it out next.
“Did you get the movie, Mom?” Miles loved Pixar. His dream was to become a computer animator and work for “the best studio in the world–Pixar.”
“Yep. Get Dad. It’s time to load your pizzas.”
While the pizzas were cooking, Kaye hurried down into the dungeon and wove through the piles of things. “It looks almost as bad as an episode of Hoarders in here. Ugh!” Where was that mini trampoline? The boys loved it when they took turns with a variation of Simon Says on the mini tramp during a movie. Over in the corner near the boxes of textbooks, Kaye spied the edge of it. She shoved the inflatable boat and two inner tubes out of the way and jerked the mini-tramp out from under the pile of junk that buried it. Her feet flew out from under her as the force she exerted exceeded her balance compensation. She slammed into the boxes of books, toppling them onto the magazines-. “Ow!”
Her eyes darted around her to see how many of the magazines were ruined by the avalanche of boxes, but couldn’t find any. Great. Now where had he put them. Even the past years’ issues were gone. Before she could drag herself out of the pile and return upstairs, Jacob jogged down the steps. “Did you call– What are you doing? You ok?”
“Tried to get this from under a pile of stuff,” Kaye kicked the trampoline, “and lost my footing. Where are all your magazines?” Jacob shifted his feet and refused to meet her gaze. Dread filled her heart. If there was a pile of magazines to the ceiling on his side of the bed–
“I was thinking about how often I really read them and went to get them out of the closet. I thought I’d take them to the dump while you were gone. They weren’t there. I looked around and found them down here. I couldn’t believe how many there were.”
“You took them to the dump?” Kaye couldn’t have been more shocked.
“Yeah. I decided there was no reason I couldn’t read the current issue on my lunch breaks. I’ll be more current that way too.” Jacob reached down to offer his wife a hand and found her wrapped around him.
“Thank you, Jacob. You didn’t have to, but thanks.”
While Jacob brushed his teeth, Kaye grabbed The Power of Positive Organization from her stack of books on her bedside table and flipped it over to read the back. Her eyes flitted over each word, looking for the sentence that had sold her on the book. There it was, “A person’s attitude about their surroundings makes a direct impact on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of all who live with it.”
“Just had to get a small fix, eh?” Jacob stood in the bathroom doorway, shaking his head.