Jul 2, 2007

Putting First Things First and Other Annoying Habits

by Rene Allen

This morning I confessed to my husband that in our home, I am the one who makes the biggest messes. He laughed. “Dear,” he said and turned it into a five syllable word. “We’ve been married thirty-something years and you just figured that out?”

I said this because as we were kneeling for family prayers, I noticed a pile of shoes by the side of the bed where I take them off. Once a week I put up my every day sandals, my black church sandals, tennis shoes, walking shoes, rubber flip-flops and Berks. Somehow, they manage to get together again, like teen-agers meeting covertly at the mall, without my permission. Of course, they belong in the closet. Why don’t they stay there?

Then there was the pile of laundry I’d been meaning to fold and put up for four days; and a stack of books I’m trying to read; and the hair dryer still on the countertop because I was late for church: all of this in our bedroom. My good husband looked around and buried his face in a pillow. His shoulders were shaking, though, and so was his stomach because he was laughing.

I have a long history of putting first things first rather than putting them away. My desk is an example. Yesterday I taught Sunday School. To my right is the institute manual on the New Testament, two notepads, and loose papers with notes from two weeks ago, as well as yesterday. To my left is Talmage’s Jesus the Christ and a stack of a dictionary, McConkie’s Doctrinal New Testament Commentary and a thesaurus. Precariously leaning against the dictionary are my planner and writing journal, and on top of those are two membership renewals from the watercolor guild that I have to forward to the new membership chairman since I’m not doing it this year.

The problem is I eventually have to put things away because there is no more room for first things first. Then I have a collection of stuff and it takes a long time because some of it has been out so long I don’t always remember where everything goes. But if nothing else, I am a problem solver, even if this means tearing everything out of a closet to reorganize it and make room for newly homeless belongings. This creates another problem, though, because at my age, short term memory is impaired enough, after a few days, I can’t remember where the new place is, either.

You’d think with all this trouble, I would put things away after I use them. What a good example I would be to my family. How efficiently I would work. It is a great idea, but so is losing forty pounds. Habits die hard and new ones are slow growers because seldom do they get to that desirable position of being in the first things first category.

I’ve worked this problem for a lot of years and really do want to change. I can enjoy the fresh air feeling of order and organization as well as the next gal. But doggone it, it means you have to make picking up after yourself as important as writing an essay, or preparing a lesson, or doing a watercolor of three saguaros in bloom for the next show.

Sigh. I turn it over to you, my writing friends. Ideas? Suggestions? Reprimands? Please hurry. My husband can’t stop laughing. He is gasping for air and his stomach muscles are in tight spasms, but every time he looks around the room he starts in again. I think he may be out of control.


  1. Rene, it could almost be me writing your blog. Thank goodness I also have a husband who laughs. After sixty-two years of it! What a saint! I'm that way, but what a joy to hear you candidly and cleverly admit your habit, and therefore somehow justifying mine.

    A big difference is that I don't water-color--except a slight bit with pencils and a Q-tip, on a fill-in-the-space basis. I do have a stack of paint by number canvasses with dried-up color capsules, if that says anything.

    Another big difference is, your 'messes' seem to be of useful things. I've still got boxes of junk mail and good stuff combined. I've always meant to sort and file. There's material, yarn and crochet thread to fill a walk-in-closet, and enough still left over to stack on everything in my bedroom. I'd give up, but that would admit defeat.

    Oh, another difference: I don't put first things first -- I merely put them 'down'.

  2. So you have a system, too! My spouse once said I was a mound builder - after a James Michener book. I believe we all make mounds of stuff. It gives archeologists a lot to think about. COnsider what they will say when they come across ours in a couple of thousand years! Rene

  3. Rene, I am the same way but I have learned to discipline myself and write a list of what important things to do first and then do them. Even if it is a half hour a day. It helps to have an understanding husband. Good luck with it all.


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