Is there any point constantly tidying up after your children? Marisa's sense of self had become as dispersed as the Lego blocks which littered her house, until she found her own pathway through the mayhem.
For a long time, I felt like the scattered Legos that are all over my house. And trust me, they are everywhere.
The Legos didn’t start out scattered all over my house. When Legos first came into my world (in the form of Duplos) they were a small bunch of manageable blocks. They were fun to play with and easy to put away. Often, the Duplos would start out as one creation and then be torn down and rebuilt into something else, but at the end of the day, they would be thrown into a box and put back in the cabinet. But then they started multiplying.
We got more Duplos and with them came more building possibilities but also more mess. As the kids grew, we added Legos to the mix and upgraded from generic boxes of blocks to sets with specific pieces and building instructions. First, they were small simple creations and then they grew into big Lego contraptions that require a lot of time and effort to put together. Lego city, Lego Chima, Ninja Go – you name it - my Little Man loves them all. And now Lady Bug is joining the party with her own sets of Disney Legos and Lego Friends.
And so the Lego piles have grown.
As they grew, my attempts to keep the mess under control expanded too. The Legos no longer fit in a single box - we needed multiple storage bins: some for the Duplos, some for the Duplo train tracks (yes, we have those too), and some for the Legos. And we needed shelves for all the creations that had been put together. Sometimes the creations fell apart, so we put those into drawers to keep them separate until we could rebuild them.
Basically, it became nearly impossible to keep all the Duplos and Legos in one place and the more I tried to compartmentalize them, the less I succeeded. No matter what I did, Legos could always be found all over my house: sitting on a table, hanging out in a corner, or chilling under a sofa.
Around the same time that the Legos really started getting out of control, my own world became unmanageable as well. As a mother of three, I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions and I didn’t know which way to go: The kids needed me. The house required attention. Dutchie wanted to connect with me. Work expected me. My mother and brother relied on me. My volunteer commitments gave up on me. And I lost myself.
Every time I started one activity, I would get pulled into something else and never got anything finished. I felt really fragmented and that’s when I started to relate to the scattered Legos. I tried keeping it together by getting organized. I downloaded fancy to-do apps, tried a color coding system on my calendar and kept my phone close. But very quickly, my lists became lots of smaller sub-lists that didn’t help. My calendar began to look like a rainbow, so I missed events and dates. And the little reminder badges on my phone became so inflated with notifications that I had to ignore them just to cope.
Ironically, the more scattered I felt, the less energy I had for organizing and cleaning up the Legos. There were just too many other things on my mind and I didn’t even notice them anymore. The scattered Legos became a permanent part of my life’s landscape. (This is where I do feel like I need to point out that I’m not talking about cleaning; I’m talking about organizing. Because, while my house is unorganized, it is clean.) And do you know what I discovered? The Legos weren’t actually hurting anybody by being left out. The kids were cared for, the house was still functioning, and we were happy. So what difference did it make if all the Legos were perfectly put away or not?
I started to draw inspiration from the scattered Legos. I realized that the Legos aren’t meant to be organized and, even more importantly, I’m not supposed to be perfectly organized at all times. It’s just not realistic. There will always be some Legos hanging out around my house and I will always have things to do. But most of the Legos are put away and most of my life keeps moving along fine.
Since then, I’ve decided to take a different approach and let some things go. I removed almost all of the notifications on my phone, so that I decide when to check it instead of having my phone decide for me. I have eliminated all of my to-do apps and synchronizing systems and reverted back to good-old-fashioned lists. I’m even considering switching back from an electronic calendar to a paper one. I simplified everything and, ironically, spending less time on trying to get organized has actually helped me become more organized.
So I have more time to put the Legos away now. But I don’t always put them away when I have that spare moment. I let them stay where they are and I focus on more important things. Because the truth is that, whether you are a mom or a pile of Legos, being scattered isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At the end of the day, if everyone is cared for, it’s just child’s play anyway.
Marisa is a 'third culture kid,' and while she doesn't remember ever crossing into adulthood, she now finds herself trying to integrate into Dutch life, while mastering the delicate art of being a mother, and figuring out her career as she goes.