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Heaven knows, it’s easy to let things creep up on you in tiny increments. In fact, few things happen overnight. A nation’s political climate and policy can change bit by bit, our kids grow up in barely perceptible intervals, and our houses get cluttered one little item at a time.

I wonder, do we lose our minds the same way? Some of my nearest and dearest have jokingly pointed out my more OCD tendencies for ages. My spices are alphabetized. My undies are carefully sorted and stacked according to how they were packaged together when I bought them. I completely unpack in hotel rooms, even if I’m only staying overnight.

As it went in my childless life, so it goes in motherhood. I used to make all of Simon’s food from scratch. (It was better for him, and it just didn’t take that much longer.) I one day stacked Simon’s Fuzzi Bunz in the order of the rainbow (ROY G. BIV lives!) just for fun, and now do it all the time (They look pretty, and it just doesn’t take that much longer!). With one sitter, I used to lay out Simon’s clothes for the day because she left the drawers a mess and I’d have to re-fold and re-stack after her. (It’s hard to find things in messy drawers, and it just doesn’t take that long.) For another I did the same because I didn’t like the way she put his outfits together (He looked better, and it just didn’t take that much longer.)

I have one specific way of making mac and cheese, and feel palpably anxious when others do it differently. (It tastes better my way, and it just doesn’t take that much longer), I have select spots for all of Simon’s toys, and will take everything out of boxes or baskets to re-sort them if someone has cleaned up besides me. (I can find things better this way, and it just doesn’t take that much longer.) When I put up his nesting boxes, I make sure that all the similarly patterned sides match up when I do so. (It looks better, and it just doesn’t take that much longer.) Sigh. When I clean up his toy kitchen, I make sure that pantry items go in the pantry and refrigerated items go in the fridge, even though Simon has no clue. (It makes more sense, and it just doesn’t take that much longer.)

And so it goes. I have a certain way of packing his diaper bag and re-pack it when it’s not up to spec. His old toys and clothes are stored in bins mostly in their original packaging. I take inventory of all his blocks each night to make sure we haven’t lost any. I snap all his snaps and button all his buttons before folding the laundry. His socks are stacked by color. I try to match is diapers to his clothes. His dino squirters are carefully separated from his rubber duckies at the end of each bath. I arrange stuffed animals in his crib the same way each night. When Simon wakes up, I fold the blanket portion of dirty dog into triangles and place his pacifier on the seam.

Thusly, in tiny increments, I have watched huge amounts of spare time get gobbled up by things that “just don’t take that much longer.” All the while, any time for things like mopping (yuck!) or household paper organization (shudder!) keeps getting put off. I’m not sure if this is artful procrastination or budding disease, but I do know that it’s time to start searching for middle ground. But first, I have diapers to go stuff, sort and stack, and the thing is, they really do look better when stacked by color….

One Response to “The Dangers of Incrementalism”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    I knew it was bad, but even I, your mother, had no idea just how bad. I’m not so sure I would be spreading this around.

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