Life is Messy – Bring a Vacuum

Last week, I went with our young son to an outdoor activity where he needed to bring a single snack for himself. I grabbed a box of raisins on the way out the door. When we arrived at the parking lot, I attempted to place them in my purse, but the box would not fit. I hastily started removing things out of my purse – old squeezer packages, handfuls of receipts, two containers of lotion (I couldn’t find any the day before!), and a plastic bag full of crackers that had evidently been punctured by the uncapped ink pin because mashed cracker crumbs flew across my front seat when I pulled the bag from my purse. Realizing that I needed to take more drastic action, but having no time at that moment to do anything, I tossed the raisins in my purse, and sighed at the mess of trash, paper, and crumbs now filling my cup holders and littered across my front seat.

In most areas of my life, I am extremely organized – I use a label maker for the pantry, my clothes are hung color-coded by season, and I color code our file folders. However, there are a few areas of my life that this organization seems to fail to inhabit like my purse. Though my purse is on the small to medium size, I come from a genetic line of women who have an extraordinary talent for packing large numbers of items into small spaces. Getting thanksgiving leftovers into the refrigerator and absurd amounts of holiday dishes into a single dishwasher load are no match for the women in my family. I carry this trait around in my purse and my continued insistence that I can use carry-on bags only on a plane trip while my husband shakes his head and tells me that my overstuffed backpack makes me look like a pack mule.

A few days after the crumb spraying incident I sat enjoying the fall weather and prepared to tackle my purse. The oldest receipt I found came from a restaurant we ate at last January, and I am extremely grateful that whatever punctured the cracker bag did not also puncture the applesauce squeezer container that I found buried at the bottom under a cloth tissue my son used when his nose ran persistently a couple of months ago. I also learned that over some unknown amount of time chewy granola bars rival holiday fruitcakes in their ability to turn rock solid. Eventually, I found the bottom of my purse filled with cracker crumbs and pieces of granola. Pondering only momentarily, I grabbed my purse and got the vacuum from the closet. With some amount of awkward maneuvering I managed to use the vacuum wand attachment to extricate all the crumbs.

I returned everything that belonged in my purse in perfectly organized fashion with the intention that the crumb catastrophe will never happen again. However, if I am honest, this sort of purse disaster has happened many times before and, unless I make some other change, will likely happen in the future. Sometimes, I find offering grace to others easier than offering it to myself. I “should” do better. This “shouldn’t” have happened. If only I… Why didn’t I… I am a supporter of pursuing excellence in my life and striving to make positive changes when warranted. Yet, acknowledging the imperfections that come along with my humanity without berating myself often proves a challenge. Maybe instead of telling myself all those “should” statements about finding my purse in catastrophe state, I could pat myself on the back for being prepared to take care of a child in various circumstances. Life is messy. Crumbs happen. We trip. We spill. Instead of belittling myself for life’s messes, I think I will acknowledge that I am strong and grateful to have the capability of cleaning up after myself. I will also make sure I have a good vacuum nearby!

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