Keys to an organized home
If you have a toddler, chances are you’re always finding things where you least expect them.
And where you didn’t put them.
And where you’d absolutely never put them: like in an oven mitt.
When I came home to Spencer and the kids Friday, I put my purse on the table — like always — and settled in for a weekend of cleaning. Since returning to work a month ago, I’m no longer home constantly staring at our clutter. So my mess tolerance? Higher. Much higher.
I will make some tidying overtures before bed: emptying the dishwasher, wiping down counters. Moving blocks and books directly out of a travel path. I didn’t used to bother putting away the toys — but since Hadley arrived, we’re up with the baby at odd hours. A dark, quiet living room and play piano don’t mix.
Oliver has taken to moving his “prizes,” as Spencer calls them, from one room to the next. He can’t go up or down the stairs without a gaggle of stuffed animals, blankets and random trinkets trailing us. Ollie searches for tiny treasures — a gaudy ring; a AA battery; a wooden “stamp” from a toy mailbox — and carries these around for hours, eventually shedding them like breadcrumbs.
I was vaguely aware that my keys were MIA on Saturday, but we weren’t going anywhere to need them. And anyway, they were probably just buried in my purse. I typically drop them in my handbag after unlocking the front door, but it’s not unusual for Oliver to greet me and reach up to shake ’em like a Polaroid picture (OutKast-style, of course). They’re discovered on the couch or coffee table a short time later, and I put them back in my bag. No harm, no tantrum.
Since Ollie started walking, Spencer and I have gotten used to finding things like cookies inside lidded pots. It’s not unusual for discarded socks to be found in soda cartons, and bottles of lotion to be tucked in his toy box. Because he’s so prone to these antics (and daredevil ones), he’s rarely out of sight. We’ve just reached the point where Ollie can be trusted in another room for a few minutes if we have to feed the baby, make dinner, etc.
The house has been baby-proofed for almost a year, but there’s just no Ollie-proofing.
I’ve learned to pick my battles with his “treasures.” Like a raccoon, he prefers shiny things — bracelets; new pennies; aluminum foil — and is particularly prone to get in trouble when approaching our dresser, where my ever-tempting costume jewelry is kept.
Ollie takes his time choosing a prize. He can’t be too hasty, go in too hot; he knows that if he picks something small, I’m likely to take it away. These treasure-hunting expeditions require balancing the threat of a meltdown with the degree to which his selection is a choking hazard. Even at age 2, Ollie likes to chew on things. All the things. We say “no biting” about 118 times a day.
I guess that’s why I’ve been pretty lax with my keyring. As a little guy, my keys were easy entertainment: shiny, noisy, harmless. We did jeopardize our friendships with new neighbors when Ollie figured out that pressing a red button on my key fob would set off a super cool car alarm at 6 a.m., but a little tape over it got us back in good graces.
Never before has my son taken something that I couldn’t quickly find, so I never noticed him apparently running off with my keys sometime between Friday night and Sunday morning. As we were heading out to run errands, I reached into my purse to lock the door and found . . . hair ties and cookie crumbs.
I am nothing if not organized, so I looked again. I mean, they had to be in there somewhere. My keys are in my purse. Always. The end.
Only they weren’t. And they weren’t on the kitchen table, either — nor in my laptop bag, or inside the (empty) fruit bowl, or left on a banister by the door.
The culprit was easy to guess. Hadley is still mastering the whole holding-her-head-up thing, so.
“Ollie, where are Mommy’s keys?”
My son, already a “threenager” at age 2, has selective hearing. He raced his little cars through the kitchen while his dad and I upturned the downstairs, ironically bringing order to the chaos as we went.
I looked in Ollie’s favorite hidey-holes off and on for hours: opening drawers and cabinets; lifting lids on boxes; dumping out boots and sneakers, where we often find blocks and batteries.
By the time my parents arrived for dinner, panic was setting in. I had work in the morning; we had a spare key for my car, but what about the rest? Dad got a flashlight and helped me look under couches while Mom moved pillows and cushions. Spencer searched the bedrooms, though I couldn’t imagine how Ollie would sneak jangling keys up there.
Eventually, sweaty and worried, I came back to the living room. “I hate to say it,” I said slowly, “but the only other place I can think of is . . . the trash.”
Ollie, like most kids, recently went through a throwing-everything-away phase. I searched my husband’s face for signs of panic, but Spencer shrugged. “I have gloves,” he said.
It was 90 degrees. The trash can — filled with all sorts of kid-related grossness — had been sitting in the scorching driveway for days. Did he have a hazmat suit, too?
“Let me look around one more time,” I sighed. What else was at Ollie’s eye level?
That’s when I saw it: a bright orange oven mitt hanging on the fridge, rarely used but hidden in plain sight. I reached in and felt cool metal.
The relief was enough to carry me through several kid meltdowns and late bedtimes that evening. Enough that, even days later, grabbing my keys is still appreciated for the luxury it apparently is.
Definitely going to be more careful moving forward.
And will be sure to bring out that oven mitt more.