Sunday, January 10, 2016

When Life Hands you Big Bad Things

On Wednesday, my husband got a phone call from his dad. He stood up and walked around the living room, "My dad is calling."
"Answer it," I reply.
"No," he says, and he sits, staring at his phone. 
A few minutes later he reads a message his dad sent, that he has named him the beneficiary of a health savings account he has with a small amount in it, with instructions to divvy it up amongst the siblings if anything were to happen to him.
"It sounds like he's going to kill himself," I say. It's just a weird out-of-nowhere message. 
"No," he replies.



On Friday, I get home a little after 11 pm, walk in the door, and take a look at my husband. He looks like a mess. 
"What is it?" I ask him. I immediate start thinking about his brother with the drinking problem, maybe something happened to one of our boys. Panic.
"My dad killed himself."




He walks me through how he got a text message from his dad with his suicide note. I see the messages my husband sent in return. Pleading. Concerned. Desperate. 
His dad left the contact information for his ex, who happens to live in the same area, halfway across the country. He says he called her, he called his grandpa, no one knew what had happened, his dad wouldn't answer the phone, the police were dispatched for a "rescue" mission, and how he had gotten the news around 9 pm that his body had been found and he had been dead around a day.
His dad had a postmortem text sent to my husband with his suicide note.



I don't know how anyone deals with something like this. This isn't normal. This isn't ok. This is horrible. It's selfish. My husband and his siblings are a month away from mourning the loss of their mom to cancer 6 years ago and now they have to work out their feelings about their dad killing himself. 
He cheated on their mom. He abandoned them. He had a horrible drinking problem. His suicide note talks about how miserable he was, broke, lonely, how he should have never drank.
The siblings keep asking me when the funeral will be.

We met with my husband's grandparents. They live about 10 minutes from our new house. While upset over the death of their son (step-son for the grandma, since my husband's original grandma passed when he was 7), they said they have been expecting this call for awhile now. He's been a hard drinker for quite some time, unemployed, broke up with his one serious girlfriend he had after the divorce. He'd been hinting about it on facebook apparently. Could anyone have said anything to stop him?


My husband wishes he would have answered the phone call. He wishes he could have driven down there, picked him up, gotten him to see some hope. Would it have been enough to stop him from killing himself? Is it a darkness that would have crept back in eventually?



My sister-in-law told me that their dad called three of his children that Wednesday and not one answered. All emailed him back, but not one answered. To be fair, the majority of the time that my husband did answer the phone, his dad would be severely intoxicated, oddly rambling about stuff. What is it like to hear the slow descent into mental illness and addiction? I've only met the man maybe 4 times, once at our wedding. The other three times were when he came into town and took all of his children out to the bowling alley so he could drink while he hung out with them, the youngest sibling being a teenager.




When we met with my husband's grandparents, they said they want to tell people. They want everyone to know and talk about suicide and addiction. People keep quiet about it, about mental health issues. 



We can't even properly grasp the situation. A man has taken his own life. Can we even mourn it? He was a good dad sometimes, when they were young. He got lost in the grasp of addiction. It cost him his wife, his children, and eventually his life. Is it worth it? Is alcohol worth it? Are drugs worth it? Pornography, gambling, sex? Are any of these highs so fantastic that they are worth a life? Do you have a funeral to memorialize an addict? A philanderer? A man who abandons his children? He had no friends at the end, just him and an addiction. The addiction certainly won't come to the funeral.



I'm an outsider to all of these events. When my mother-in-law had cancer, I poured myself into helping, into trying to fix, into praying. But it didn't make me have any more of a right to be upset or feel a loss, because she wasn't my mother. I had her as a mother-in-law for about a year before she died. I mourned her for my husband, for the loss of a grandmother for the baby I was carrying, for all the things she could have been for me and my family. I mourned her for my husband. How do I mourn this man now? I barely met him. I would often run through conversations I would want to have with him, words I'd like to say if I ever had the chance to sit down with him, to discuss the impact he has had on my husband and his siblings. I won't get the chance now. My husband never got to say any last words. At least with his mother, we knew she was sick and that she had limited time. We had the chance to spend time with her, to make a few good last memories. 


And now I am left with a legacy of loss. My husband has inherited a strong cancer gene that killed one parent, and a strong mental health gene that killed another. My little boys have a quarter of each of those in them.


I am at a loss. I don't know how to deal with this.


My husband is in bed, sleeping. It is nearly 11 am. I can't tell him how to grieve. I don't know how I will one day process the death of either of my parents. I am lucky. I am privileged. 


I am left wondering if one day I will lose my husband to cancer or addiction.
One of his brothers has an arraignment next week to find out if he gets jail time for his 3rd DUI.
One of his siblings just got off parole for DUI and has completely changed her life.
One of his brothers just got diagnosed with mental illness and is trying to get out of the fog.


How do you even begin to wade through the process of coping with a suicide?


Monday, May 4, 2015

Things that I just don't get

I don't understand so many things

1. Why do boys hit and wrestle and chase constantly? Is it fun to attack others? Seriously makes me want to drink at about 10 a.m.
2. What is the deal with LinkedIn? I just discovered you can see who you've invited to connect with there. It's seriously embarrassing. I think I've asked people several times thinking each time I'm asking them for the first time. God. I hope once they've rejected me LinkedIn remembers and they don't get a new invite every time. Sweet Lord. Gonna go dig a pit and hide in it.
3. I had a great idea for a plexiglass mailbox. How sweet, right? Do you don't need to go outside to check if you have mail or not. Then a few days ago I realized just how stupid of an idea it was. Are all my ideas this bad?
4. Adult acne. Enough said.
5. Christians that are judgey of other Christians. Or hell mothers that are judgey of other mothers, especially within subcategories, like attachment parents. Ok, you are a good mom. Stop it with judging others. Who cares when the kid is weaned or when they eat their first solid food or when they sleep in a crib. Are we trying? Good job!
6. People that feel it necessary to share their digestive distresses via social media. Do you feel less like puking or crapping if others know you are doing it?
7. I have all the ideas and quippy things to say before I sit in front of my computer. Once there, I'm blank. Nothing. Nada. Definitely could talk at length about the baby just born to some royal or depressing stuff about the upcoming due date of my miscarried baby hooray!!!

8. Why do people hate commas so much? I love them.
9. Addictions.
10. Horoscopes. I'm a Scorpio. Does that really mean anything? Or what about the horoscopes you get on Chinese restaurant placemats that talk about the year you were born. So everyone born in 1981 is like me? Doubt that. Went to school with a lot of different characters. We shared the fact that we were all walking upright and had opposable thumbs.
11. Celebrity obsession. Reality tv. Guessing baby names for people you've never met and will never meet.
12. What kind of crack do they put in Ben and Jerry's? I need to know. I can't stop eating it. Ok maybe it's my addiction….
13. Hypocrisy.
14. Women's sizing. Like H&M is a different planet. Even Gap and Old Navy are inconsistent between the two and they are owned by the same parent company.

Loads of other stuff but it's time for me to go watch my children pick at their dinner hooray! My youngest has decided he will no longer eat boxed mac and cheese as some sort of protest. More for me, buddy. More for me.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Being Uncomfortable

I've gotten to a certain age where I'm pretty stuck in my routine. I mean, it's pretty easy seeing as I have young children, and children, as they say, are creatures of routine. Happy kids have a routine. We wake up and have breakfast (usually my awesome 7 ingredient oatmeal which my husband is only so happy to help me replicate on days when I do not want to get out of bed), play games or just chill for a bit. Then we do some sort of activity (if it's not the bone-chilling -18 out as it is today, we usually play in the snow) or go to the store for groceries (and coffee). Lunch, followed by nap, then calm after-nap activities, and then something before dinner (either outside, going to grandma's house, or the store depending on what we did earlier). After dinner we do some physical activity involving walking (usually at the mall since it gets dark at 5:30 still), then bath, books, and bed. Bed is always around 7:30-8, wake up is usually between 7:30-8. A very planned out life (or at least the bones of the day are very structured and don't usually get moved).

Unfortunately, this level of life routine has got me stuck in a personal rut. I do the same thing everyday. When the boys are in bed, I would go watch some tv while knitting (or folding laundry), and be in bed by 10. Not much wiggle room, considering the 8 pm bedtime can often slowly leech into 9, as kids want sips of water, or another story, etc. This hour is golden. I don't want to do anything except what I want to do. I've guarded it closely. And it has become a rut. There are so many things I could do in the evening but I want to be lazy.

It's a bit like an analogy I saw in a magazine about clutter (stay with me for a minute, it'll make sense)- by setting down an object, be it mail, random items, laundry, whatever on the areas where things congregate, you are saying that your time now is more important than your time later. You are robbing yourself of that time freedom later. If you had decided to take the extra minute to put the bill where it needs to go (or heaven forbid actually pay it), put the socks away, put the toys in the appropriate bins, books on the appropriate shelves, you wouldn't need to spend the time later to do it. Think of it- if every time you set something down, you decided to put it in it's right home- you would have clean counters. You would have time where you didn't have to sigh about the counters and then spend 45 minutes trying to figure out where stuff goes, what to do with it. Or if you have a spot where laundry piles up- you take off your work clothes and something isn't dirty so you don't need to throw it in the bin, and you are just too lazy to hang it up or find a cupboard for it. This is my life (except I don't work). If you take the extra minute to hang it, fold it, put it away, you wouldn't have the mound of shame looking at you while you are surfing netflix.
So going back to my evenings- I am robbing myself of life. I just want to veg out and be lazy, be by myself, and I need to start doing things. Now see, things make me uncomfortable. I like to do my routine. It's ingrained, it's automatic, and it's comfortable.
I wrote that I took up running (and I will re-take it up once it's safe to run outside again). I have decided to take up yoga as well. I tried yoga once when I was in undergrad; my friend Holy and I went and it was so boring. I was not zen at all. I would try to hold my poses longer than other people, I couldn't zone out. But I guess something has changed in 13 years.

One- I have no flexibility at all. Ow. Man it hurts to work those areas that enjoy sitting on the couch eating Ben & Jerry's. Two- I don't mind it so much. Granted, I still want to be the best at things, but I'm working on quieting the voices. I need to be gentle with myself. I can't be awesome at everything from the get go. Sure would be sweet if I was, but it's just not going to happen. It's ok to be uncomfortable. I laughed last night at class as I'm trying to stand on one foot and do some sort of squat pose. It's uncomfortable to be the baby, learning for the first time. It also puts me in a better space to teach my children. I get upset when I ask them to do something for like the hundredth time and they can't. It is teaching me to have patience with the growing process, to help my children navigate the uncomfortable learning areas, and to show them that they can always be growing, always learning, always changing.

I'm very uncomfortable, but I'm starting to be more zen about it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I'm a Runner: And no, Nothing was Chasing Me, Thanks

If you are wondering if the world is ending, it may be.

I have decided to take up running.



Shocking, right?


I decided the other day that I hate this anxiety so I'm going to do something that I hate even more than the anxiety and that is running. Oh I hate running. I mean I've never really done it, but the one time I did I ran maybe 200 feet and was like ok, that was fun.

It is so anti-me that I have a funny story.
I texted my husband to ask if he wanted to go running with me when he got home.
He said sure.
He got home and I asked him to go change into his running clothes (as it was getting close to dinner). He comes back in with jeans and a thermal on.
I ask "are you wearing that running?" and he says yes and gives me an odd look.
I ask him to help get the boys' snowsuits on, as it was beyond freezing and I wanted them warm for their trip in the jogging stroller.
"Where are we taking them?" my husband asks, and I reply to the jogging track that's nearby.
"Why?" he asks.
"To go running," I reply because duh I've already said running like eight times.
He thought I meant running errands. Because never in a million years would I run. I loathe it. So we went running and it was pretty pathetic.
Well actually it was beyond pretty pathetic.
It was 17 degrees and felt like 3 with the wind chill. The bitter bitter windchill. And to make matters worse, the track was thick with slushy snow, so very hard to push a stroller on. We made it about half a mile before the littlest boy got cold and started crying.
And also, my husband got a stress fracture from running.
Pretty pathetic right?
ButI got a girl friend to run with me the following day and I ran 1.5 miles (jogged, ok? Geez) without really stopping so that was a success.
Can I walk today?
No not very well.

But I'm going to stick with it. Even though every minute is full of hatred for it.

I'm hoping if I can conquer running, then maybe there's a chance I can mind over matter this anxiety.

Or at least get in shape.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

To My Fellow Chameleons

Today is the Super Bowl and I for one could care less. I am not a sports person. When I was in undergrad I didn't attend a single football or basketball game, and I attended a Big 10 school. I did not know the fight song and couldn't sing the school song at graduation. How horrible is that? I was also pretty lazy and apathetic at the time (perhaps now still), with a major case of senioritis which didn't help. My husband is (Thank you, Jesus) not a sports fan. He used to play baseball and occasionally when we had cable he would turn it to little league playoffs or some such for a bit. But overall, he could also care less.
I said to my husband today that I would watch sports if he cared about them. He found that quite laughable, and maybe it is just considering how much I care less about sports (and maybe that is being too generous; I dislike watching sports. It's boring. I know no rules. I went to a Cubs/White Sox game with a friend when I was in early college and I was bored to tears. It just went on and on. Sammy Sosa was right in front of us and I just wanted to go to sleep. Also, my friend and her brother took VERY detailed notes on some scorecard, so calling them fans wasn't doing it justice. Also- I was not able to drink legally then.) However, one thing that he isn't aware of too much- how big a chameleon I am.



Chameleon? What do you mean?

Follower. Adapter. Panty-waist spineless jellyfish. (I was looking for a specific word and googled thesaurus for follower and found that "toady" is one synonym. That just blows my mind in relation to the band- right? Anyone?) MILQUETOAST! Just came to me. Knew that sitting here mindlessly not doing cleaning would serve me adequately.

Anyway, I never thought I was such a follower. I was strong in my beliefs that I was a pretty good person, smart, a good Christian, when I was in high school. I was kind of a geek, boys generally avoided me, which was mostly to my benefit, as I'm sure that whole good-Christian-girl thing would've gone quickly had an actual living boy been interested in charming my panties off. I felt I was my own person and lived by my own rules, but in retrospect I'm sure most teenagers think they are their own person. I lived under very controlling parents and didn't do very much in the outside world, except walk around the mall with my equally sheltered friends.

Maybe to a degree I am my own person, but when it comes to love, I am such a follower.

Two of my exes were musicians. So I attended quite a few open mic nights, listened to indie music, read the appropriate periodicals, bought the correct gear for holidays, etc. One would have assumed I was a music fan (hell, I thought I was). And then I met the husband. He is not a musician, not a sports fan, kind of a video game nerd. I took up video games for a brief time, but I'm sooo less a video game nerd than I am a musician nerd. Living in a small northern town means relatively few bands travel this far north, husband with no musical interest means no desire to accompany me to concerts that involve a road trip, and children mean little to no free time or spending money to travel to aforementioned concerts that I would attend alone. Because the convenience factor is nil, I am not into music anymore. Granted I could listen to podcasts and download concerts and buy cds etc etc but I have no time. I have no money. I also have a weird apprehension (if you can call it that) to new music. I hate listening to music that I have never heard. Even was I was a crazy Incubus diehard fan, when they put out a new CD it would take me getting ready to go to their concert and wanting to know all the songs to get me to crack the case. I hate not knowing lyrics, not knowing if I like it or not, and wasting time listening to it several times if I don't like it. How weird is that? I might be the only weirdo with that disorder. But to get back to the point- he doesn't like it so I don't like it.

If he liked sports, I'm sure I would be hosting Super Bowl parties and making cupcakes in the team colors. If he was a golfer, I'm sure I would take up golf.

Maybe our problem as a couple is pure apathy in either direction. He wants to sit and do nothing. I want to do whatever he wants to do. When he wants to do nothing, I'm upset that he wants to do nothing. It's a vicious cycle.

I'm getting to be too existential in my old age. I over think everything. I think about everything. I also worry about the things that I think. I worry that I'm wasting my life. I think about all the things I could be doing- I could be like Taylor Swift and have a million friends and be involved and do everything and have a fantastic life. But hell that is a lie. I cannot motivate. I can't get myself to exercise on a daily basis. I can't bake fantastic creations for my family. I don't decorate our house. I don't have hobbies. I don't think this is normal. I'm convinced that if I only got enough sleep that I could do more but I'm starting to think that "more sleep" doesn't actually exist. I know I just have to go and do it, whatever the thing is that I want to do.

But what do I want to do? I need to meditate and find my inner purpose or something. How do you even go about doing that in your thirties? I can't Eat Pray Love myself to another continent or even to a day trip. I ask for signs from God but maybe He wants to point people in the right direction who are actively walking with Him. And I'm doing many things but actively walking is not one of them.

This is an incredibly rambly blog post. Mostly, it's like my thoughts. I have a lot, they are often disconnected or loosely connected, and they are usually a little depressing.

Did I mention my husband has been pushing me to join the military as an officer? Sure, I would love to serve my country and make a difference, but I have absolutely no desire to kill, to get yelled at, or to be deployed. I like to think go myself as an intelligent person, but who knows how smart the military would see me. I'd love to be in intelligence, but I might only qualify to work in the HR department or something menial. And to top it all off- having to run? Ugh. Really? Plus, 9 weeks away from my boys. Although to be honest, the thought of time to read by myself, write by myself, BE by myself sounds pretty fantastic. However, to be realistic I'm sure there aren't hours to myself every day to pursue the whole Hemingway thing. I could be wrong. But the husband is pressing this because I have applied to so many (so very very many) jobs and haven't gotten called, emailed, interviewed, nada. I wonder if there is some virus in my resume that deletes the ability to email me. I've considered this as a possibility. He feels disheartened that no one is out there caring. Ha- guess how I feel about it, buddy. Answer- NOT GREAT. But not sure if giving up my life for 4 years or more is exactly the next logical step. If any of you have answers- let me know.

I'm gonna go clean, since cleaning seems to be my only talent right now.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Creativity is Dead

I fear that perhaps I am best suited to be a stay-at-home mom forever. I'm just too thoughtful. It works well for being a mom of young kids, not so much perhaps for the working world, and definitely not for having "adult relationships".



Last night while laying in bed, I asked my husband what he thinks happens to your soul when it dies. Does it float up (or out) to heaven? Are you instantly transported to heaven? Is it like waking up from a dream when you don't remember what happened but obviously some time has passed? I was thinking these things because who doesn't ponder death before bed, right? Totally normal. I was thinking about the number of people I knew who have died, and the number of people I was around right before death (I was thinking about the horrible "death rattle" which if you are unfamiliar with, thank God). I was in the room when my grandfather died, and I wondered if I had been paying more attention would I have noticed his spirit leaving his body? I was with my mother-in-law just hours before she passed, and definitely into the alive but not alive stage.
But regardless of my weird pre-sleep ponderings, my husband took awhile to answer and finally guessed that they just go into waiting because we are all waiting for the return of Christ. "So Heaven in empty, or just filled with pre-Jesus people?" and he eventually got annoyed with my questions. He replied that he certainly doesn't think about things that have no answer.
And that's where being a stay-at-home mom for life comes in. All I do is think. I think about this and I think about that. I think about them and I think about me. I wonder what if and why and where and how come. If I had done one thing differently, or made a different choice. I'll spend hours on wikipedia looking up bubonic plague and side effects of common drugs (like ibuprofen) and birth defects and celebrities. I have so many questions. I'm curious.
It seems that most of the world despises curiosity. Mind your own business.
My son just spent the last 20 minutes telling me about ghosts. You need to walk quietly or you pop their dreams, he tells me. And they definitely are "mean ones" who steal your toys when you are asleep.
This is the kind of world I can get behind. Not ghosts, but make believe. Questioning things. And even if its silly, then why not? Silly is better than sad. Make believe is better than anxiety.

Here's to the silly ones.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How to: Get your Home Clean(er)

Pre-germaphobia, I was pretty messy.


Messy may be an understatement- just ask my mom. When I lived at home, she would always shut my door when she had guests. It was embarrassing. I didn't care much. It's not like it was dirty per se, more messy. Stuff everywhere. When my mom got rid of the encyclopedias to get new ones, I took the old ones and put them in my closet. Cuz you never know when you need to look something up. Encyclopedia- this means google before google was invented, for all of you kids.
Flash forward to parenthood, where I gave exactly two craps about the state of my house. Now it was dirty too, well at least dirty dishes. I knew someone who cloth-diapered and they would remove the kid's diaper and throw it towards the hamper pile of cloth diapers and cloth wipes, wipe diaper cream on the kid's butt with their hand, and then go about their business, dirty cloth diapers near a giant pile of dirty cloth diapers in the middle of their living room, butt cream on their hands. That's dirty. Mine was more like toys everywhere, clothes everywhere, crumbs everywhere, and piles of dirty dishes.
When I found a job, we hired a babysitter to cover the gap time between when I went to work and when my husband came home, generally never more than 4 hours. We hired her with the mindset to entertain and play with the boys, and to not clean. This was probably the ideal job, since we were paying her $10 an hour to play and chase after some kids, while I hear most parents want the nanny to cook and clean and on and on. So our house was a pit (to the degree my mom told me I should apologize about the state of the house every time she came over) but I didn't care. And then came the sickening when my fragile concept of childhood illnesses was realized and the anxiety stepped in.
So now I have a very clean house. Granted, there are still signs that children live here. Like right now, there is a pile of giant bubble wrap on the living room floor. There is an empty wrapping paper tube that has been brandished as an instrument of pain-infliction, and I see a sock under the couch. But for the most part, tidy. How do I keep it tidy? How can you start an adventure of tidiness? It's not that hard. You definitely don't need to shoot for anal retentive as I have. But to have a house that is clean enough you don't mind if a friend stops by, your inlaws, or even the mailman, that would be ideal.

HOW TO:
Have a tidy house

First, learn this mantra: It is up to me. I have mentioned this before, but my rude awakening of parenthood came when I realized that it was up to me. That toilet paper scrap on the bathroom floor would only be picked up by me. The grape that is under the cabinets by the sink would only get picked up by me. That sock laying under the couch will only be picked up by me. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that has a husband that enjoys helping around the house, or at least has a strong sense of guilt. Mine has neither. And seeing as how he lets me stay home (for the moment), I try to do all the other crap. And also- news alert- men and women have different standards of cleanliness. My husband will "do the dishes" by placing whatever in the dishwasher that he can without too much thought, run the thing, and leave the kitchen. I am strategic to get all the dishes in before I run the dishwasher, put the leftovers away, and then I wipe up the counters, the dining room table and high chair, clean the high chair tray, clean out the sink. That to me is cleaning up after dinner. My husband has stated that I don't need to fold his laundry and should just cram it in the drawers or heap it in the closet. Like I said- different standards. and because of these standards, I know that if I want my husband to go to work and not look homeless, I have to fold his laundry. If I want my jeans to stay the right size, I need to do the laundry (surprisingly, men, hot is not a good setting for all clothes).

Second, work smarter.
There is always a way to do something that will save you hassle. The trick is to figure out what you want to do and how you can best achieve it. For example, if I am doing laundry (which involves a trip to the basement), I make sure to take down things that live down there. The boys are always dragging toys from the basement up, and there are certain ones that are just basement toys (it will save you trouble to designate certain toys to certain areas). I know when I'm heading downstairs and I see imaginext toys on the floor, to grab a few and toss them in the basket. When I get downstairs, I unload them and start my wash. On the way back up, I grab empty glasses, spoons, trash, whatever I can quickly see on my path back upstairs. Why would I make special trips to the basement to sort and clean when I can just do it as I go? I have a little counter space by the basement stairs where I also place things that live downstairs (like my husband's tools, stuff that needs to go in the pantry) to grab for trips downstairs. When I have to go pee, I check the kitchen counter for hair clips, socks, loose toys, to place them in the appropriate room on the way there. Sure, it takes me an extra minute to get done what I need to get done, but it saves my sanity. And it goes back to my first rile- it's up to me.

Three, get storage.
We have a man cave (furnace room with storage room off the side) that had built-in shelves. I bought bins and a label maker, and what a smart decision that was. If you have more than one child, this will save you trouble. After baby #1 grew out of 0-6 month clothes, into a bin they went with a 0-6 month label. Maternity clothes met a similar fate. Clothes that I sized out of while pregnant, clothes my husband sized out of while I was pregnant, all went into labeled bins. Winter coats and boots, etc. Saves so much time. I then got bins for the boys toys. Many sized bins, and see-thru- VERY important that they are see-thru. Like kind items, such as legos, dinosaurs, trains, all have their own bin. I need a better storage system for them at the moment, but they are stacked up behind a baby gate so they can't be completely dismembered. When we are playing downstairs, we get out a project, like trains, and play. When we are done, in theory, the toys go back in the bin and order is restored. I have bins in my youngest's room, for smaller items and ones that don't group together as well. These are the "toy" bins. If we are upstairs and the boys want a toy to play with, we head in there and they get to pick a couple to play with for the day. Eventually they end up on the bookcase in the living room or on the floor, and I eventually herd them back into their bin.

Four, have spaces for things to live.
Be realistic. You can clean and you can put away, but there is realistically no way you can keep everything packed up and clean and tidy at all times. Especially if you have kids. So you need places for things that you use to live when they are out. Because the floor or the couch or the counter is a terrible spot for things to just hang out. We have a low bookcase in the living room that I actually bought from Urban Outfitters when they were re-doing their displays. It was $15. Can't beat that. THe boys know thats where they put their toys. That is the home of stuff.

Five, cut yourself some slack.
You are only human. Have some time to sit.