11 May 2011

On housework and its contents

I love to clean; I need to clean. Even being in someone else’s messy space makes me edgy. If you are my friend, and you keep a messy home, I do not love you any less, but know that while I am having a lovely time visiting with you, I am also fighting the urge to straighten up.

Recently I had a conversation with a woman who described herself as superficially neat. For a few days, that phrase sent me into a minor existential crisis, as I fretted about the possibility that I was actually a messy person in disguise, and have been living a lie. Eventually I talked myself off the ledge — my junk drawer is neat, for god’s sake, — and realized that even on a messy day, my home is tidy.

But, as neat as I am, I have a friend who is even neater. I’m in her house often, and I have never seen a single thing out of place. I am in awe of her; she has a job and a family, and yet, without daily domestic help, maintains a supremely pristine space. I am actually jealous of her basement, because although it is a completely ordinary unfinished space, it is as empty as the deep blue sea. She assures me that she has clutter, but she must keep it really well hidden, because I cannot detect any evidence of it. I really hope she shows it to me some day, because then I will be able to take her off her pedestal, and our relationship will reach a whole new level of intimacy. Until that day, I can not dare show her my basement, for fear she would loose all respect for me.

One of the best things I got out of writing boot camp was the realization of the extent to which I use housekeeping as an extremely effective form of procrastination, because unlike surfing the Internet, cleaning is PRODUCTIVE. My writing teacher told me I needed to get over my cleaning mania if I wanted to write. And although I knew it was true, it got my back up. This was not what she said, but what I heard was, “If you are to be a Serious Writer you must become messy,” which is tantamount to telling me I must have a sex change operation. As a result of boot camp, I am more relaxed about the state of affairs in the house, and (slightly) more comfortable letting things get a little seedy.

Today, I got around to cleaning the children’s bathroom. I was dreading it a little, as I rarely enter this space. I came, I saw, I conquered, and was left with just three disturbing questions:  
  • What the fuck was growing inside the electric toothbrush?
  • How long do they go between toilet flushes?
  • How long has the soap dispenser been empty?

In the interest of maintaining peace in the house, I shall file these under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

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