Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Anti-Anticlutter Movement

Here is an article about clutter and anti-clutter and anti-anticlutter... A matter most dear to my heart.

My husband’s messiness has been the biggest point of contention in our marriage. He's so messy that, honestly, if I left it up to him the health department would condemn this place. Now I’m not a neatnik by anyone’s definition. Well - maybe a little. But I grew up with a mother whose house looks like a page out of House Beautiful every day all the time, no matter when you show up. Seriously. Now living with someone like that is annoying too, but I much prefer it to the “three messiest people on earth” with whom I now reside.

When I was first married I would call my mother four times a week and say, “OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO KILL HIM IF HE CAN’T STOP LEAVING SHIT LAYING AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE!”

And my mother would say in a quiet and soothing voice, “Now, Honey… you need to focus on the positive… blah blah blah… You’re used to being alone and having things your way, you’re going to have to compromise on some things… blah blah blah… Don’t be so hard on him, you’re not so easy to live with either… blah blah blah…”

For four years this went on and then we had a baby. And my mother came to take care of us when J was a week old, and I was in bed the whole time drugged up, suffering from Mastitis. After the end of the four or five days, when I was feeling better she whispered to me (in a shocked tone), “Boy… He really doesn’t pick up after himself does he!”

Like I’d just been making that up all along.

Now I don’t think this kind of thing is necessarily hereditary, because while I’m much tidier than my husband, when my mother comes to visit, every time she opens a cabinet or a closet she exclaims, “GOOD GOD, WE NEED TO CLEAN THIS OUT! HOW CAN YOU FIND ANYTHING IN HERE???”

You see a mess in a cabinet, a closet, a drawer… a shoebox, perhaps? These don’t bother me in the least. Because it’s not about being organized, it’s about looking around and feeling calm. I don’t mind a mess… so long as I don’t have to look at it.

Because I know it’s not hereditary, I can’t blame my husband that every time I walk into J’s room (even if I just cleaned and organized the whole thing five minutes prior) everything he owns is dumped out of its bin and strewn all over the floor. And when I walk in frazzled, at my wit’s end, and shout, “WHY DOES YOUR ROOM LOOK LIKE THIS ALREADY??????”

He shrugs and answers calmly, “I like it like this.”

So I have a vested interest now in hoping that Einstein was correct when he said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”

In Montessori education there’s a theory that children in the first six years of life need an “orderly” environment in order to develop properly (order in the environment helps them create order in their minds… the theory goes). Mothers who happen to not be tidy and were looking for something else to feel guilty about, there you go… No need to thank me, just send money!

Interestingly, Montessori preschool classrooms are very orderly and tidy by definition. But Montessori elementary classrooms are beacons of chaos. Books and papers and crap stacked everywhere. And it was a joke when I did my training that those of us who are drawn to the primary training rather than the elementary training are “stuck in the first plane of development,” meaning that we still need external order to maintain internal order. After all the grief I’d given my husband about his messiness, he really got a kick out of pondering the possibility that my brain never really developed past preschool age…

Seriously, I don’t know why I ever tell him anything. It was with great pain that I relayed to him the contents of this article last night, only to watch him laugh and laugh. And as he mocked me, I wondered if maybe his messiness is the reason his stories are funnier and more creative than mine are.

But then he pointed out that just because all of my junk is in one pile, does not make my desk "pristine." And as I surveyed the relative neatness of my desk compared to his, I noticed the Nine Stories by JD Salinger sitting in my stack waiting to be read. It’s there at my husband’s behest, because he says, “Your stories remind me a lot of Salinger’s.”

(Ah... Big dreamy sigh.)

If you’ll excuse me I need to go give that messy man a kiss. Or something.

7 comments:

bubandpie said...

I think maybe I'm married to your husband...

I also think that maybe I'm actually you...

Fresh Mommy said...

I'm not a clean freak either, but I can't handle things looking messy. At the end of a good party, like the one we had here yesterday, a mess is always left behind, and I find myself in a tizzy over the crumbs, random items left here and there, condensation rings left on counters by glasses...Never mind, I have to get this place clean.

Jill said...

Aww, a person can forgive a lot in a guy who compares you to Salinger. But why did you have to go and let him read that article?

In the last couple of years I have learned to tolerate complete and utter filth in the rooms of my teenagers. Not because I am encouraging higher order thinking, but because I have other battles to pick.

Kit said...

Our house is usually pretty messy, so I'm always happy to find articles that equate messiness with creativity....less so when I can't even find the crayons, glue, scissors, pencil with which to be creative.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for the new year!

crazymumma said...

I think that anyone who even suggested that my stories were like Salingers would be put up on a pedestal. Nine Stories is very good....

I am not very clean, but I am soooo ordered, and just teh other day I saw my bigirls desk at school and I was horrified! I told her that there was no way she could think clearly in all that chaos......but I did restrain myself from cleaning it.

Pendullum said...

Happy New Year Stacie...
We have a party once a year... always a Christmas thing...
and I think really the only reason why we do is so that we can clean like feinds and put our home in order so that we may mess it up during the year.
So as I sit in my clean house, with a few empty bottles ofwine and beer bottles on the counter, I taost you and yours Stacie...
Thank you so much for so many great blogger moments from your stories, your essays and your wonderful caring comments you have posted on my blog...
Happy Happy New Year!!!

Sandy D. said...

Ha, I printed that article out and took it to my mom, just to tease her (I'm much messier than she is). She sighed theatrically and then forbade me to show it to my dad.