I am, by nature, a neat person.
You may call me freak if you like, but I actually enjoy sorting, organizing, tidying, and even to some degree cleaning. I'm a 'do a little as you go along and the job at hand never gets too large' sort of person.
Yes, that's true: I have the neat freak gene.
I'm sure some Freudian or Jungian psychologist would have a field day with meaning, but to be honest, I don't find it a problem because it doesn't interfere in my life. Who cares why I prefer my house uncluttered, tidy and clean? I just do. I get pleasure from making it so and pleasure from keeping it so. I feel a sense of peace and calm when I look at my nicely ordered and clean living room. Better than yoga, for me. I know my zen. I know my happy place. And it is neat and clean there.
I also can quit any time. No, seriously, I can. Days like today, when I got relatively (okay exactly) no sleep whatsoever last night and have too many other things to do like play Beauty Shop with the kids (you may or may not know but my friends...that is messy!) I simply let it go. So the dishwasher didn't get unloaded today, the floors didn't get vacuumed. Eh. The earth is still spinning.
Plus, my freakish neatness or my neatish freakness (however you prefer it) stays in my home.
Yes, that's true: I don't judge others on their level of order.
One of my really good friends is my total utter polar opposite in so many ways. For example, she is really, really not in to the tidying thing. Cleaning, eh, sure, as needed. Clutter, oh definitely. I accept that about her and her house as easily as I accept that she has better fashion that I do (or maybe that's for her to accept about me LOL). It's her house...her ways. Her styles.
We've had this discussion about a thousand times, she and I.
"I don't care that your house is as your house is," I reassure her, again.
"Messy, you mean," she tells me woefully.
"As it is," I insist, "Messy is relative. Do you think it's messy?"
"Yes," she tells me, again.
"Okay," I try a new tack, "But does it bother you?"
"Not so much. I have other things more important than tidying."
"There you go," I say, "If it's not a problem, it's not a problem."
"But...I should tidy it up. It does get to me sometimes. I ought to be better at cleaning and tidying."
Now it's a problem. My friend has a different set of priorities. She prefers to spend her time at other activities, besides cleaning. Unlike me, she doesn't need to have the house in order before leaving for the day.
So why, then, does she feel this guilt and pressure to do so?
When did tidy become the right way to be?
The other side to this coin is the backlash against clean and tidy, against people like me. I've been the brunt of teasing---usually good natured, that I usually take in stride---about neat freakness. I've had my unclutterd home and perfectionist tendencies mocked. I've laughed off the OCD jokes, and even made a few myself.
I've begun to believe that it really all goes back to this expectation that we ought to have a TV-worthy home a la June Cleaver and our guilt when we can't reach this unrealistic expectation.
So step back from the brooms, my friends, and consider why you are cleaning and tidying. Is there something you'd rather do instead? Does this cleaning need to happen? Or are you doing it out of a sense of obligation, someone else's standards that you think are imposed on you?
Obviously at some point for health and safety reasons we have to pick up the roller skate to put in a safe spot and mop up the floor that our shoes have begun to stick to.
But I propose---and let the record reflect this is coming from a neatie's mouth---that as with anything, cleaning and tidying can run on a spectrum. And the only measurement to use is your own yardstick of livability and comfort.
Let go of the guilt.
Related Note: Kyla posted a reminder about safety in the products around us. Check out her post. As someone with autoimmune and endocrine disorder, I am sensitive to this topic. If you are interested in how to make some simple cleaning and maintenance products, check out this Wild Oats article. It also suggests a great book. For what it's worth, my plumber endorses that baking soda and vinegar solution. I do use Seventh Generation and Shaklee products for convenience. Someday I will indulge in my ranty rant about the lack of US oversight of products for consumer safety.
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert