I have always been a meticulous, house-proud, zero-tolerance-to-mess, death to clutter kind of a gal. Well. Sort of. In my head, that is. But in reality… perhaps not. I always wanted to be, I really did, but two key factors constantly impeded my dream: my inherent laziness when it came to tidying and the fact that my husband and I are just a little bit messy, all the time.
I have always wanted a permanently tidy house, one where the dining table can be used for its primary purpose of dining without having to clear a smorgasbord of rubbish out of the way first, but it has just never happened. At one end is a pile of newspapers, swollen and threatening to topple, almost a not-pile; more of a heap. All it would take is maybe twenty seconds to pick them up and deposit them in the recycling bin, but somehow the Herculean effort required to execute this is not forthcoming. And besides, there is probably a really important bit of post interleaved with that three-day old paper, seeing as the post gets dumped on the table too. So that twenty second task is more like three minutes by the time I have made sure there are no letter-shaped interlopers. And then there is that shopping list I wrote on the back of that envelope, which I left on the table. That needs locating before I can even begin to think about throwing anything away. You see, tidying is never simple.
And with atwo kids added into this mix, all tidiness bets are well and truly off. How dosuch small human beings being create such chaos with such little effort? And despite our attempts to at least constrain the mess, there is no crevice of the house left uncluttered. Stuff just gets absolutely everywhere. I walk into the bathroom and there is a Santa hat discarded in the middle of the floor (which is surely bad luck, given it is past twelfth night?). A cricket bat lies abandoned under the kitchen table. A plastic zebra nestles in my shoe. A small car wheel appears in my underwear drawer. A two-inch plastic rod with a threaded end, once part of a construction kit but now universally referred to as ‘the red thing’ turns up absolutely everywhere: first by the cooker, then in my son’s bed, then down the back of the sofa cushion. I swear I throw the flipping thing away in a fit of pique, only then to see it floating in his bath the next day. I close my eyes at night and I see it in my peripheral vision. Even the insides of my eyelids need tidying.
I do have the occasional tidy, usually pre-empted by my stepping on a Lego brick in bare feet. The level 1 tidying is not too taxing – large items are quickly restored to their rightful places in cupboards; obvious detritus is discarded. Level 2 is then all about dealing with those items that were found beyond arm’s length of their location. A large pile of stuff is gathered at the bottom of the stairs (one dirty sock, a reading book, a new bottle of shampoo) awaiting re-distribution. This is a little more time consuming and so there is always the risk that level 2 is irrevocably disturbed by a cup of tea or a biscuit break. But level 3 is where the real difficulty lies. Here, a small but insidious group of objects has been corralled together. The only thing they have in common is that they either have no fixed abode (batteries that may be new or may be dead, a pair of insoles for my boots, a computer cable) or they are simply unidentifiable. Whilst I deal with the first category with a certain aplomb, by scooping the stuff wholesale into the ‘bits and bobs drawer’ the unidentifiables pose more of a conundrum. This little black thing, shaped a bit like a thick washer but with an intricate cut-out, which probably goes by the name of a grommet in more nerdy circles, looks useless. But if I throw it away, I run the risk of discovering its true purpose five days hence, when I am pondering what exactly I need to affix the rotor blades back onto my son’s toy helicopter. So what to do? I know, I’ll leave it on the dining room table.
I did write a plan of action to make my tidying easier; it was part of a list I wrote on the 1st of January as part of my New Year’s resolution. But I have a horrible, sinking feeling that I left it on the dining room table.
This article first appeared in the fabulous Magascene, a local magazine stuffed with wondrous things. www.magascene.net