26 August 2008

Clutteropolis

You know you need to start shaping up in the housecleaning department when a 4-year-old who's as oblivious and messy as any other comes into the kitchen, where you've just loaded the dishwasher before clearing and wiping the counter (and everything!), and he suspiciously asks, "Why's it so clean in here??!"

Let me clarify that his threatened tone seemed to indicate this was somehow a well-established sign that we would be dropping him off at the orphanage later that afternoon.

You might be thinking, "But Dan, I thought you rode the OCD dragon, and thus would have a spotlessly clean house for us to be jealous of?" Well, I assure you that my current roommates douse themselves in dragon repellent daily, so I am easily outmatched versus the controlled amount of the Demon Power I allow to seep through the pressure valve. This is not a force to be easily unleashed and recaged, before you suggest that I let it out to play for a week or so and then go back onto a strict maintenance system.

When living alone or otherwise having complete control over a space, I just keep things in balance by reminding myself frequently that perfection is not possible-- my ideal living area would look pretty unremarkably normal to the untrained eye. I don't like to Clean with a capital C because things can get out of hand for me easily, so I prefer to just live neatly so I don't really ever have to clean.

Moving is not helpful for this, and neither is living with people who just aren't wired this way. Not only do we have stacks of junk and half-filled boxes distributed throughout our house, dating back to just over a year ago when we moved here, but we've actually moved backwards by adding to the collection.

When school ended in June, we were blessed with the arrival of everything that would normally fill a classroom serving 15 special-needs pre-teenagers and the two adults teaching them, plus all the many assorted things that had been disappearing from our house over the course of 9 months.

And the blindsiding left hook to go along with that uppercut is the puppy that followed the other stuff home-- crap from retiring teachers desperate to lighten their own loads* at the expense of anyone naive** enough to do it for them.

A minor sample of the kind of thing we're left with, in addition to the usual boxes of unnecessary toys, old magazines, and if-I-knew-what-was-in-them-I'd-be-obligated-to-put-it-all-away, is as follows:

• Boxes with 20 copies of the same questionably-useful books.
• An assortment of 30-year-old Tupperware bowls with no lids.
• Bags of old coffee mugs/potted plants (mold is a plant, right?).
• Milk crates filled with three-hole punches and other desk junk, inexplicably including four (yes, four) staplers of various shapes and sizes (always advisable with a toddler in the house).
• Half a box of "ladies" shaving cream samples, for the hairier children in school.
• A bunch of stupid signs and posters with cartoon characters trying to teach me things I already know.

All I can say is at least as far as this goes, I'm glad school has started again, because I've finally gotten most of this stuff out of the house now. However, the resulting empty boxes combined with our usual piles still blew the phone repairman's mind yesterday when I insisted to him that we had been living in this very same apartment with a working phone for over a year, give or take a couple of his company's screwups.

All I can say, upon reflection, is that somebody really needs to straighten things up around here. Whatever happened to my live-in maid service?


* Don't think for a second that I blame them for this, nor that J- won't be doing the same thing someday.

** Whenever the universe calls for naivete, you must know that we will be there. You can sleep soundly tonight and all nights hence, knowing that we will always answer this call and stumble foolishly into harm's way.

22 comments:

Middle Aged Woman said...

The Dan Family: We take the crap so you don't have to.

Brittany said...

Ah yes, the common mistake that just because you have OCD, your house is clean...I get it all the time. Unfortunately,mine doesn't so much focus on cleanliness as the severe need to tap every socket in my house before leaving. Get educated people:)

But, I gotta say, boxes and boxes...sounds like a fire hazard.

Meg said...

I agree with Brittany. Most people don't know it, but when you have OCD you tend to blog about the crap in your house (and have moldy plants). ;)

Carolyn...Online said...

I feel like I just got a peek into my husband's brain and now kind of understand why he gets so irked with me when I don't pick up. But you know, just because I understand it now doesn't mean I'm going to jump on the cleaning train. Slobs unite.

Seriously Mama said...

I think a clean house is an exersise in futility when you have toddlers and/or preschoolers in the house. I am about ready to wave the white flag...

Kori said...

Bah. You think yours is bad, NONE of us are neat freaks. Except I have toilet issues, it is always clean. A benefit OR drawback of having boys, whichever way you want to look at it. You made me laugh out loud today, thanks!

Mama Dawg said...

After you're done with your live-in maid (how do you dispose...I mean, fire, I mean "let go" of a live-in maid), send her/him/it/whatev my way.

On second thought, I'll just continue to live in my sub-par clean house and enjoy my life as it is.

Mary said...

You can clean when the kids grow up. Just don't lose one of them in the boxes.

Threeboys1mommy said...

OCD is a definitely a luxury I can't afford to have.

Immoral Matriarch said...

Clean houses are overrated. Frequently updated blogs on the other hand: pure gold.

paisley penguin said...

My house goes through clean and slobby stages. Most of the time it's clean but I have a husband, two step kids, a cat and dog. I seem to be the one who get's tired of clening and when that happens it just doesn't get done. I went on stike once and the "Monica" (from Friends) in me almost had a heart attack! I'm working on it and am embracing my imperfection.

Momo Fali said...

I used to have a clean house, but then I had kids. You have to learn to let things go.

Now, whenever I start cleaning my daughter will ask, "Who's coming over?"

Laggin said...

Sounds "cozy" to me! And I love the concept of clean enough so that you don't have to clean. I need to figure out how to do that.

The Nice One said...

Wow, I am stuck, like you. I have The OCD and am somewhat anal in nature. Purely by bad luck I married someone who was, apparently, raised in a barn, and we then produced two more mess-loving creatures. I am living alone, in my own he-double hockey sticks. These people I live with love the filth. Thrive in it. While I desperately try to climb out of it....

Renee said...

My mom was a teacher, so I know what those piles of boxes feel like. The worst part was that we weren't allowed to throw ANYTHING away because it might be useful someday for a project or something. Who needs 56 Pringles cans? My mom, that's who.

It will never be clean enough. I promise you. Even after your wife retires, she will still be in, "Maybe we should keep that" mode. Do yourself a favor and just love her for it.

Miss Grace said...

I still have like 8 boxes of books in my living room, because I lack bookshelves on which to unpack them. The boxes would be fine, except that they're all opened and rifled through, because sometimes I'm looking for something to read, yknow?

Andrea's Sweet Life said...

I had a cleaning lady for the last month of my 2nd pregnancy, and then for the first 2 months of the baby's life. Her name was Carmen.

So these days, whenever my 4 year old enters the house/room/whatever that has just been cleaned, she says, "WOW! Look at this place!" and then, looking at me, "Did Carmen come?"

It's a sad, sad state of affairs.

Andrea said...

I say if you don't know what is in the boxes, and haven't looked for anything in them....LET IT GO. Toss those babies out, along with the emotional baggage of keeping stuff.

Now, if I could just apply that in my household.

Always Home and Uncool said...

I'm mentally sending my Polish cleaning babes your way. Are they there yet?

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

I hate back to school; it takes away my excuse for a messy house. No one is here most of the time, and yet it's a pigsty. Sigh...

Mekhismom said...

I can totally relate to having lived somewhere for a year but still have boxes to unpack. I hid them in the "playroom" closet. Not much goes on in there right now so it is out of sight out of mind. But I know I have to tackle it one day.

LiteralDan said...

I sympathize and identify with all of you, but at the same time, I promise I have you all beat.

I'm wondering if it makes fiscal sense to rent out the apartment below us the next time it opens up, to store all our stuff in. Better yet, we could keep that one nice, for company, and live unofficially in this one. Hmmmm...