I don’t really care, to be honest – whether you are a tidy or untidy person, I mean – but, over the years, I’ve noticed that my natural tidiness seems to trigger some sort of defensive mechanism in others.  Truly, I don’t care how others choose to live, even if I don’t really understand it, but, once they have been to my house, the second thing they say, after: “Haven’t you got a lot of STUFF?!” is: “Wow, aren’t you TIDY?!”

That’s all down to me, since I’m living with an untidy person who can make a room look messy within seconds of entering the house. “The floor is for shoes and furniture and nothing else!” I chant gaily as he passes, but it falls on (selectively) deaf ears – he’s already switched the kettle on and is now moving purposefully towards the television remote control (volume UP) and the sofa, shedding bag, jacket and shoes as he goes. After 10 years of living together, I still live in (vain) hope that he will see the light and follow my example.

I, on the other hand, know how to make a room look tidy within seconds of entering it. A lot of that involves straightening things. It’s so satisfying. You will be amazed how much neater everywhere will look if it’s all in straight piles. Try it!  Though others won’t thank you for straightening their own piles, big or small, especially at work. My boss forbade me to do this to her desk. I was itching to get in there and neaten it all up but she claimed she knew where everything was, despite the way it looked. Untidy people always say this. I don’t believe them.

I have found, rather annoyingly, that others are always happy to have a cheap laugh at my expense for being tidy.  As though it’s some sort of character default.  Blimey, if I did it back to them, there’d be World War Three. As I said before, my theory is that they are on the defensive but, as I haven’t commented on their untidiness in the first place, I do wish they would just shut up about it. I’m not judging them. I have been told I have expressive eyes, though, so maybe they’re secretly giving the game away, drat them (the mind boggles. Perhaps the eyes do too).

Before you all hate me and start calling me names (oh, you’ve started already?), I have a confession to make and it involves paperwork. We are drowning in the stuff and we don’t have the storage space in our house to file it all away properly. How do other people manage theirs? There are so many things I want to keep.  Unfortunately, they have all ended up in black plastic sacks in the floor.  Yes: in, not on.  Our canny predecessors here built two huge storage holes in the hall and living room floors and I will own up to it – this is where all my papers are “stored”.  I don’t just mean letters, cards, important bank and pensions information and the like.  It’s files on stuff to do with our house, it’s recipes and jottings torn from other places, it’s manuals and instructions for appliances, it’s scrapbooks and other memorabilia from when I was a child and teenager, it’s brochures, pamphlets and catalogues. The odd loose photograph and all my old diaries. I do want to keep them all, before you ask.  Seriously, what do other people do with theirs? I’d love to know.  One thing’s for certain: I don’t think they will ever get sorted in my lifetime (believe me, I’ve tried) and will most probably end up on a sacrificial bonfire when I’m gone.  Feeling better now?

So, it’s all a bit out of sight, out of mind with me.  Even at work.  My desk surface was probably the neatest (and straightest) in the entire office. Until we started hot-desking, anyway. (Then everyone’s desks looked exactly the same.  Empty.)  My desk drawers, however, were a very different story. I go into this in much more detail in a previous blog, so won’t embarrass myself – I mean, bore you all – with it again.  Ahem (whistles).

Paperwork aside, I do try to keep things where (I think) they should be because I believe it makes life a lot easier. And calmer. When I was at college and living in a student hostel, I would call for my friend in the mornings. Every single day, she would be in an almighty flap over her missing door keys. I couldn’t understand it.  Why didn’t she just allocate a handy pot or saucer or the like and remember to put them in there every night when she came in? Or just keep them in her bag? It seemed such a simple solution and so obvious to me, yet she never did this. Instead, she would get in a fluster about it every single day and I would have to bite back my irritation every time (and keep my boggling eyes under control too).

When it came to leaving college and finding ourselves jobs and digs out in the real world, she said to me very seriously: ”If we ever live together, it will be the end of a beautiful friendship.” Sadly, I knew she was right, so we never did and thankfully we are still good friends today.

Another friend, who regularly bemoans the fact that it’s always him in his family who does all the clearing up and nagging the kids to get their things off the floor (he loves coming round to our house, which he describes as a tranquil haven), says his wife drives him mad, because every day she comes downstairs, ready to go out the door to work, then has to go back upstairs to find her watch, yelling for help as she goes. Every. Single. Day.

Feng Shui and decluttering has pretty much been big business for many years and we’re all now invited to undertake a “life laundry” – the trendy new term for a good old-fashioned clear-out. The current star of the show is the lady who suggests we hold objects in our hand and, if they don’t “spark joy”, to let them go.  Try telling that to our partners. The divorce rates are going to rocket.  Cheers for that, lady. I’m afraid I’m not likely to be following her example. I have so much stuff and so little patience and besides, I love everything in my home, whether or not it “sparks joy” (get real!) and I have no desire to rid myself of any of it. For now, anyway. Whoever held a pair of trusty M&S knickers in their hands to see if they “sparked joy” or not?  We’re not going down the Fifty Shades route here – all I’m asking of my knickers is that they are reasonably pretty and match my bra (yes, I am very OCD about that. I must be coordinated at all times. It gives me confidence.  I’m always very happy, when I have found a bra I like, to notice the little sticker attached that reads: Matching knickers available. Yippee! Job done).

This same lady has decreed that none of us needs more than 30 books in our homes.  She would most probably hyperventilate if she came to our house, where we have 13 bookcases, all crammed full.  Yes, I do have regular culls. No, I’m not getting rid of any more – for the moment – thank you. None of that “One in, one out” nonsense here.  In fact, my current reading pile stands at 18, so there with knobs on, missus. Can you imagine her house?  Lots of white, shiny surfaces everywhere and – no, that’s all I can imagine, actually. Pass me my sunglasses, someone.

Right, I’m off now. Got me some serious tidying to do. The boyfriend has fallen down the back of the sofa again and I need to go and straighten the cushions.




Author: Hampton Caught

The rants and ramblings of an ex Deputy Fiction Editor of Woman's Weekly magazine.

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