Saying When

I am a daughter of an never-diagnosed, almost-OCD father. And I mean that in semi-jest. Growing up, life was a series of bedspreads which had to be redone because of a semi-wrinkle towards the edge of the bed and the litany of “Perfection is NOT an accident.”

My mother, God Bless HER!, isn’t OCD but neither does she countenance sloppiness beyond a point. The kitchen is her domain and that is kept neat enough to pass a health inspection but not that neat that you can literally eat off the floor. I mean, who does that?

Life as a teenager was one of rebelling against having to put everything in neat piles in my closet against wrinkling my nose at the actual garbage dump I saw in the rooms of some of my friends.

Fast Forward to circa 2005 and I started dating a nice guy. I mean Nice Guy. But an unconcerned slob nonetheless. As long as he can find his shit (figurative one), then he doesn’t see the need to have after-school and school piles of clothes. Neither does he see the need to ball up his socks to make room in the sock drawer so things look and are neat. I never anticipated that while dragging my kid out of bed and out the door in the morning I’d have to locate spectacles, men’s underwear all the while letting the caffeine surge through my veins to insulate me against another day as a mother and wife.

The last 6+ years of my life have gone in maintaining more than basic hygiene and some modicum of order because of a baby. This baby has grown from a toddler to a grade school kid and isn’t much inclined towards tidying up unless his mother gets into her dragon avatar, complete with flashing reptilian eyes and slashing her spiked-tail. He’s more the sweep-it-under-the-rug kind of person, or chuck it under the bed. Breeding tells. Genes will kick you in the balls.

August this year my kid went off to school for 8 hours a day. This opposed to the 2-3 hours he has gone for the past 4 years. And I rejoiced. By doing nothing! Zip. Nada. And it felt goooood.

I let clothes pile up. Folding them but never completely closing the loop by either putting them away in the right closets. The couches became refugee camps for the clothes in our house. The futon in my kid’s room for his stuff and the dining room couches for a myriad of clothes, toys and God only knows what!

The house wasn’t a total dump but disarray was definitely the name of the game.

See, as a product of two slightly compulsive people who married a totally laid-back guy I’ve battled nature vs. nurture for the last 10 odd years. You can’t make your spouse over into a form that pleases you. You take the good with the bad or undesirable. And you make your peace with it either with post-kid-going-to-sleep whiskey or some rants in a random blog post or some disgruntled sulks aimed at said spouse when he finally gets back home.

And trust me, being inert doesn’t take much doing at all. It’s just a question of mind over matter. You stop minding it so it doesn’t matter!

You choose to not segregate the laundry piles and sit down to watch Modern Family because, hey! Phil, Cam and Jay are definitely more entertaining than putting away tiny t shirts which can (and will) yield to small hands pulling them into an untidy heap in a New York minute!

Watching New Girl is better than grumbling at the absent spouse who doesn’t give a rat’s ass that his well-ironed shirts are placed with care and consideration so the collars don’t get squished. He’ll shed his sweaty track pants on top of them anyhow and leave the closet door open as an additional insult to injury.

And so I let it slide. Disarray begot disarray. Piles moved from one couch to the other but never got unpiled. Till last night. After 2 months of being on a quasi-vacation from the must-dos at home I said WHEN.

I tidied up. Moderately. I mean I didn’t have a religious epiphany. I just looked around and saw that if I kept my overbearing-about-cleanliness parents and butt-scratching-mess-making husband out of the picture; I was actually a person who liked stuff tidy. I like it tidy enough for it to look pretty.

When I switch off the lights for the night I really don’t want to have to go hurt locker across the living room just to get my book, phone or any old thing from 5 feet away.

And looking at things in their own place makes my space look bigger and brighter than it actually is. And armed with that knowledge, I cleaned up. And will continue to clean up some more till the piles stay in their infancy and not get a chance to grow to an adolescent or let alone an adult stage.

It’ll never be the kind of home my folks would and could keep. And it won’t be the semi-bachelor pad my husband makes the house over the weekend but it’ll be space where I prevail and which reflects what I wanted growing up: the room to make the optimum kind of mess.

It’s funny being an adult. Some days you can feel yourself grow into your skin. It’s a surreal but a satisfying incident at the end of the day. At least you aren’t hopping on one foot till you hit your side of the bed because you stepped on the mini-dragon obstacle course your kid effortlessly designed all while getting ready for lights out.

Cleaning up is *not* a chore.

Amen.

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