Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Defense of My Mess


I don’t clean. Not literally, but certainly in spirit. And I probably come as close as one can to literally not cleaning while still avoiding the evil eye of the health department.  
On the table beside me are roughly twenty books stacked four or five high. Some of the stacks are askew and everything else is piled on the books or clinging to the edge of the table. Everything else includes but is not limited to, the ear buds for my phone, my election booklet (still trying to figure out if I did the right thing, but only through osmosis), three remote controls, some pens, a chip clip, a folder of cd’s which I still use because I am technologically challenged, a folder of papers, a composition book, the price tag from the last bra I bought, a pet dental pamphlet partially chewed by a wayward pet who was either trying to destroy the pamphlet so I couldn’t make the appointment, or trying to prove that his teeth are healthy and capable so I wouldn't make the appointment.
It’s not that I hate cleanliness. That would be weird. It’s just that I have better things to do than waste a day (or more) cleaning. Because I have trouble just giving a quick tidy to the kitchen sink. It starts with wiping down the kitchen sink and then twelve hours later I’m on my hands and knees, wedged between the toilet and the tub trying to scrub the grout with a sponge that is falling to bits because it’s also having a really bad day. (Yes the sponge. In theory I have more, but in practice I fall short. Don’t worry, it always starts on the dishes and ends with the toilet.) The whole time I’m desperately trying to talk myself into stopping. Phrases like, You’ve done enough, Who cares? This is stupid, and The cleaning chemicals are eating your hand skin, inundate my thoughts. But the rebuttals are just as prevalent. Stop crying. You don’t clean enough. Other people clean practically every month. You’re almost done. All you have left to do is polish all the power cords and dust the books. And maybe scrape all the melted wax off the candle holders; that seems pretty necessary. I said, STOP CRYING.
When I finally finish I get to shower, and it has to be a long shower because I’m so grimy, but that's ok because it feels great. Until I get out of the shower and find that there’s something I missed or something I forgot. I’m clean now, I just got out of the damn shower and I don’t want to touch more grime, but almost everything is spotless, and I'm so close to perfection that I can’t leave one random dirty thing, which means I do have to touch more grime and my shower is ruined and now everything is horrible again. Also, once everything is clean, I don’t really enjoy the cleanliness. The first five minutes are nice, but then I get caught up in the torment of not wanting to touch anything or use anything because it was such a nightmare to get it this way. When I’m in this state I totally understand why they used to put plastic on the furniture and leave the pets outside. Sorry pets, and don't worry, I'll never be that person, I just understand.
The last time I cleaned everything it took me an entire week. I mean, I pried myself away to go to work, but every day before and after I cleaned, and I still had to spend my whole day off finishing. I did this because I was expecting company. Who was here for fifteen minutes tops. It would have been worth it, it was for my first interview ever about the book, and I didn’t want the reporter to be so appalled by the mess that she decided the real story was, “Crazy Woman Lives in Pigsty, Claims to be Author.” I don’t know why I was so convinced she was going to want to Woodward and Bernstein me, but I was. And if she wasn't trying to expose me for something dire surely she'd want to do a ten page spread of my entire apartment. Of course, it was option none of the above. She never saw anything but the living room, and I cleaned everything else for no good reason.
It’s not as bad as it sounds. I do dishes all the time. I don’t keep food that’s growing new parts, and if I do, it’s quarantined in the back of the fridge until I have time to walk it out to the dumpster. I clean the toilet regularly. True, I have to set myself up by flinging comet all over it so that the next time I’m there I have to clean it in order to pee, but so what. Not wanting harsh chemicals on my ass is valid motivation. But I try not to bother with the non-essentials. I haven’t made a bed since the last time my mother made me, and I was caught in an avalanche of books just this morning. And now I’m kind of hoping that someday, that’s how I’ll die.