I am a neat freak.
My husband will deny this unto his last breath given the state of our house most of the time. But the fact is, we’ve been married for 12 years and he’s very much NOT a neat freak, and I just don’t have the time or energy to fight it. Tried that for a while and it nearly put me into the nuthouse and was generally bad for our marriage because I was convinced he was being disrespectful of my neat preferences on purpose and expecting me to be his mother–because, dear God, how could he not SEE the stuff that needed putting away or organizing???? No…he just truly does not see mess the same way I do. I don’t underSTAND it, but I’ve finally accepted it, and it makes my life less stressful than to try to make him into something he’s not (though I will forever be trying to prove that I find a gift of spontaneous cleaning outside his normal weekly chores without my having to ask way more romantic than flowers).
So, here I am, neat freak living with a…not neat freak and two dogs who shed a LOT (well, Callie does…we presume once Huck grows in his double coat, he probably will, too). Add to that my very busy schedule with the Evil Day Job, the part-time teaching, all the from-scratch cooking I do to accommodate both our food allergies, gym time, social life, and writing, and I just don’t have a helluva lot of free time. The clutter drives me nuts way more than the dog hair. Dog hair is my husband’s irritation, so he’s actually really great about vacuuming when the fur balls start growing legs and walking past the dogs themselves. Anyway, with everything I have going on, time is limited and I recognize I just can’t do everything all the time. Something has to slide. And I’ve come to a place–especially when I’m drawing close to the end of a book–where that’s usually housework. As such, I’ve had to develop more of a tolerance for chaos than I tend to have naturally, until I get to The End and have a good, whole hog dig out of the mess.
Part of how I’ve managed to do this is that I have an office. Well, office/library. A room of my own. We have absolutely no need for a formal dining room, so I turned it into my space, lining one full wall with bookcases, setting up a nice rug, my wingback chairs, and my desk. My library I kept immaculate. Because that is my work space and I NEED the neatness to work most efficiently. I could go in there, shut the doors, and get in the Zone, no matter what the state of the rest of the house is.
Now my husband has his own creative pursuits. He’s a musician and photographer. As such, he has a metric crapton of gear for both. Sometime in the last year, he got an iMac. Big pretty screen with huge resolution, which makes photo editing a LOT easier on him. Great. Good. Fine. As he has no desk in his man cave (where all of his stuff is meant to be relegated), I agreed that he could put the iMac on my desk in the library and I could use it when I wanted. I find the giant screen handy when I’m doing revisions. But I discovered I really don’t like it for normal drafting. Which was okay. There was still room for my laptop in front of it.
Until there wasn’t.
Because unlike with writing, photography and music both involve a whole lot of other accouterments. Almost nothing he does uses JUST the keyboard and mouse. There are speakers. And a keyboard (the musical kind). And some kind of ginormous touchpad thing with a stylus. And cables (so many flipping cables). And myriad of other stuff that has displaced my desk mascots and eaten up every square inch of space on my desk, and bled out all over the rest of the room (amps and guitars don’t fit ON a desk, obviously). It’s manspreading but with STUFF. And suddenly my space is no longer my space because his stuff is all over it. Just…SITTING THERE. Not in its place.
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I haven’t been able to write at my desk since last winter. When I’ve protested about it, he claims that there’s not room in his man cave for all of his stuff, a fact which I proved flagrantly wrong when I took the afternoon off last January, pulled everything out of the room and closet, yanked the crap wire shelving out, installed 2 sets of industrial stainless steel shelves, and organized the entire damned thing–all in THREE HOURS (after it had been sitting for 6 months and I couldn’t take it anymore). “But I want to be able to get to my stuff!” This really means “I want to leave all my stuff out all the time,” which nobody who doesn’t live in a 5,000+ square foot house can do. So we had a little come to Jesus yesterday and I ordered another 5 guitar hangers (yes another 5…we have 12 guitars in this house–2 are mine–my huge collection of books isn’t looking so huge anymore, is it?). It is my goal to get him evicted from my office by the end of Round 3 so that I can start the next book fresh in my nice, neat, organized space.
In the meantime, I need to start digging out the REST of the house. We have horizontal surfaces here somewhere…under piles of other clutter. I’ve got boocoodles of vacation time built up. I really need to start using some of it to clean out closets and declutter. I keep saying I’m going to, and then I don’t. I write instead. But there’s just SO MUCH CRAP. Some of this is because when we moved into this house, all sets of parents IMMEDIATELY divested themselves of everything they ever held on to for us. Given I’m the kind of person who is fully unpacked in a week from a move because anything less means I need a Xanex, I was much more in a “get it out of the floor” frame of mind than properly going through it. Plus I wanted to wait for six months or a year and see if we would actually use some of it. That was, um, a little over 3 years ago? Definitely a ton we don’t use.
I am finally getting into a mental space where I’m over the whole “but I might use it” thing. I know myself well enough to know that I probably won’t, and if I do, then I can just buy or borrow another. It’s not worth the mental toll of clutter to keep it. Maybe I’ll make a plan of taking off one day a month and tackling one room or closet. That would get me through the whole house in a year, I think. I do better with more whole hog cleaning out than tackling, say, a drawer a week or something. I don’t like leaving things unfinished. As soon as the weather cools off tolerably, hubby and I both are on a crusade to organize our garage. That was a plan for the spring, and then it did nothing but RAIN and get scorching hot. NOTHING but the bare minimum gets done outside around here in summer. It’s just too miserable (101 this weekend).
I’m supposed to be writing today (since I’m off) between hitting the gym and grocery. But I think I need to do some clutter busting first…