I confess: I am an inveterate slob. The ADD experts say many ADDers are slobs, though of course they use fancier language; “organizationally challenged” is a favorite phrase.
I have always been messy. When I was a child, my mother says she’d tell me to pick up the trash on the floor that was sitting next to the empty trash can. She says I’d look up in the air, and search all around me, apparently unable to see the mess right next to me.
My beloved acupuncture physician says there’s a syndrome—and now of course I have forgotten what it’s called, but I think it’s neurological—where some people when overwhelmed or startled will drop whatever they’re holding, their hands suddenly flying up. That’s what I do. When my sensory inputs become overloaded, as they do rather frequently, whatever I’m holding at the time is put down or dropped, and my hands fly involuntarily to the sides of my head. It is actually rather comical (he said, morosely).
As an adult, I am getting much better about keeping certain rooms tidy. The living room is always neat; the bathrooms are nearly always clean. I’m able to keep the kitchen clean and neat almost a whole week before everything starts to fall apart and I descend back into my cluttered, messy ways. But my office is a model of disorganization (I’m a piler, not a filer), and my bedroom . . . well, it’s a good thing I’m single, because my bedroom is enough to frighten off even the most stalwart soul.
I have employed a housekeeper for a few years now out of sheer desperation. Her appearance every other Saturday for four hours does three things: It helps with a few tasks that I’m sure would never, ever get done otherwise; it makes the house entirely presentable (except for the aforementioned office and bedroom, and I just shut the doors to those rooms when company comes); and it makes me clean house in a panic before she arrives.
You see, there is a certain level of dirt and mess that I am comfortable letting another human being deal with. Worse than that and I don’t think I could live with the shame. The housekeeper may well be courageous enough to handle it, but I’m not, so I clean like a fiend to get the house ready for the maid.
I’m getting better. Slowly. I’m throwing more stuff away. The problem with the saying “A place for everything and everything in its place” is the first part: I have absolutely no place for most of the junk in my office and bedroom. I just don’t know what to do with it all. So I’m weeding things out, throwing things away, putting things aside to be Freecycled.
I think it’s a metaphor for this phase of my life. I’m trying to release some of my emotional and psychological baggage. I’m trying to lose weight, to learn a whole new way of dealing with food (viewing it as tasty fuel rather than as a pacifier or a pillow to protect me from the world). I’m slowly saying goodbye to Mom. I’m trying to Let Go.
For today, though, I’ve cleaned enough. I’ll spend the afternoon in my rat’s nest of an office, quite content to be surrounded by papers and books and CDs and enough dust to trigger allergies even in people with impenetrable immune systems. There’s something comforting in clutter. Perhaps it’s giving in to entropy at long last. Or perhaps it just matches the clutter in my brain. . . .