Monday, August 17, 2009
Monk, The Odd Couple, and Messes
I am a defeated perfectionist. I think I was born wanting to line up my diaper pins and while I was growing up the rest of my family was also neat and orderly. I thought most people were, and even lucked out with my college roommates who were organized and kept their possessions fairly tidy. When I married Scott, I was surprised to find out that he was disorganized. When we were in college and he just had a few things to keep track of he seemed to be functioning just fine. When we had an apartment and later bought a house and shared possessions, he showed me his amazing tolerance for clutter, losing things and misplacing materials. And it is amazing to me even now, after 25 years together. He honestly doesn't notice the piles of stuff and random items left throughout the house. Having children just added to the clutter and extra things to deal with (me) or not deal with (the rest of the family). Remember Felix and Oscar, the Odd Couple who were opposites in their tolerance for neatness? Have you ever watched Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective who is a cleanliness addict? I am drawn to his character even as I relate to some of his behaviors as he attempts to straighten and clean and put things in order around him. Like Monk, I can relate to his genuine distress when surrounded by others who are less meticulous. I have a strong desire for my surroundings to be organized and predictable. In fact, it feels like a need, not just a want. I have a certain spot for items like scissors and tape, and it distresses me to go to retrieve them and find them missing. When I ask my family members if they know where the items are, they typically can't recall or they tell me where they last saw them. It makes so much sense to me to just put things back where they belong so they are there when you need them. I've tried to explain how it will save time in the long run and be less stressful all around, but even when it's another member of my family rushing around trying to find a lost item I seem to be more anxious about it than they are. My husband and two AD/HD children have proudly declared their ethnicity to be "Slob-onians" and the messes really don't faze them. I, on the other hand, am allergic to dust and don't want all these allergy shots and medication to be for nothing, so I try to clean. But I can't keep up with them. I've thought about hiring cleaning help, but that is expensive and much of what needs done is putting things away so that the cleaning can be done. I've written up chore lists in detail so they don't have to think about or remember what to do, just follow the list and check things off as they go. They resist using the list, wanting instead to eyeball the room and announce, "It looks o.k. to me." Trust me, it does not look o.k. I know by now some people are thinking I need to lower my perfectionist standards. I have done that, and I can even be satisfied with just the appearance of clean for some rooms. I have discovered that the Slob-onians can un-clean a lot faster than I can clean and it is impossible to keep up with them. Since I seem to be as incapable of changing as they are, I have acknowledged my status as defeated perfectionist. The desire for clean and orderly is still strong, but the reality of life with Slob-onians defies the realization of that desire.