Before Mike and I married, I “forgot” to clean out the kitty litter box for a few days…or maybe it was actually a couple of weeks, but it was Mike who noticed that my cats, Portia and Ficus, had started to poop in my potted plants.
“Maybe you should think about cleaning out the litter box, so that your cats don’t have to poop in your plants,” he suggested. And that’s all he said about that.
Before Mike and I married, he could hardly help but notice that there were shriveled apple cores, dried yogurt-covered spoons, used tissues, old smelly towels and a load of sand under the front seat of my car.
Mike had only one question: “When was the last time you changed your oil?” To which I responded sincerely, “You’re supposed to change the oil?”
Before Mike and I married, there were piles of papers in my kitchen, food in the sink waiting to be pushed into the disposal, and a load of cosmetics and makeup on my bathroom counter.
And knowing all of this and more…he married me anyway.
So it was with great interest that I read the most recent Modern Love piece that a friend emailed me this past weekend. The article is by Helen Ellis, a self proclaimed rehabilitated slob. I never rode a bus 30 blocks with a used panty liner stuck between my shoulder blades like Helen Ellis did, but obviously Helen and I are cut from the same mold.
Like Helen Ellis, I have been slobby my entire life.
Like Helen Ellis, I tried and failed numerous times to become the neat person my husband would love to have as a wife. Although I have told him repeatedly, he and crazy-neat wife #2 will surely drive each other insane (though I’m not sure I really believe that.)
Like Helen Ellis, I embraced the Marie Kondo “tidy life”. I read the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing last winter and I was an organizing tidal wave…for about 2 months- during which time, I completely nailed it when my friends needed a paper clip and a highlighter, and I opened the “messy drawer” in my kitchen, which I had just organized. To say they were astounded when they found out I had cleaned out and organized the “messy” drawer would be an understatement. Sadly, they have never been more impressed with me.
But unlike Helen Ellis, I have failed to become the magically tidy person I secretly yearn to be. I remain, on the whole, 75-80%% messy. I am sure that many people who know us have wondered how Felix and Oscar have managed to stay together in marital bliss for 33 years. Sometimes even I wonder. Part of it may be that my friends and I, most of whom are the “creative” types, have normalized messiness. We rib Mike for being Mr. Clean and Organized, making him seem like the weird one.
But the fact is, I have not changed, and either has Mike. But somehow, it works.
We no longer have cats, because eventually I became allergic (which could have something to do with the fact that I was also allergic to the vacuum.) We used to fight about the dog hair all over the house, but after 15 years, that problem solved itself.
My car isn’t half bad, because Mike has taken on the responsibility (some might say he is an enabler) of cleaning out my car every couple of months.
I often still leave old food in the sink waiting for someone (no, I don’t know who) to push it down the disposal. Usually he reminds me with a cool, “are you really finished with those dishes? Is there something you might have forgotten?” He doesn’t expect me to clean the kitchen counters, because I never did that well. We have our jobs…it is just that most of them are his.
Every so often, Mike says, “can you clear out your piles in the kitchen?” And then I do. I move them to my office.
I still have stuff piled up on my side of the bathroom counter. I still drape my coat across a kitchen chair when I come home. I take off my shoes and leave them in the den, the kitchen, the stairs, the bedroom. I still don’t have any ability to “see” mess.
“He knew who he was marrying,” Helen Ellis told her mother a year into her marriage when she was nervous that her husband’s comment about wanting a clean table actually meant that he wanted a divorce. “Why do I have to change?”
Exactly! Mike knew what he was getting in to when he married me, because for those of us who have been given any motherly advice at all, it has most likely included this warning: “your spouse won’t change for the better; the things that bug you now will just get worse over time. “
I think it is time for me to re-read Marie Kondo. And I would suggest Helen keep her copy handy because despite her best intentions, I would imagine she will relapse into slobbiness at some time in the future. I hope that if that happens, just like my own husband, he will continue to love Helen for trying.