I hate to clean, that’s the core reason for why I’m so neat. I maintain order so that I never find myself in a situation where “cleaning up” means wading and sorting through massive amounts clutter. My maintenance regimen requires that I never “leave things out.” Everything goes back where it belongs when I’m done with it: Finished reading a book for the day? Put it back on the self. Done charging my laptop? Put the power adapter in my desk. Where’s the remote control? On the entertainment center and next to the television, of course! As I (repeatedly) heard from my father, “Everything should have a place, and if you always put things back in their place (where they belong), your space will always be neat, and you’ll always know where your things are. Now clean your room!”
I hated cleaning my room. I was a slob. Entropy was king, and I was its loyal subject. My first bedroom was small—very small. How small? It snugly fit a twin bed, a dresser, and a small desk—leaving just enough room for a midget to sleep in the corner. It didn’t even have a closet, just a small recess in the wall where someone had installed a bar and two shelves (one above the bar and one underneath it about a foot above the floor). But as small as the room was, it managed to have two doors. Cleaning often meant using the space outside one of these doors as a dumping ground so I could have space to move around.
You would think that with space in such small supply, there would be no room for mess. Well, you’d be wrong. Since floor space was a precious commodity, an eclectic hodgepodge of things would migrate underneath my bed. The tipping point would come when the under-the-bed mess began spilling out and my small corridor of floor space became impassible. In fact, cleaning my room was primarily an under-the-bed excavation. Armed with a flashlight and a broom, for bringing things within arm’s reach, I would begin the long process of finding a space for everything I’d put out of sight for weeks.
What I found varied: Barbie dolls and accessories (maybe just a Barbie doll head—if my little brother or sister had been around), books, socks (actually, make that “sock,” I usually just found one.), erasers, stickers. More often than not, I’d find something I’d long ago given up the search for: an earring or earring back, my watch, a tee shirt. There was always a lot (a lot) of dust. And since I had a dog (Timothy—the best pet in the world), there was also a plethora of fur—enough to make a small coat.
As much as I hated, dreaded, and avoided cleaning my room, it did contain a modicum of fun. It was a treasure hunt of sorts. Money was the ultimate find. Something once loved, but then lost and forgotten about, was a close second.
But there were also things I didn’t want to find. Since I often had snacks in my room, I was likely to find their remains: a petrified morsel of cheese, a candy wrapper, or a stale piece of bread crust. And because of these edible remnants, it was sometimes the case that I wasn’t living in my room alone. It was rare, but there was always the possibility (and fear) that mining through the mess under my bed would lead to the discovery of a mouse. Any suspicious accumulations of fur or dust were treated with extreme caution and a prayer: Please don’t move when I poke you with the broom handle. Of course, a stationary unidentified furry object could be worse than a moving one. A live mouse can run away and become someone else’s problem, but a dead mouse requires action.
I hated mice. I still do. Once a mouse ran across my foot—my completely bare, naked foot (not even sock-covered). For hours, perhaps days, afterward, I felt differently about that foot—like it had been infected with Cooties Rodentia. I was disgusted by a part of my own body, but as such, I couldn’t escape it. My sterilization options were limited. I believe a copious amount of soap and water (perhaps even rubbing alcohol) was used.
Because I so hated to clean my room, I became neat. I figured if I always put things away, then things would never get out of control. (Take that entropy!) Basically, I opted for exerting a steady stream of order-maintaining effort, rather than needing to use the large bursts of energy messes require.
I’m macro clean, not micro clean, though. Macro Clean: There are no clothes lying on my floor; there’s no clutter on my coffee table; I make my bed every morning (even if I’m running late); and everything has a place where “it belongs,” much to my husband’s chagrin. I am not Micro Clean: I don’t dust or sweep or mop on a regular basis—even though I really should since I have cats (furry, shedding cats).
Being neat means that gone are the days of my under-the-bed excavations—and not just because my bed is a platform one. Now, if I want to experience the joy and wonder of finding something I’d forgotten I’d lost, I have to go through one of my “miscellaneous bins.” This is one of the ways I maintain order. These bins are my “junk drawers.” They contain things I don’t have a real space for—usually things I don’t use often (or at all), but which are too charged with sentiment to be thrown out. Each bin is a time capsule of sorts. They contain letters/notes from friends, yearbooks, my foreign money collection, photographs not worthy of a frame, frames not worthy of a photograph, things I don’t like (or have use for) that someone I love gave to me, some awards I got in high school, and other miscellany. Every now and again I’ll go through one of these bins and be pleasantly surprised by a flood of memories. Once I even found money.