Keeping a home from becoming a mess.

For some reason I got thinking about when we’re neat and when we’re messy. I think there might be a time for both. As usual I can’t really generalize about everybody when talking about stuff like this. I was thinking more in terms of my family and myself. Where do I get my sense of neatness from? Why do I obsess over getting everything just so in my apartment despite the fact that I don’t dust, clean or vacuum as often as I should? And why is it that I keep my apartment neat and organized but I’ll often turn my car into a roving junk pile?

I shouldn’t just ask about where I get it from but also when it kicked in. When I a kid there were four of us living in one house: my parents, my sister and myself. My parents always kept everything organized.and clean but my sister and I had a hard time keeping up. Okay, fine, we didn’t have a hard time. We just didn’t bother. Her room as always worse than mine. I had an odd habit of getting other parts of the house messy instead. A lot of my toys and whatnot ended up on the couch while I kept hanging out on one side of it thereby keeping anybody else from using it. I got better at keeping my stuff off of it as I grew up but then I started having messes in the hallway outside of my room. The upstairs hallway in that house lead to the bedrooms instead of passing by them. My bedroom when I was a teenager was on the side where keeping shit in the hallway wasn’t blocking the stairs. Besides, I ultimately took over the entire upstairs by the time I was in college anyway.

Once I moved into my own place I’ve been good about keeping it neat. I developed routines over time so it doesn’t get messy in the first place. It looks like moving into my own place and accepting that responsibility may have kicked in the good habits, right? Then why have the two houses my sister owned looked like shit holes? I asked her about it recently and she gave me a list of reasons—they’re her business so I won’t post them here—but I have to wonder if the real reason her house is so messy has to do with the fact that she’s making a list in the first place.

Then there’s another curiosity. Let’s go back to my childhood home. My father still lives there and is very anal retentive about keeping most of the house picked up. But there’s a section of the house that has been more or less his domain. Growing up we always called it the shed and he still does. It’s actually not a shed but a room in the back of the house. However, I never even thought about it that way until I had to explain it here. We always called it the “shed” so that’s how I’ll refer to it from now on.

Anyway, the shed was where my father keeps all of his small tools that he’s collected over the years. There’s a ton of shit in there scattered about a large workbench and portable cabinets. The whole thing is more or less organized but somehow still looks like a tornado went through it. He has always said that someday he would pick it up but he never really did. Yet he still could always find what he needed. He spent a lot of time in there when I lived there. He probably has since, I just don’t know. I started to think that maybe he’s keeping it messy whether he realizes it or not. Maybe it feels more personal to him that way.

So there’s a time for a mess. That might explain my car at times. I don’t think that people need to keep their whole houses as a mess to make them feel personalized but it might not be a high priority for them, either. Just because I want to keep my place neat doesn’t mean that other people do. I may have made an error in assuming that it’s a trait I inherited somewhere. There’s a little bit of Oscar and Felix in all of us.

Oh damn, now I’m going to have that theme music stuck in my head again.


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