June 24th, 2008

Tidiness is next to sanity

A long time ago I went to premarital counseling, back before I got married the first time. One thing we had to do was take some kind of test that rated the importance of various concepts to us. The memory is vague on the details except for one. I tested out as rating order low as a priority. We laughed. Hard. This puzzled Russell, the minister, who seemed to have more faith in his test than in our experience.

See, order is very important to me. I understand that disorder happens, as a matter of course, and I accept it as part of life, even encourage it when it contributes to some creative end, but ultimately, I want everything to be tidied up at the end of the day.

To be clear, I’m not talking about eat-off-the-floor cleanliness, or even everything in its proper place. It’s more a general sense that things are functional, that there’s a place to set down the groceries in the kitchen, a place to put them in the fridge or in the cabinets. I can cook without spilling someone’s ancient moldy beverage and without dripping on someone else’s art project left to dry three weeks ago and forgotten.

When things get too chaotic, I get anxious. One thing that always helps me when I feel sad or upset or confused is cleaning. Crossword puzzles and sudoku have the same effect: once everything is tidily stored in the little boxes, all is well.

Today I need to clean something.