Over the course of our four years of sharing a home, it has come to light that Andrew and I have different tolerance levels for clutter. We’re both fine with a base clutter level of about 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. You know, the level where, when you walk into our home, you know that no one will mind if you leave your bag on the dining room table and kick your shoes off in the hall. I am comfortable with this level because I find a perfectly organized and put-away home a tiny bit unnerving. I don’t like feeling nervous that I might accidentally leave a magazine slightly askew.
But whatever the underlying psychology, I am OK with some clutter. Some clutter does not bother me. What does bother me are ten pairs of shoes scattered around the house, piles of clothes on top of the dressers, and not being able to see the surface of the dining room table. These things bother Andrew as well, but my tolerance reaches the “We have to clean up this mess or I am going to set fire to everything we own so that it will at least stop cluttering up the living room” stage while Andrew is still resting comfortably at the “Gee, the house is sort of messy” stage.
For the record, I am in no way blaming Andrew for the clutter. Even though I have a lower clutter tolerance, at least half of the shoes are mine. (I am capable of closing cabinets and drawers, however, a skill Andrew mysteriously lacks.) This is why Andrew and I are equally astonished at the recent change in our situation.
You see, last week I got fed up and put away all the clothes in the bedroom and then cleaned off the rest of the stuff from the dresser tops and then DUSTED. I KNOW. On a roll, I also cleared off the dining room table and sorted all of the mail in the house. Thus inspired, Andrew got the pantry cleaned up. We should take a minute here to give him some props, because the pantry was in such a horrible state that I was completely overwhelmed by it and chose just to shut the door and pretend it wasn’t there.
When we were finished, we discussed how nice it felt to have a mostly organized home and how, now that the clothes were being stored inside the dressers instead of on top of them, it was no longer stressful to walk into the bedroom. And so we decided to keep things this way. No more dropping our dirty clothes on the floor, no more plopping our clean clothes on the bed to “put away later.” No. From this point on, we were going to put away our shoes and clothes every night. No exceptions!
It’s been over a week, and, surprisingly, our dressers are as tidy as they have ever been. Naturally, we are amazed that we have been sticking to our plan, but we are astonished, simply astonished, at how little effort is involved. We are two intelligent people, and yet we had no idea that all we had to do to keep a tidy room was take one extra minute before bed and put our clothes away.
We thought we needed elves.