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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cleaning compulsion?

photo via womensday.com

Over the last couple of years I seem to have developed a bit of a cleaning compulsion. Every morning right after I wake up, I make my bed, sweep my room, organize any objects that may be out of place, empty the trash can, then move on to the kitchen. There I  wipe down the counters, sweep, put away the dishes, sometimes I even mop. With bleach. At 6am. Really. I then have to remind myself to wait until at lease 7:30 to break out the vacuum, for noise reasons.

Looking objectively at my current routine, I have to laugh. I was the girl whose room was so messy all through middle school and high school that I forgot what color my rug was, because I could never see it. I had constant arguments with my parents over abandoned dishes and the mess I left in my wake everywhere I went. Clearly, somewhere along the line this changed.

Today while over my parents house to take care of their pet bird, Petey, I decided to do some organizing and purging in my old bedroom. I found some gems. In one drawer there was a bottle of perfume I bought while in Ireland visiting my sister (who did a college year abroad in Galway when I was 16.) One sniff and I was back there! Amazing how scent works that way, isn't it? The perfume itself is far too sweet to be something I would wear now, but its scent instantly brought me back. Next I found a pile of journals and sketchbooks. I am going to frame a few drawings I found, which I made originally back in 2001 and 2002, and hang them in my apartment. But the best find of all, was a journal full of angsty teenage poetry, lists of favorite movies and songs, resolutions, and one journal entry that stood out.

Judging from the friends I mention earlier in the journal, this entry was probably made at the beginning of my senior year of high school. While I do think it speaks to the moment of evolution in my psyche when it comes to cleaning, I have to confess there were still several solid years before my habits actually began to change.

On the chance that there are others of you out there who, like me, went from complete tornado-mess-makers to obsessive cleaning nuts, I thought I would transcribe some of the entry here for your amusement.

Sadly there is no date on the entry. There is also not much by way of structure, I created the line breaks to hopefully help it all make a bit more sense, in the journal itself it is just a constant stream of words:

Weird thing happened today- I have just cleaned my room, and have been working on keeping it that way. Put away one thing before you take out another; put dirty clothes in the hamper, clean in the drawers and the closet...etc. I went downstairs to get a calendar for in my room and noticed that the kitchen was a total mess. It seems like this house was always a lot cleaner when I was little. 

Garbage bin brimming, food out, dirty dishes in the sink... It only took me ten minutes to clean everything up, wash down all the surfaces, realize we had no more sponges left- write that on the shopping list and load the dish washer. I turned off the light and realized what I had done: I had voluntarily cleaned up after not only myself but my family also. 

I have always wondered how it is that my mom would spend her days off cleaning. I'm not saying I liked it. That's gross. I'm just saying I was willing to do it, somehow. 

As weird as that sounds I guess I had always kind of liked my messiness. There is an exciting level of chaos and impulsiveness implied about a person who keeps a messy room. They are so much less boring and predictable than tidy people. While the idea of being chaotic, impulsive and spontaneous is very appealing, maybe clean is good too. 

I decided that I was going to keep my room clean, and also become all around more tidy. Maybe this can be an early news years resolution. It doesn't hurt that my parents have offered me incentives... a phone in my room if I keep things clean for a month, a CD player after 3 months...

Well, there you have it, contrast that entry to my cleaning habits now. It's sort of amazing, right? By the way, I suspect this picture is one I took right around that time, when I was so proud of how clean my room was:

This was the cleanest my room ever was in high school. 

So, did any of you used to be a slob like I was? Did you change down the line, or do you still have to fight it?  Or do you not fight it, and just learn to love your messy self?

On the flip side, do dirty dishes in the sink make you twitch? Do you chronically clean every surface with bleach? Or is it just me- is there something terribly wrong with me?

Also...Have you discovered any old journals recently?  Do tell!  If you're willing to share some of the good stuff I might be convinced to post a few lines of my teenage poetry...Just saying.


  1. Hullo!
    You asked for old journal entries? I have been keeping a journal since I was eight, so I have a lot of them. The first one that is even vaguely interesting? Here goes:

    Mom and Monica are washing the floor at 5:37. The bubbles make funny shapes after someone dips their cloth in for more H2O.
    Our vacuum cleaner is way cool! If you pull on the cord and then let go very quickly it sucks all the cord in!
    March 2nd 1996. Age:8
    Time: 5:30-5:45

    Vacuum cleaners! So cool! Early-me makes now-me laugh. Incidentally, I'm impressed your angsty teenage poetry survived even this long. I found some of mine a few years back, read it, and cringed HARD. I was a terrible poet.
    The only time I was ever good at keeping things clean was when I was surrounded by grunge- in China. My apartment got a bit cluttered with student papers, but it was always clean, because otherwise the crud grew unbelievably fast.

  2. I've always been pretty clean, except for my desk. In a very ordered room, the desk has always been organized chaos. :) But I'm not bleach-level clean!

  3. For as long as I can remember, I've liked keeping things neat and tidy, but I've never been a fan of vacuuming/sweeping/mopping. Somehow I don't mind that the kitchen needs constant upkeep, but I hate that anything you do to the floor must be redone almost immediately. I don't know why that bugs me, but it does.


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