The Goddess Speaks
Clean freak picks up new habits
My girlfriend rolled her eyes and said disdainfully, "Oh no. You're a picker-upper." This was not the response I expected to my tale of messy house woe. I assumed another woman would understand the drudgery of constantly picking up after her family. I thought we'd bond over stories about half-empty cans of juice covered in ants, dirty Kleenex hardened into modernist table-top sculptures, and foot injuries caused by stepping on scattered toys.
Instead, she said in a tone that indicated a problem, "Jim is a picker-upper, too." I didn't understand. "I'm a putter-downer," she explained with an exasperated sigh. "I work on stuff and leave it out for a reason. He keeps putting my things away, and then I have to pull everything out again and figure out where I left off."
This led to a friendly debate about who had it worse, picker-uppers or putter-downers. I grumbled about the unfairness of PDs treating PUs like household servants. My friend complained that PUs cramped the style and freedom of PDs.
Right there was the heart of the conflict. In a PD's opinion, the natural condition of stuff is out, where it can be played with, scribbled on, picked at and eaten by roaches. The clean house that I view as the finished product of my good housekeeping, they see as a blank canvas for their creativity. PDs express themselves by embellishing their environment with an ever-changing organic imprint. It's just a matter of taste. Oh dear.
I slowly began to appreciate how frustrating life with me must be for my PDs. I sometimes pick up cups and wash them before the kids are done with their drinks. I have thrown away the Sunday paper before my husband has read it. I once filed my daughter's homework in her desk where she couldn't find it.
Harmless compulsions. But I had to admit that some of my PU habits were unreasonable and even irrational. Like when I periodically reorganize closets so nobody knows where anything is, and then complain because they are constantly asking me to find things for them. Honestly, if I'm going to insist on being a picker-upper, I should get used to being the getter-outer as well. As my 8-year-old son concisely put it, "Well, duh, Mom."
I resolved to change my ways. It's stressful but I'm managing. I've learned to let Legos decorate my carpet, and the other morning, I left the half-full coffeepot on the counter to scent my home with the sweet smell of domesticity. (Don't laugh. I'm really trying here, OK?)
Some stuff I can't let lie. I draw the line at any item soiled with bodily fluid. And thank God the sky hasn't fallen, because that I would definitely have to pick up.
Dawn Yoshimura Sinclair is a Honolulu writer.
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