Few things trigger my anxiety more than having a cluttered home.
My mother will laugh as she reads this, because I do not hold the title of “tidiest person in the Rambler household.” In fact, I’m pretty sure I was never even the runner up. My definition of orderly doesn’t always align with most people’s. As a general rule, though, I prefer to see straight lines and empty spaces and recognizable stacks and clean surfaces and no trash littered around. I do like having more things to look at—those sleek, modern spaces with no more decoration than a vase on a table are, in my mind, impersonal and cold—and since I own so many things there tends to be quite a bit to look at and to keep in line.
I can tolerate clutter to a point. I generally know where things are. I may not be able to easily access them at all times, and when I’m in the middle of a project or a semester I prioritize art over tidiness, but I always try to keep things clean.
My orderliness comes in waves. Over time, clutter and dust and grit build up in my space: bits of paper, stacks of books, discarded clothes. I’ll ignore or put off the rearranging of these possessions until I see clutter everywhere and seeing the clutter makes it difficult for me to breathe. Empty spaces are driven to extinction by little piles, little assemblies of things I’m sure I’m not responsible for and weren’t always there yet somehow are now.
I’ve lost control of my space. It will get to a point where I don’t know where things are. Until I can get it under control again, to a state where everything has a place and sits there, ready for use, I cannot enter my home without feeling extreme stress.
So I’ll snap and clean everything.
On my own, when I had a room in my parents’ house instead of a whole apartment, I could keep a state of order and cleanliness for a solid two months, maybe more, before noticing the need for a straightening up.
Add another person—particularly a person whose standard of orderliness is (perhaps, maybe) even less conventional than your own—and that length of time dwindles rapidly to the course of one week, maybe, before everything is in disarray again.
It is one thing entirely to convince oneself that items like pencils (or pens, shoes, clothing, whatever) need to be returned to the same location after use for greater ease of finding that item again when needed in the future. It is another thing entirely to convince the person you live with that the practice of returning things to a designated location is a good idea.
One person trying to keep a good habit is hard. Two trying to do it together is harder.
That aside, even with the best intentions towards tidiness and minimalism can be thwarted by the arrival of new items into a small space. And, over time, once enough items accumulate, even my perpetually somewhat untidy (and hoard-y) self decides it’s time to get rid of some stuff.
All that to say I’ve spend that last two weekends getting rid of stuff.
I got rid of clothes. I got rid of yarn. I got rid of kitchen stuff I haven’t used in a year. I tossed old papers. I cleaned out drawers. I cleaned out the closet. I cleaned off the dresser. I got things out from under the kitchen table. I reorganized the cabinets in the kitchen. I sanitized counters. I scrubbed and shined and vacuumed. I took bags of stuff out the door never to be seen again.
I can see so much more of my floor. The nightstands are free of superfluous nonsense. You can open the closet door all the way inward. My dresser drawers open and close without a fuss. You could perform surgery on my countertops, they’re so sterile.
Most importantly, our shared space is now much more serene, much easier on the eyes, and we know where everything is and can access it easily.
I hope it lasts the week.