Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday: Desktop Management


Mea culpa. The Dog ate my Homework. I will be right on time next Tuesday, scout's honor.

Despite my children's opinions, I am not a neurotic neat freak. Any normal person coming to my house would realize this. I was brought up in a house that was, essentially, my parents' shared artistic project, and when I left anything lying around the family rooms, I heard about it. Thus, my room--up a ladder from the other living areas, and rarely visited by my parents--was messy. My first college room-mate found me annoyingly untidy. It really wasn't until I got my own room at college that I started practicing a certain amount of order, because I had no other space that represented me.

As I got older and the jobs I did became more complex, I found that I needed to keep my environment at least minimally tidy, not so much because it was easier to find things, but because I found it easier to focus in an environment that was not too chaotic. I'm fine with a fair amount of disorder, but go over the line and I start to feel oppressed by it. I know where the line between acceptable and oppressive lies--but I don't live alone. I live with three people (and a dog) who have different setpoints than mine for organizational squalor.

I was thinking about this because of my husband's computer desktop. The desktop of my laptop has maybe four files sitting on it, and the icon for my hard drive. The desktop of his computer has two or three dozen files on it, in no particular order. This seems to work for him; he can find what he's looking for, whereas I look at his desktop and my life passes before my eyes. It's his desktop, not mine. So I have to wrestle with my impulse to put things away, or at least organize the files in a way that makes sense to me. It's the same thing in the girls' rooms; I have a hard time going in to clean up and reorganize, because I feel strongly that the way things make sense to me is not necessarily the way things make sense to someone else. But if I don't get things tidied up, I do start to feel a little crazy, which spills over onto my ability to remember who has what activities that day and whether we have milk and butter or not.

So what are my options? I rarely go on the husband's computer, so I don't have to be offended by his desktop. I could, I suppose, refuse to go into my daughters' rooms. But what of the dining room table, which accretes mail, homework assignments, spare socks, bills and other nonsense with frightening speed? What of the kitchen counters, where half-used BART tickets and notes home from school and Scouts vie with dirty dishes? I am left with one of two conclusions/options: 1) no one else in the house sees these things, and thus it is for me to clean them up; or 2) everyone sees them, but hopes that someone else, which would be me, will clean them up. You notice that in the end, it all falls on me. Someday I will burst this bud of calm and blossom...

9 comments:

LauraJMixon said...

Oh, god. Oh god. OHGOD.

Don't get me started, or I swear I will never stop. house mess makes me feel like Rumplestiltskin. I swear I'm going to tear myself to tatters. I HATE cleaning. I HATE a messy house. I HATE nagging everybody to clean up. But I HATE the mess!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGH.

*ahem* [straightens top]

You were saying...?

Steven Gould said...

And this from the stackmeister. (If I put it in a neat stack, it will be o-kay.)

Madeleine Robins said...

I love you, Laura. Next time we're in the same timezone let us drown our sorrows and speak of someone else's dustbunnies...

My inlaws (who keep an otherwise neat house) are unbelievable stackers in their kitchen. I think mostly they're collecting articles from the New York Times and New Yorker to send to us (see, the Internet has contributed to less paper pollution!).

Alis said...

Oh god, she said, repeating what Laura said. I also find it easier to focus where there is less chaos, and I utterly hate a messy house, but I hate picking up after others perhaps even more, so there you are. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Maureen McHugh said...

That thing about realizing that other your way is not other people's way? In spades.

But how come other people in my life feel quite comfortable doing things to 'help' me?

(Of course, at this moment I am entirely surrounded by boxes of stuff. Which is a weird kind of, not very useful order, I suppose.)

Caroline Spector said...

I'm with Laura on this, too. There is nothing worse than a disorganized house. And given the fact that I appear to be living with one of the Collyer Brothers
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collyer_brothers) it's enough to drive one to drink. (Sorry, I don't know nothin; about writing HTML thingies.)

And Warren thinks I LIKE cleaning. No, like writing, I HAVING DONE it.

Oh god, I promised myself I would only rant on my day.

Madeleine Robins said...

Oh, rant all you like, Caroline. At least on my day.

Are we going to have to spin off a Female Brains site to contain this sort of ranting? Cause I notice that none of the guys are coming in to weigh in...

But really, while I could go on all day about disorder and its discontents, I was really thinking in terms of how different our (my family's) organizational thinking is. My husband (a prince!) wants and needs to do certain things just so. Maintaining his desktop (or his desk) is not one of them. If I paint a wall, it's enough that it's painted and not excruciating to look at; if he does it, it's done right. Maybe it's a guy thing? Except that my kids are both female...

Steven Gould said...

Oddly enough, Rory is really quite a neatnik (though he has to accept certain chaos when his daughter is around.) I've never seen Brad and Barb's messy except in the middle of a band practice when we're all sprawled everywhere. (But they could have secret messiness. It could happen.)

I'm somewhat of a slob but an odd one. If I pick up something I want it to go where it lives, not some temporary place for the sake of "tidiness" because then it's three time harder to find stuff when I want it. It's not where I left it and it's not where it's supposed to go.

This leads to acrimony and domestic discord. Especially when I'm ready to blame anyone and everyone for moving my cheese and it turns out that I was the one who moved it, but forgot.

LauraJMixon said...

Oh, yes. I really irritate Steve when I move his stuff from the middle of the floor or whatever.

Emma's probably the neatest among us four. Carita is *ahem* as prone to disorganization as her father. I'm somewhere in between.

Though as you mentioned, Mad, we all have our "special" areas of preferred neatness/ slobbiness.