Confessions of a Neat Freak

My name is Valerie and I’m a neat freak. Or so I was told by my six-year-old last week. It is pretty hard to deny.

You’ve met people like me before. I’m the one who sends emails around the office reminding people to clean their coffee cups and then signs them with some passive-aggressive moniker like “the Dish Fairy” (a nickname that quickly morphed into “the Kitchen Witch” in one office I worked in). I’m that co-worker everyone jokingly accuses of doing no work because there are no papers left on her desk at the end of the day. The owner of a company I used to work for once asked if he could borrow my office for a meeting because it was so much neater than his. When I offered to help him clean up his, he just got a frightened look on his face and walked (ran) away.

At home I’m even worse, although contrary to popular belief, my spices are not alphabetized, nor is my closet color-coded. But I guess the mere fact that I often get asked if they are is an indication that my propensity towards order is a little excessive.

Believe it or not, I was once a typical kid who shoved stuff under the bed and got nagged at for leaving dirty dishes in the sink. My mother always loved to tell the story of the night she came home after dark and could see me through my ground-level bedroom window, head under the bed and rump up in the air, digging through the huge pile of stuff under my bed like a dog searching for a bone. I’m not quite sure when the mutation started, but I have often longed for that sloppy teen to come back and teach me how to happily co-exist with mess and clutter.

I have tried…truly I have. I once forced myself to leave several baskets of clean laundry in the hallway for a whole week while I took the kids on excursions to the zoo and picnics in the park, all in an effort to forget about housework in favor of spending more time with the ones I love. My best friend suggested snubbing the clean laundry as a good first test as she coached me in letting go of chores in favor of fun. She’s one of those fun and easygoing moms who likes to pile her family’s clean laundry at the foot of her bed. By the end of the week, after sleeping on top of it and tossing it out of the way when required, each piece has magically disappeared as the owner has claimed it and worn it again. Why waste time putting it away, she mused? It will be gone eventually and you’ll always have more anyway. I have to admit that she does have a point, but by the end of my week of laundry rebellion I found myself tossing it all back into the dryer in a vain attempt to quickly eliminate the wrinkles that had infested the entire basket from everyone  rummaging to find what they needed. Bottom line: As we learned at the zoo, a leopard can’t change it’s spots.

Now don’t get me wrong…I can and do make one helluva mess in the midst of some of my more creative moments or in the hub-bub of my busy life as a mother of two and loving wife of a man who couldn’t find the dirty clothes hamper if it was covered in $100 bills. It’s just that I can’t stand to live in it for very long. To me, clutter is the visual equivalent of too much background noise and prevents me from being able to concentrate on anything else. Order calms me. Order makes me happy. Order is the vodka in the Bloody Mary of my life.

Now I know what you are thinking. Valerie, you say…life is too short to spend all of it tidying up and doing chores. You need to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the people around you more. I agree! And believing it was possible to indulge my inner neat freak and be a fun and easygoing mom like my best friend, I began a quest for an orderly existence that still leaves time for the ones I love.

Through this blog I hope to share some of the precious gems I have picked up along the way on how to simplify life so that yours might be a little richer too. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed and an orderly home should be a means to that end, not the beginning and the end of your existence. An organized, relaxed lifestyle is not an oxymoron, and it can be easy peasy with just a bit of planning and the right attitude.

Check back often and you just might find some easy peasy solutions to your everyday challenges.


3 thoughts on “Confessions of a Neat Freak

  1. I can relate to a lot of what you are saying here, Valerie! I guess I also have some of the “neat freak” qualities you mention, but not even to the extent as my husband does! I try very hard to balance my desire to be spontaneous and fun with my kids, grandkids and friends vs. my need for order. I guess order gives me a sense of control in an uncontrollable world! I guess my husband and I are learning slowly that – in the end – it’s the relationships and memories that my loved ones will carry with them always, not how neat my kitchen was or how my closets looked. I am looking forward to all you have to share here, since we all need to learn how to strike that right balance.

  2. Putting one’s spices in alphabetical order is NOT neat freakish! Doing so, roughly once a year, as one wipes down the shelf, tosses and/or combines duplicates is a time/frustration saver when under stress of time during cooking. Just put on some good music or NPR and enjoy adult ABCs. Yes.

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