Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Neatness and Clutter

I'm a planner, an organizer, a worrier.

My Husband is spontaneous, chilled out, laid back.

Casual acquaintances sometimes wonder aloud why we haven't killed each other yet. I usually tell them that we only put up with each other for the great sex. ;)

But the people who really know us can easily see that the truth is actually much simpler.


I'd like to blame my kids for my OCD tendencies.

After they were born, I had a a bad case of "Mommy Brain" - I lost or forgot things so often that I joked that the baby must have been sucking my brains out with his breakfast. I left my keys in the front door, locked them in my car, even locked them inside the house - with me on the outside. I lost count of how many times I lost my sunglasses and other accessories. Or forgot to put gas in the car. Or remembered to go to the bank but forgot the checks to deposit. Or put the milk in the pantry. I even forgot some appointments - which I never do.

I used to be able to recall exact quotes and complex figures from memory when I was a reporter. Now I can't remember that I need to buy toilet paper unless I've got a shopping list stuck to my purse. Some days, just after Minion #2 was born, I swear it was a miracle if I remembered to put all my clothes on before I left the house.

This is what you have reduced me to, my darling children.

But, honestly, I can't blame the kids for all of it. I've always had a tendency toward obsessive-compulsive organization. It's one of the things that makes me very good at my job ... and, I suspect, somewhat difficult to live with at times.

But after the kids came along, I got better and worse.

I've learned a great deal of patience from my children. I've learned to let go of a lot of control issues. And I've learned a lot about how to not sweat the petty things. (And to not pet the sweaty things, but that's a whole different kind of lesson.)

But I've also learned that when you have two kids under 5 - organization can not only make your life easier, it can save your sanity.

My husband, on the other hand ... well, if I'm: "A place for everything and everything in it's place", then he's: "Oh, I think I set it down around here somewhere."

I regularly come home to find power tools on the dining table, his shoes in the doorway, his lunch ice chest in the middle of the kitchen floor. And you don't even want to get me started on the piling system on his desk.

In his defense, it's not that he's a slob - he does laundry and dishes and vacuums and is actually pretty darn good at helping to keep things clean around here.

It's just that he doesn't at all mind the presence of my arch-enemy: Clutter. (Dun-dun-dun!)

He can walk right by some random item in the middle of the hallway floor for weeks and never even think about picking it up - unless it happens to be something he needs at that moment. Because it just doesn't bother him.

Meanwhile, I'm developing a nervous tic waiting to see how long he ignores it. (Because, apparently, I'm a masochist like that.)

Of course, when I do "commit a cleaning" as he calls it, then he notices. Because he can't find the cordless drill battery he knows he left sitting on the microwave a couple weeks ago.


And yet, somehow, we've haven't killed each other.

It probably helps that we each knew what we were getting into before we shacked up. In fact, I had one "condition" for agreeing to marry him: I had to be in charge of the "the books". I don't mean in charge of spending decisions; we make those together - I mean in charge of the actual bookkeeping: Paying the bills, balancing the accounts, etc. Because, pre-marriage, my husband's idea of balancing his checkbook was keeping it all "in his head" with an occasional call to the phone-teller to check his balance.

I know. I was horrified, too.

But, the thing is: He was perfectly happy with his "system" before I came along. But - and this is the real key to our "success" in this area, I think - he's also perfectly happy with "my" way.

Because that "it's-all-good" personality that gives the ZenHusband his chill attitude about clutter is the same trait that lets him put up with my obsessive-compulsive control-freakiness.

On the other hand, it's my uber-organized control-freakiness that keeps the lights on around here. ;)

So, yeah:

I'm a planner, an organizer, a worrier.

My husband is spontaneous, chilled out, laid back.

He's the Oscar to my Felix, the Ernie to my Bert, the Yin to my Yang.

But, while we might look like incompatible opposites from a distance, the truth is that we're actually complementary - each supplying something the other would otherwise lack.

Yes, we sometimes clash. But, overall, I think we balance each other pretty well. Maybe even make each other better. :)

Do you and you significant others have issues like these?


Blogging Mama Andrea said...

Oh yes we do. I like neat planned out and no procrastination. He is fly by the seat of his suit pants. Drives me batty.

And uck, when you go to get in his car good luck finding a place to sit! I hate that above everything else. Even with a huge-things-just-get-lost- minivan my car is spotless compared to his. (Now he may jump up and say you haven't seen my car in 6 weeks since we aren't living in the same country at present and I shudder violently to think what's he done to my beautiful Lucy (aka my sweet pretty car that we still have in Germany) but trust me I can guess).

He leaves cups on the counter on top of the dishwasher instead of putting them in. Leaves a tiny dreg of coffee in the cup no matter how may times I ask and cajole him to RINSE them.

But dang it, I love him anyway. :) Who knows why?

ZenMom said...

Oh, Andrea, I can so relate on the car!

My husband uses his truck for work and his clutter definitely carries over! I have to move a pile of tools and invoices just to find a seat. Drives me batty. ;)

Your escalator operator said...

Me: Neat freak but also strangely disorganized; can't throw anything away. Mrs. SFTC: Hates cleaning but very organized; good at minimizing clutter. Strange, but we make it work.

ZenMom said...

"Can't throw anything away" is my husband's Indian name, SFTC. ;)

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Our problem is that we are BOTH chill and laid back with just a tad bit of "okay, this is startin' to bug, we should clean" and then spotlessly clean and vow to never let it get that bad again... syndrome...

We need a Yin and Yang or a Bert and Ernie because you get two people with our chill yet outgoing personalities and you get two "organized mess" kinda people.

It's embarrassing!

:) So any pointers for me? I think he should change, but that's just me...

Anjeny said...

A day late but I want to let you know that I love this post. My hubby and I are like you guys only I'm the messy one and he's the neat freak. Yet, when it comes to activities for family, he tends to be more on the spur of the moment while I have to plan every details. He's more on the quiet and serious demeanor while I'm more on the outgoing, chatterbug, goofball kinda person...people often wonder how we get along since we are so different in so many ways. But we also have similar personalities and ideas so like your and your hubby, we compliment each other. I like our differences because without them, I'd be bored out of my mind...our differences is what makes our marriage interesting...lol.

Thanks for the post and oh yeah..welcome to the blog.

DomesticallyDisabled said...

Wow! It sounds like you wrote this about my husband and I!!! However, since I am the one that works outside the house, we pay to have someone come in and help with the "organized chaos" once a week. My stress level is directly related to the amount of clutter in our house.