The world is divided. There are left-handed people and right-handed people, dog people and cat people, there are those who believe that purple and green should only be seen in nature and never ever as part of an outfit.
And then there are messy people and tidy people. A divide so deep and so, well, divisive, that it can drive otherwise rational people to fundamentalism.
And as with most life divisions, there is an inequality to the equation. One party is infinitely more convinced that their way is right, while the other party fails to grasp the urgency or desire to change sides.
And this is how it is with messy people. The messy people don’t really care. They love to say “sweeping the room with a glance is the only housework I do” or “I was going to clean the house but…wine!”. They purchase books such as Shannon Lush’s Speed Cleaning, hoping for the domestic equivalent of an Anthony Robbins style transformation, only to use it to prop up a wonky table on the deck.
The ability to live in a state of constant chaos and disorganisation, while not listed in many job descriptions (with the possible exception of War Correspondent), is a life skill that will prove invaluable when you become a parent.
As a messy person, imposing order against the grain of your very nature as well as against the tide of incoming stuff takes both concentration and some very clever tricks.
To get started, here are 8 mess hotspots and some simple ways to improve them:
1) First Impressions Count
Entrance ways and front door areas are the first thing a visitor will see when they arrive at your house. Remove all evidence of family life from these areas, pop a flowering plant near the door (extra points if the flowers are fragrant), and welcome visitors with a confident smile. The image you create here will stick in their mind even if they have to climb over piles of unsorted dirty laundry as they enter the living room.
2) Kitchens Matter
As someone’s grandmamma once said “Do the dishes, the house is done!” It sounds simplistic – and it possibly is – but it is effective. Tidy your kitchen and strive to keep it tidy and uncluttered and your whole house will feel a good 20% tidier! If you combine this tip with tip number 1, you are well on your way to tricking a picky mother-in-law into thinking you have some potential as a Tidy Person.
3) Oh Lordy, the Laundry!
Relentless and repetitive, the load of laundry that comes with the average family is the eighth wonder of the modern world. It is possible that the invention of the front loader washing machine is largely to blame. With the capacity to wash so many items with the press of a button, there is no limit to the number of clothing items allowed into a house. If you unplug the machine and hand-wash the clothes, it only takes a single bucket load to realise that one outfit per person is sufficient. Everything else can go to charity.
4) Shooo Shoes
Like a small army of fire ants, shoes will overpower you. The curse of shoes is more than sheer numbers. It is also related to the speed a child’s foot will grow, the speed at which they will lose one of the shoes that do fit at any given moment, and the force of will a three year old will display over the colour of a pair of shoes. Remove all odd shoes. Sort remaining shoes into winter or summer. Place each season into a shoe basket. Each child is then left to find a shoe that a) they like, and b) fits them.
5) Pet or Pest, What do you Have?
If it smells, requires packaged food, a litter tray and sheds hair, it’s a pest. You may love your dog with even more intensity than it loves you but the facts are right there – when it comes to a tidy house, they only animal that is not a pest is a stuffed one. Pets, children, a tidy house; choose two. You can never have all three.
6) Toy Wrangling 101
Not unlike shoes, toys are prone to radical reproduction. They have a built-in redundancy and loom large in the eyes of the owners – even if the toy is broken and it hasn’t been thought about for several months. Don’t try to organise the toys in a rational adult kind of way. Acquire a large basket, put all toys into the basket. When it overflows, remove the bottom 3rd of the items. Smuggle them out in the dead of night.
7) Spousal Support
You have 3 children but you are picking up after 4? A charity basket could solve all your problems. At the end of each day place all flotsam and jetsam into the basket. Car keys, discarded ties, small plastic Angry Birds, a jar of glitter, and books. Explain to everyone that whatever is in the basket will go to charity at the end of each week. Most families can be trained in under 5 days.
8) Rinse and Repeat
There is no easy way to say this. You will have to do this again and again. Your house will never actually be completely tidy. The best you can hope for is small pockets of clear space amongst the chaos. Blink, and the space will be gone, moved on mysteriously to another part of your house.