Two Days of Not Cleaning Up After Myself (Confessions of a Very Clean Girl)

I once got dumped because I clean too much.

Okay, that wasn’t the only reason for the breakup. But on more than one occasion, that particular beau physically removed me from his kitchen stop me from cleaning. In my defense, there was no way in hell I was making us coffee or brunch the next morning before giving every nasty surface a good scrub. Gross.

I may have dumped a few guys, too, because their mess outweighed their merit.

I don’t want no scrubs. Outside of the ones I’m handling with purple rubber gloves.

I’m not a neat freak — cross my heart and kiss my elbow. But dishes get clean within a few hours of use. When I’m done blow-drying my hair, I wipe the floor of my deadened mane.  I make my bed first thing upon rising, I need order at my desk so that I can put words in an interesting order, and I find a soothing comfort in my nightly ritual of tidying the kitchen, setting the coffee pot for the morning, and tucking all away in my room.

I’m sure that a part of this lifelong habit is just the way I was baked: My siblings will admit I’m the cleanest of our quartet. My mother is tidy, but she’s got more important things to do than making sure you can eat off her floors. I’ve never seen my dad wash a dish, but he has never had a problem paying someone to do it for him, either.

Another part is that I’ve grown up with an illness: Routine, preparation, and exerting discipline over variables within my control keeps me safe and allows me to enjoy what I can of the environment and people around me.

A third part is good ol’ inherited Greatest Generation pride. My paternal Portuguese immigrant grandmother swept our driveway and refolded my not-tightly-folded-enough laundry. My maternal Yankee grandparents layer paper towels between dishes so that they don’t scratch, and taught me no kitchen item will ever be more valuable than a properly-maintained cast iron Dutch oven. From both, I inherited: You respect yourself and your guests by bringing them into a space that’s clean and welcoming.

My Good Housekeeping habits are strong.

But what else might they say about me?

Some claim (those who do this and some who study the habit) that messy environments lean towards clearer thinking — if a desk is a fury of discord, the brain looks for simpler solutions or thinks more creatively in connecting the dots. When some experimentees faced chaotic shopping environments, their buying choices leaned towards simpler purchases, upholding this theory.

Could I be missing out on a clearer mind by insisting on a clear environment?

I spent the last two days not cleaning up after myself. And I hated it.

I finished a mug of coffee while blow-drying my hair, and both the mug and the hair on the floor stayed there when I was through. Dishes piled in the sink. Clothes mounded on floors, chairs, and my bed. My bed stayed unmade all day. When my wallet exploded, I simply gathered all the cards together and dumped them on the nearest bookshelf. Anything that landed on my desk stayed there. I couldn’t believe how much I used in a day, and how much time I did nothing while food warmed, water boiled, I walked from A to B… all the time I would have been easily picking up after myself as I went, without thinking.


I wanted to cheat more on this Challenge than 95% of the longer, harder ones that came before it. Why? Because I find any logic to this (what I saw as a bad) habit.

I didn’t feel more clear-headed when I sat to work. The work my hands produced was neither more creative nor more abundant. When I left for a double-dose of Friday Night Zen (deep relaxation followed by restorative yoga at Integral), nothing was where I needed it! I ran in a frantic whirl of activity: collecting the spewed wallet contents, searching for the sweater I wanted to wear (left in the bathroom where I last had it, so now damp from the wet towel it hung near), trying to chill water for my narrow-necked bottle (I hadn’t refilled the jar in the fridge so it wasn’t lemony and cold!)… definitely not Zen as I zoomed out the door.

Do people enjoy this? I’m not!

I got home at 9pm. Instead of crashing on the couch in a restored bliss to sip my chilled detoxifying lemon water and hot tea and continue my love/hate viewing of the new Anne with an E... I had to clean. My 24-hours were up. The next day I planned to abstain from electricity and electronics, and I needed to vacuum and tidy the dark corners of the now-layered closets.

I didn’t stop cleaning from my day until 11:30. Exhausted. I collapsed.

Who are the people who find the calm in this?

I’m going to dig into this question, finding some people who are self-identified slobs and find calm in it. I’ll try to set myself up in their brain and try this again to see if a second attempt can pull me out of my comfort zone and into a more creative, less rigid, enjoy-the-tornado zone.

Any volunteers?


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