We’re packing up the flat to move into our first house this weekend and I’m coming face to face with my usual lack of organisation. One suitcase has books, shoes, a mini djembe drum, a hot water bottle, hangers and a game of chess. My mother would look at this, amused, and wonder what these things have in common. They’re all stuff that was living room at the time, Mum. I’m sorry, you did try.
The topic of tidiness was revived in our flat yesterday because I’d flippantly mentioned that I don’t bother to fold clothes on a Facebook status. That’s no surprise to anyone who’s lived with me – especially those who witnessed the legendary bomb sites of my university days. They probably wonder at me saying that that’s the only thing I don’t bother to do.
Bit by bit I have and am taming my natural disorderliness. Except on bad weeks, and let’s face it, we’re moving so this is one of them, the world we live in is more or less tidy and usually pretty clean. (I feel the need to mention briefly that while I can live with messy, even I’ve outgrown dirty.)
Books make their way back to the shelves with my mother’s voice inside my head saying, “How you keep your surroundings reflects how you keep your life” or, when we’d properly vexed her with our sloppiness, “You people feel it have a slave inside of here. You waiting for the maid to come pick up after you.”
In many ways, she succeeded in shaping my view of what an adult home should look like, in terms of tidiness, even if I do backslide – except when it comes to folding the laundry. I remember opening my mother’s drawers and looking through her things as a child. I loved how neatly everything was kept, how sweetly even the littlest most delicate things were folded.
Perhaps, because she is my mother, I’ve come to see this as ‘the epitome of all that is womanly’. As a result, I feel not just un-dainty but unfeminine for my obviously inability to do the same. I could fold my underwear but, mercy knows, I’ll never get it to stay that way.
I realise now that a lot of it is because I don’t see the real point of folding. I know it means you can find things more easily but I actually enjoy the hunt and rediscovery inside my drawers and cupboards, even if I do get frustrated when we’re about to be late for a wedding and none of the dresses in easy reach fit me.
I know it means you can fit more into a draw when it’s folded nicely but…ok, I’m actually not convinced of that fact.
I also know that some people prefer the straight lined creases that come with folding as opposed to the all-over creases that come with stuffing but let’s be real, I hate ironing far more than I do folding and it doesn’t happen unless there are wedding, funerals or work events. Anything that absolutely needs to be uncreased gets hung not stuffed and so is excluded from this here diatribe against folding.
Mind you, I do go into a folding frenzy when Laurence and I have a fight. Rage tends to lend me special self-righteous cleaning powers. The place is never so tidy as when I’m angry. He jokes that he just needs to wreck my moods more often for us to stay on top of everything.
The reason why this is a question at all is because of the debate we’re having about what kind of parents we’re going to be. The blueprint for parently housekeeping that we’ve both grown up with is almost inexplicably orderly and it doesn’t mesh with either of our personalities. We both dislike visible clutter but neither of us honestly give a toss about what happens in the drawers.
But aren’t “real” parents supposed to care about the little things like that? How else will the skiddywinks learn? Do they even need to learn? Why oh why is this important? Please tell me that it’s not.
I don’t know if I can or would fight a battle with my children that I can’t or won’t win even inside myself.