I’ve always taken pride in my reputation as being extremely neat and orderly. My house looks like no one lives there – if something is moved an inch I know it. I talk on the phone with a paper towel and a spray bottle of Fantastic in my hand. My hangars match. I never go out with chipped nail polish. I iron my sheets.
It’s hard to live up to this standard of perfection.So recently I noticed that I am relaxing my ideals. Perhaps I am swaying a bit too far in the other direction. No one would ever know what goes on behind closed doors, but I have to confess — after every fashion crisis, which is basically 90 percent of the time I get dressed to go out, I leave a wake of discarded tops and pants on my bedroom floor. It looks like the dressing room of a Broadway diva after a performance with numerous costume changes. I have even caught myself kicking the rejects into a pile in my closet so my husband doesn’t see it when we come back late at night. I also have begun using my kitchen counter as my office and catch-all for newspapers, mail, handbag, keys and post-it notes with lists and reminders. My husband has been well trained to keep most of his personal belongings out of sight and recently I realized the tides were turning. As I criticized him for leaving some dresser drawers open (a pet peeve), he glanced from me to the kitchen counter strewn with shopping bags and groceries and magazines, and back to me without saying a word. The student had become the sensai.
In fairness he has a real office in midtown Manhattan with file cabinets and shelves and they are piled high with files and documents and notepads on the desk and under the desk. Our home is my office and if I don‘t see things in front of me I don‘t get anything done. It got me wondering – what are my friends doing behind closed doors? So I asked them.
One was very forthcoming. In order to spare her identity and embarrassment and to save our trusting friendship I will call her “R”. She told me she doesn’t wash her bras very often. She justifies it because she puts them on a clean body every morning but really she’s too lazy to wash them out as often as she should. She said she felt like she was Stradlater from Catcher in the Rye – the friend that Holden Caulfield realized was a Secret Slob. So I decided to form a Secret Slob Society where my friends could reveal their private slovenliness.
They say “never go to bed angry” but in my book it’s never go to bed with a sink of dishes. Yet “D” confessed that she leaves her kitchen a complete mess when she goes to bed at night with food on the counter, dirty dishes in the sink, and pots filled with water and she gets up at the crack of dawn to deal with it before going to the gym. She’s a morning person.
At first “L” wouldn’t admit to any secrets other than watching Real Housewives and soap operas. She said she is very tidy and has never left her house without making her bed because she thinks it’s bad luck. I pushed her to come clean. Join the club. Finally after reflecting a bit she offered that her bathroom cabinets were stuffed with bags and bags of old makeup samples and her basement of old furniture and baby toys looked like she was a candidate for the show Hoarders.
I too never leave the house without making the bed and never go on vacation without leaving a perfectly clean house in case something happens to me and I never return. Not everyone feels this way. I know that because a neighbor of mine once called me from vacation with her four small children and asked me to check inside the house and see if they had left on an appliance before they dashed out. Their beautiful house is always decorated with hanging baskets on the front porch and lovely lights around the holidays. Inside it looked like they had left the country in a hurry to flee a war… the remnants of breakfast were still on the table, stray socks were balled up on the kitchen floor, the dog bowl still had kibble in it.
“H” admitted that when she travels she wears the same underwear the next day as she did the night before so she doesn’t have to wash it.
Aunt “L” lets her pet cockatiel sit on her shoulder and poop on her blouse. She also copped to turning the guest towels to the untouched clean side instead of washing them.
I know a college student who is smart and beautiful and who didn’t change her sheets more than 3 times a semester. That is probably two times more than many students. And my own sons.
I live with someone whose toothbrush develops stalagmites of gooey toothpaste as it charges on its stand.
My dear friend “G” has a spotless house and a manicured lawn – however to climb in her car means sweeping the seat and floor of petrified French fries, coffee cups, sweaty gym clothes, and errant shoes.
Everyone has their secrets — not changing their toothbrush or razor head, leaving clumps of hair in a brush or drain, sniffing their clothing or underwear to see if it’s clean, not washing their jeans until they stand alone, wearing a pair of socks twice. I’m guilty of a few. Growing up I was told cleanliness was next to godliness. I no longer think that’s true. Cleanliness is overrated. I recently saw a poster that said , “A Clean House is a Sign of a Wasted Life”. I will repeat that mantra to remind myself that my newfound messiness means I am having too much fun to stay in and clean. I will proudly wear my badge as a member of the Secret Slob Society. If only I could find it in the mess I call my closet.