There are many variations of the maxim “tidy desk, tidy mind”. And, though I am somewhat bastardising Newton’s third law of motion here, an untidy desk should therefore accompany an untidy mind. While I am not sure of the causal relationship, I definitely have both of those.
To avoid becoming a local newspaper story of a hoarder, photographed surrounded by copies of the same local newspaper with previous stories of hoarders – a sort of recurring Droste effect of hoarders, if you will – I practise tidiness. I find it very boring and, though we all find many things boring, my psychiatrist is convinced I have ADHD. My brain never has waves, but storms. So, things that bore me I find almost impossible to do. Setting up a direct debit is one of the most difficult things in the world for me, although it takes approximately four minutes and can mean the difference between receiving a court summons and not.
I used to kick the idea of tidying under the bed; shove it to the back of the wardrobe. Shunt it into another room. Throw a blanket over it. But if I am not reformed, then I am reforming. Because I have learned that a clean and tidy home is one of the most happy-making things. It is still pleasing if someone else is responsible (a professional cleaner, a partner, etc), but actually doing the graft and then living with, in the best sense, the result is a feeling I love. I feel genuine pride when a drawer can slide smoothly into my desk rather than jamming, overstuffed with papers. Or when I know I am sitting on my sofa, minus 9,000 receipts and corners of Doritos between the cushions.
I don’t understand how cleaning has become a popular genre on Instagram, but I have watched certain stain-removal tutorials on YouTube. There are entire forums full of tricks on how to clean windows without streaks, passed down through generations.
I still find cleaning dull, but once I get into it, at least I am fully focused on how fragrant the finish will be. Shakespeare was correct: all that glisters is not gold. But I’m content if it’s just my chrome tap.
And the process itself does have some advantages: doing things with one’s hands is a great distraction from, well, literally everything. I simply don’t have the capacity to stress about a pandemic, or Donald Trump possibly winning a second term as president, when I’m cleaning in between floorboards with a cotton bud. And there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write – in every sense.