Thursday, September 22, 2005

The bearer of glad tidyings

Tidylation n. Feeling of excessive happiness that immediately follows the clearing / tidying up of something, often accompanied by rash resolutions to maintain unrealistic standards of neatness. Notoriously short-lived.

Have you ever had one of those days when you finally get tired of all the clutter that's been lying on your desk for decades and clear it all up in a burst of adrenaline? Or where you decide that for once you're going to be organised about things and so you arrange all your papers properly, complete with three-ring binders and seperators and stuff?

And you know how you sit there, looking at how everything around you looks human and is all in its proper place (which, for some 84% of the stuff on your desk is the trash can), and there's this queer glow of pride running through you, and you sit there thinking: 'Aaah! so this is why my mother was always tidying up my room so I could never find anything in it. It's all starting to make sense'. And you smirk at all the suckers who still have last month's doughnuts lying on their desk or are carrying all their papers around all jumbled up in a plastic bag and you think - I used to be like them, but I'm not anymore. I'm an organised person now. I've got my life together. It's the first day of the rest of my life, etc, etc. (Is there a Messy Person's Anonymous? "Hi. I'm Falstaff. I used to be a Messy Person. Then one day I left my girlfriend on my desk and couldn't find her afterwards. That was the day I realised I had to change my entire way of life. Now it's been two months since I last threw junk mail on my table and I have a file where I keep all my latest bills, neatly indexed with the due dates marked in different colour inks on my table calendar" Sound of applause. A couple of people at the back are crying. I feel like I'm among my own.)

Of course, all this euphoria doesn't last. No matter how much you tell yourself that from now on you're going to pick everything off the floor the minute it drops and not just let it lie there till the next time you vacuum or the next ice age (whichever comes first - after all there's no point hoovering if some stupid glacier is going to come along in a million years or so and leave its muddy tracks all over your carpet, now is there?), but there's always that critical moment where you're just too tired / too lazy. You think: 'It's just one little piece of string, for god's sake, no one's even going to notice. I'll pick it up some other time'.

Or take junk mail. You'll always tell yourself that you should throw it away as soon as it comes. And for a while you will. Then there'll be the day you'll think 'I don't have the time to sort through this now. Why don't I just leave it out here in the open so I'll remember '. Or: 'Hmmm. I'm not sure. Let me just leave it here and I'll decide tomorrow'. Then by the time the next one comes along, you're thinking 'hey! I haven't even cleared the last one. Why don't I add this one to the pile so I'll remember to do both together'. By the third one it's 'Oh good! I can just put this where I put my other junk mail. I bet no one who looked at this mess on my desk would be able to figure out that I have such a wonderful system' By the time the fourth one comes along your desk is this impenetrable jungle of paper. You have enough unopened mail there to design the next NASA space shuttle using back of the envelope calculations (i.e. >5). It hardly seems worthwhile trying to be neat with this new thing, does it?

Anyway, I just had one of those days. My papers have all been organised into (neatly labelled) folders. Every redundant scrap of mail has been thrown away. Books have been put back in their shelves, CDs returned to their rightful covers. My table is so clean you could eat off it (oh, wait!). I feel lifted and glorious. I feel the way God must have felt at the end of the fourth day after he'd got this Eden thing all set up and before all these birds and beast and fowl and apple munching humans showed up to mess the place up (I've always thought of God as a sort of fussy housewife - try talking to her about something important and meaningful, and she looks kind of spaced and nods along vaguely; but get a little spot on her tablecloth, or show up one minute late for dinner when the food is on the table and you've had it). I feel like going out and finding myself a broken column somewhere and waiting for the sunlight.

I know it won't last of course - that already the forces of messiness are gathering against me, that the empire of the ordered will go the way of all empires, crumbling into the dust of the centuries until another historic moment (or a feather duster) comes along. What was it Auden said: "Beauty, midnight, vision dies: / Let the wind of dawn that blow / Softly round your dreaming head / Such a day of welcome show / Eye and knocking heart may bless, / Find our mortal world enough".

I'd better take a picture of my desk while it's still this neat.


Ph said...

And all of us with messy tables our casting evil eyes on it.

ph said...


Itineranting said...

I have often observed that the mess of my space is often directly proportionate to the mess in my cleaning up can often be strangely therapeutic!

Falstaff said...

Ph: if it's any consolation - it worked. There are already four discrete stacks of papers lying scattered on it now.

Rant: Really? It works the other way for me - when things are going well and I'm happy I never bother to clean. If my desk is clean it's usually because I'm so depressed that even cleaning seems like fun.

meditativerose said...

Hmm .. am sure you had some inspiration ... need some to think of tidying up, right ;)

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