Thursday, July 01, 2004

You're Like A Magnet 

When you've a toddler in the house, cleanliness really is next to impossible. Today amongst myriad child-rumpled strewn objects -- a puppet box of puppet mice, a decorative corn broom, several lined and torn pages scribbled with purple -- half a Dick lies face-up on the dining room carpet, cut off just above the knee but smiling, towheaded and pedagogically cherubic in his red wool sweater, miles from the refrigerator where Jane, Spot, and the rest of his magentic family await.

I've always been messy, and so has Darcie. If anything, it's the one shared habit we wish we'd married away from. Our tendencies, our limitations, our fated losses in the face of entropy, are strong enough on a cumulative level that one room in each home we've shared has become permanent unorganized storage, a tosspot disaster zone cordoned off from the "good" part of the house by heavy doors, and studiously avoided. Thank god there's an attic this round.

In this case, though, the mess is the natural result of toddlerhood in a messy-spouse house. We tidy more often, but she spreads her bookshelf's contents across the floor faster than we can clean up the living room popcorn spill. We could live the sterile life, I suppose -- not enough stuff to worry about; playspaces sparsely toy-ed; books far off the floor; cabinets childlocked -- but it's just not us to be so consistent about keeping the space that way in the first place.

I read -- half-recently, somewhere unrecollected -- that researchers have found no correlation between early nurture and tendencies towards cleanliness. Beating entropy appears to be innate in some, absent in others. Causal genetic indicators are too complex -- we all know neat-freak kids whose very vacuum-sealed bedspread is a rebellion against disorganized lives, both eco- and psychological. In our case, though, I look at our own parents, and the dirty clothes piles we've inherented from them; look back at my daughter tossing the contents of an entire basket of barrettes around like flower petals at a wedding, or chasing the dog around the house with crumbly dog biscuits -- and give up.

I've learned to live with the mess. We clean once a week or so, when company's coming; clean off surfaces and condense piles to eat at the table. Once every couple of months, when we run out of clothes, we bag up the big piles of clothes until the hardwood is once again, miraculously, visible, stuff the car, and take it all down to the school laundry. You couldn't say that we've embraced the mess, but we fight the easy fight; it works for us where nothing else has

But I worry about the magnets. If half a Dick can be left on the floor arbitrarily, it can just as easily be left on the laptop keyboard, obliterating data, scrambling sourcecode. Gone are the plastic days of big primarycolor letters and numbers. Ominously, Dick's pants remain missing.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:07 PM |

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