The Odd Couple: Messy vs. Neat Freak

The Odd Couple: Messy vs. Neat Freak

My first clue my new husband was a Neat Freak was on our honeymoon. There I was, naked and extremely eager for the consummation to begin. My clothes were strewn upon the floor, as usual. There he was, slowly taking off his shirt and hanging it in the closet. I groaned at the delay. Then he pulled off his pants, neatly folded them and placed them in a drawer in the hotel room.

“Jesus, honey. Just throw them down and let’s get on with it!” I pleaded.

But, of course, the socks had to be neatly placed together first and stowed away carefully.

Patience is not one of my virtues. Neither is being overly neat. So I was in for a big shock when Hubby turned out to be Felix to my Oscar.

Thirty-seven years later, we’re still together and have learned how to cope with this vast difference in our habits. It hasn’t been an easy task.

As soon as we began our blissful life together as a couple, I discovered he also had this obsession with cleanliness. Now this isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it can be taken a wee bit too far. At least for me.

My opinion is that it is time to dust only when you can write your name in it. What’s wrong with a week’s worth of clothes lying on a chair or on the floor? Why make the bed up when NO ONE is going to see it? So what if the dishes are still in the sink and it’s bedtime. They aren’t going anywhere. So I have other stuff lying all around. Who cares? It doesn’t bother me.

However, I soon found out it bothered him. A lot. That’s when we clashed.

I had an aunt whose husband was a fanatic about cleanliness to the point that she had to scrub baking potatoes until there was no skin left. She would follow people around with an ash tray to make sure nothing fell on the floor. It was pitiful to watch her because this was not her nature and it was annoying to be around. Eventually, she dumped him (Thank God!) and she told me later that it made her literally sick trying to keep things up to his standards. This was NOT a fate for me.

I stood up to Hubby early on and announced, “If you want this place THAT clean, DO IT YOURSELF!”

So basically he did. He became the one to do the cleaning. My job was to make the mess and he would clean it up. That hasn’t changed in all these years. He jokes that my middle name is “Messy”. I even have a T-shirt that claims: “I’m not Messy, I’m Creative.” I like that better.

When I cook, he cleans up the resulting mess to his satisfaction. It works for us.

Of course, after a while, he began to bitch that he was doing all the work while I was sitting my ass. So I said, “Okay. Let’s make a list of chores and divide it up. You do some and I’ll do some.” Fair, right?

His response to every item was, “I’ll do that.” The only thing he would trust me with was washing dishes and he didn’t really like the way I did that either, so were basically back to square one. I gave up and just ignored his occasional grumbling from then on as he vacuumed and dusted to his heart’s content. This later prompted him to hire a company to come clean the house every two weeks. Situation resolved. Almost. He still cleans some in between their visits. I just go about my business ignoring the overkill.

One of the funnier things we laugh about now happened when our son was young and I was home with him while Hubby was at work. As you can imagine, by the end of the day, toys were strewn all over, the bed was still a rumpled mess and dishes were crusting over in the sink. About 15 or 20 minutes before Hubby was due home, I would jump up and declare, “Time to clean up, Adam! Daddy will be home soon. Pick up all your toys and put them away, NOW!” I would then quickly straighten up just in the nick of time. Hubby would walk in and at least the place didn’t look like a bomb had gone off. Phew!

One time a neurosurgeon got into his car which he kept cleaner than the day it rolled off the showroom floor. The doctor was amazed and declared, “Damn! I could perform surgery in this car!” I kid you not!

Our lawn was the envy of the neighborhood. It looked like it had been manicured with a nail clipper, every blade just perfect and green as the hills of Ireland.

Many times I would throw something in the garbage can only to see an item I wanted to save inside. My mistake was leaving it where it didn’t belong and Hubby decided it was junk. It took me many hissy fits to break him of this bad habit.

Anything important I want to keep I have to put in my art room. By prior agreement, he won’t trash anything in there. It’s my private sanctuary where I can be…me. Messy, messy me.

While Hubby has mellowed a lot in his later years and isn’t quite as fussy as he used to be, he still amazes me with all the things he can find to clean. Yesterday, he took all of our fake flowers outside and sprayed them with some kind of cleaner.

Frankly, doing that would NEVER have crossed MY mind!


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