I’m A Slob

So I’ve talked a lot about myself on this here website. By this point in our journey, regular The Gloss readers know about my life as a 19-year-old nude model, my sensitive vagina, my struggles with social interaction, and even a bit about my horrible foot secret. But one topic I’ve been too ashamed to crack thus far is my tendency towards messiness and hoarding. It’s embarrassing! Then again, I’m guessing some of you are in the same boat as me, so I think it’s time to talk about it. And by “it,” I mean my compulsion to build nests out of dirty laundry.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a really, really, really messy person. I’m pretty good about common spaces (I’m not a monster) but when it comes to my own personal living space, there are clothes, books, and various other items covering at least half the floor at any given time. I’m not living in squalor, mind you; there are no dirty dishes or science experiments lying around. But my messiness does make it tougher to sweep, so my room has a higher population of dust bunnies than it probably should.

The above photo is what my room looks like right now, no cheating. I’ve actually been better lately (more on that later). I tend to use the side of the bed I don’t sleep on as a place to store clothes, which then get pushed onto the floor when my boyfriend comes over. Then back to the bed, then back to the floor, etc.

Here’s what it looks like if you’re sitting on my bed:

The green thing on the right is a bag of laundry, the black thing is a suitcase I have yet to fully unpack, and the white thing on the left is a bag of pillows that I bought a few days ago because my roommate told me any pillow that’s more than two years old is at least half composed of dead skin cells and dust mites. My pillows are all more than two years old. I’m still deciding which of them to get rid of.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt really bad for being this way. Like I’m either mentally deficient in some very specific way, or just really lazy. But I’m not lazy in other areas. I write seven blog posts a day, cook most of my meals from scratch, and ride my bicycle to run errands. I’m pretty sure there’s an area of the human brain that’s dedicated to wanting things to be orderly, and mine is simply defective or missing.

It’s not the mess that bothers me (if it bothered me, it wouldn’t be there), but the judgments it causes people to make about me. Are they right to judge me? Maybe I am a shitty, incompetent person because of the way my room looks. I mean, I hold a steady job, give money to charity, and carry on meaningful relationships with people, but there are undies on the floor and none of my socks match, so…wash?

It sounds silly, but these judgments have made me question my entire self-worth at times. Over the years, I’ve been told that I wouldn’t be able to think straight if my surroundings were chaotic (by my mom, who later admitted this only applied to her), that I wouldn’t have any friends (I do, we just tend to hang out in the living room), and that I wouldn’t be able to find anything I needed, ever. (I am actually very good at finding things! I mean, I have to be, but still.) One roommate even played on my fear of being alone forever by saying, “you know, Jamie, you’re never going to find a boyfriend with a room this messy. Guys are going to look at it and think you’re crazy.” He’s not my roommate anymore.

The turning point might have come when I met my current boyfriend. I tried to tidy up a bit before I brought him home for the first time, but my room still looked like my room. I was probably more nervous about that than letting him see me naked for the first time, and apologized profusely for my clutter, but he just shrugged and said he was messy too. (And yet, so together and sane!) When I saw his room, I found out he wasn’t lying. He’s not as messy as me, simply because he has fewer possessions to strew about, but he clearly has the same mental defect that I do. Like pigs in shit, we are in filthy, decadent, messy person love.

And as soon as I stopped having an inferiority complex about my messiness, do you know what happened? I got less messy. What do you know about that? I’m no shrink, but I’d venture to guess that by ceasing to beat myself up about this trait of mine, I’ve made whatever neurosis is causing it subside enough for me to actually improve my organizational skills. Gradually and without pressure. I’m never going to have the OCD tendencies of Jerry Seinfeld, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m just sort of “normal messy” and not “drowning in mountains of unused thrift store items” messy. Which is good enough for me. I’m finished apologizing for who I am, dammit. And if any of you reading this are feeling similar pangs of shame (not guilt, mind you, but socially imposed shame), I want you to stop it right now. Go on, forgive yourself for your disgusting habits. You may actually find yourself cleaner for it.

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    • Elizabeth

      You need to get into FlyLady. It might seem like a lot of old married ladies in Oklahoma at first, but the FlyLady, Marla, really is onto something. It’s how to be clean and organized for messy people, how to build routines, why we’re messy, etc. She gets into perfectionism and beating yourself up, and every day she sends a “mission” to complete, like spend 15 minutes throwing away old magazines, or spend 2 minutes wiping clean your mirrors, and you feel awesome for completing those instead of feeling terrible and guilty for everything you haven’t done. Honestly, try it.

    • K

      *Warning* some unsolicited advice from a total stranger coming your way! I know you didn’t ask but…

      I’m the most organized person out of all of my friends. I noticed that for them the change from messy to organized really can happen out of the blue and not necessarily something I can ‘teach’. A new dress or piece of art had inspired most of them to become more organized instead of getting tired of the actual mess.

      So here’s the advice: find one or a few things that are ‘you’ and/or your style that you can organize around. Focus on just that space. That collection of books? Spend a half-hour organizing them by color or height. That vintage polka dot dress on your door? Grab a few more and find a place (maybe add a couple of hooks to the wall) to show those off and keep them off the floor. Hang them with those chi-chi satin padded hangers if you have them. Maybe make room on that book shelf to add favorite purses or shoes among the books. Try to hang up or shelve all your clothes – I know it’s a pain but your clothes will thank you.

      Basically just start in one small area, try to maintain and then literally wait until inspiration hits to expand outward.

    • Erica

      I’ve been known to have my apartment really messy at times (hello 2 weeks of dishes). But only to myself. My main motivator for cleaning is having guests over. It may be an unhealthy reason to only clean because of what people might think. Although having a steady stream of a certain guest in my apartment has be in the habit of cleaning for the sake of having a clean apartment. Guess having a boyfriend has another benefit to it.

    • Victoria

      As my over-organized friend once said to me, “You’re messy. But you’re not dirty. There’s a difference.” I think that my messiness stems from being moved a lot as a kid. I had to pack my stuff up and haul it around every few months. So I like to SEE all of my stuff. At all times. Once I embraced my messiness, it did actually improve. I think you’re onto something.

    • Ninargh

      I’m VERY messy, my messiness breeds from having too much stuff to store sensibly with only one room (I know, the HORROR) and a desire to be able to see ALL of my clothing before deciding what to wear. My boyfriend is also extremely messy, though more due to laziness.

      Our bedroom looks exactly like that.

    • Arnie

      My room looks a lot like yours, too!

      I think part of the reason for decreased messiness when I gave up on being ashamed of it is that I no longer feel the need to clean all the things at once, something that is clearly far too much of a daunting task, and thus gets delayed for much longer than necessary. Now that I’ve embraced it, I occasionally put a few things away once in a while, without feeling like I need to do the whole lot.

      It probably also helps that seven months ago I moved halfway across the world and only brought a pack with me. I still seem to have acquired an awful lot of stuff, regardless.

    • m

      I want to thank you for posting this.

      I was exactly like this for YEARS. I couldn’t explain it either! The rest of my apartment was spotless and yet my room was always like this :( I felt ashamed, embarrassed and out of control. Yet I could not bring myself to clean it! I would get total anxiety every time I tried! My roommate was awful to me, and used to make nasty comments to me all the time. Tell me that’s why I didn’t have a boyfriend yadda yadda. It really hurt my feelings. I could not for the life of me explain why I was like this, and even with how bad I new it was, could not bring myself to fix it! Like you there was no food or trash, Just copious amounts of clothes, shoes and magazines.

      I recently moved out (hallelujah!) and It’s the weirdest thing, my new room, is SPOTLESS! I am now completely organized, clean & tidy! Like a light switch! And I don’t even struggle to keep it that way! It just feels like I’ve always been organized. I have no idea why the sudden change.

      I believe that I was so unhappy living where I was, and maybe where I was in my life, that this the way I randomly unconsciously chose to express it? Not sure about that either?!?! It makes me feel really good to know I’m not the only one that does/did that! because it is (no judgement here) strange? How can we do this to just one room? namely the bedroom?

      Thank you so much for sharing! You made my day :)

    • Lionrence

      I’m a super messy person too, and for as long as I can remember, and despite the social shame put against, I never apologized of who I am. Now, I have a room mate who does’t seem to understand that and simply assumes it’s a flaw that needs fixing.

      I wish I knew how to make her see my point and give me some space.