• Fri, Jun 8 2012

I’m A Compulsive Neat Freak. But I’m Trying To Stop.

Oh look! It's my best friends Lysol and Clorox!

I haven’t always been this way. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line my love for cleaning, or rather my need for it, took hold . Before I knew it, I was obsessed. I am told that obsession is not always a good thing. In fact, usually it’s quite unhealthy.

Looking back at my high school years, when my room was incessantly a pit of mayhem, is practically too much for this neat freak to bear. I wonder now how it was possible to live like that in all those clothes, magazines, and books piled up in utter chaos. I can finally understand the madness to which it drove my mother, and why she insisted I keep my door shut if “that’s how you want to live.”

By the time I reached college and was living with roommates, it became necessary to change my ways a bit. My mother was no longer there to pick up after me, or slam my bedroom door shut because I thought it appropriate to live as if I were raised in a barn. It was when I started living with people who were content to leave the dirty dishes in the sink for days and days on end that something in me clicked on (or off, depending on how you look at it), and I was forced to take matters into my own hands. Once I graduated from college I was that ideal (but bordering on psychotic) roommate, because I physically could not, under zero circumstances, go to sleep if there were any dishes in the sink. I didn’t care to whom they belonged. I wasn’t going to get some shut eye if shit wasn’t cleaned up!

It was when I got my dog Hubbell that things became a bit more serious. As the mother of a brand new baby boy, I wanted to make sure my apartment was clean and void of anything on which he could get his little mouth. I also wanted to make sure that whatever nastiness he picked up on the New York City streets with his paws remained outside. Exactly how was I going to disinfect my apartment, my floors, the kitchen, my bathroom and pretty much my entire life? Clorox wipes.

I used those babies on everything! I’d find reasons just so I could break out the container and do some cleaning up. Little splotch on the window? Clorox wipe! A few pieces of dust in the corner of the room that no one can see but me? Clorox wipe! How else was I supposed to cart my garbage downstairs if I didn’t do so by holding it with Clorox wipes? You can’t; that’s how.

But hands do not like Clorox wipes. No, hands suffer a chemical burn after such obsessive use and before long, I was lovingly dubbed “wonky paws,” by my friends and family for both my hands and my incessant use of the word “wonky.” Although I haven’t been professionally labeled OCD, I’m pretty damn close considering my affinity for Clorox wipes, my love affair with Lysol spray and my total inability to rest unless everything around me is picked up and put in its place.

Because living in my maddening world can sometimes take a toll on me, I decided I was going to make an effort to be less clean, not so tidy and deliberately miss the laundry basket when I tossed my clothes in that direction. Of course, I have documented this adventure for your viewing pleasure.

Day one.

My neighbor and I ordered pizza. Instead of running downstairs to immediately recycle the box, I let it sit there all week. I also left my mail and some books I bought on the kitchen table, although their presence forced me to tell them to “fuck off” every time I walked by them.

Bad pizza box!

Day two.

It hurt to do so, but I started to let my dishes pile up–which resulted in me having to close my eyes every time I went to the bathroom. I also spilled a bit of my green juice when I knocked over the bottle, but kept the spillage there as proof that I’m capable of change. Maybe.

I drink green juice to make up for all the pizza.

Day three.

When I come home to my apartment, I decided I should drop things on my couch instead of putting them away. I also decided to keep my boxes from the previous day’s Fresh Direct delivery even though I keep tripping over them and telling them to “fuck off” as well.

Yes, those are tights. I strip those babies off the second I walk in the door.

Day four.

The one place in my apartment that always looks a bit chaotic is my desk area. I’ve taken to writing on my walls after too much of the sauce, and my Post-It notes aren’t exactly organized. However, I do keep the actual desk part clear of most things. By day four, I had acquired a small collection of empty drink containers and glasses, two BlackBerrys and notebooks that I usually keep in my drawers at all times.

I have a thing for quotes, apparently.

Day five.

Although I won’t recycle until my trial week is over, I did cover the green juice spill with a paper towel. I also added a strainer to my sink as well as a couple other plates. The pizza box from day one has now found its way to the floor. I’m starting to wonder if this is what it feels like to live in a frat house.

When in doubt: drink.

Day six.

This is what my bedroom looks like this morning. I haven’t made my bed in days, my dirty clothes have made a home on the floor near my laundry basket and I have adopted an invisible trash can by my desk in which I’ve been throwing things. The kitchen now has a few more recyclables, another pizza box and a shopping bag of more books that I’ve yet to put away. The green juice stain doesn’t smell so great, but more importantly I haven’t used any cleaning products in six days. Could I have evolved into someone new and less crazy? I doubt it.

Oh, look! More tights!

Not to be dramatic (but I am, so let’s go there), it was really tough not to freak out and clean. I think that’s why I kept ordering pizza so I wouldn’t pile up too many dishes and let that sight stab my cleaning-obsessed soul to death. The only time I don’t feel like cleaning is when I’m in the deep crevices of despair that I don’t even leave my bed, but when that’s the case I don’t have the chance to dirty my apartment. Constantly cleaning is also my way of dealing with stress and taking control of a situation that may be out of my hands. A comet may be on its way to Earth and we may all be dead in two weeks, but my god, at least I clean this stove top! It doesn’t make sense, but I guess very few things do.

Anyone else share my obsession?

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  • Marissa

    I do not share your obsession, much to the dismay of my mother and my house, but I love the Idea Paint (i’m assuming) you used on the wall in front of your desk. I suppose I’m going to have to do that now.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Idea Paint? Is that a thing? I use Sharpies — much to my mother’s (and apartment’s dismay.)

  • Sarah

    I do not obsess over cleaning, but when I am upset or ultra stressed over something I do a good shakedown of my apartment. Otherwise… yea, i’m basically a slob.

  • Sugar

    I want to come over and clean it….so badly.

  • Rezia

    Wait…there’s something WRONG with wanting to live in a clean house? Although, I guess I can see your point about getting “wonky paws” from Clorox wipes.

    Also, yaaaay(!) for having two blackberries!! I love blackberry…they’re the original smartphone. SO much better than iPhones it’s not even funny.

  • Jamie Peck

    WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF? I wish I had your “problem.” I live in constant fear of turning into one of those people you see on Hoarders. I shudder to think how my apartment would look if I didn’t have roommates to consider.

    • Amanda Chatel

      You have no idea how bad it is… my dermatologist told me my hands will fall off if I don’t give up the Clorox wipes. Mandy’s handy standy has closed up shop because of it.

  • Sabrina

    My live-in boyfriend is the clean freak. It’s not fun living with a clean freak. He also is a different kind, he doesn’t necessarily like things clean, as in, he doesn’t mind when there are crumbs all over the table for days (I mind this), but he gets really agitated when I “wash the dishes the wrong way.” Don’t ask me how you can wash the dishes in the wrong way, but apparently I do.

  • mm

    I think that instead of fixing your ways you should come move in with me. I suck at cleaning, it’s very disgusting. I’m working on being more like you!

  • Spastastic

    I actually have diagnosed OCD… but not of the cleaning flavor. My room at home and my apartment at school are disaster areas most of the time. The dishes… OH GOD THE DISHES. It drives my mom crazy; she jokes that I got the “wrong kind” of OCD.

  • Annabel

    yes, i am a neat (and clean) freak and i embrace it. i never want to change. i always feel like organizing my friends’ rooms.

    i like to throw away things, keep it minimal and organized.

    i swear by hand sanitizer, clorox wipes and tide to go.

    in my opinion, americans are pretty messy.