I have a fetish.
It’s not sexual. I’m going to say, it’s more . . . spiritual.
It’s not shoes, or lingerie, or latex.
It’s – how can I say it? Neatness.
I adore neatness. I relish tidiness. I find organization euphoric. I get an inordinate amount of joy from categorizing. I yearn to systematize the chaos.
I need shit alphabetized.
I’m a neatnik. For my birthday last year, I ordered two cases of tiny glass jars to house my herbs and spices. I spent the better part of a morning making tiny little labels: “Sage,” “Thyme,” “Coriander.” I placed the jars at precise intervals on the shelves (by cuisine (Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Indian, Baking Spices) and then alphabetically).
Before my son was born, I spent so much time getting his room JUST RIGHT: perfect drawers of tiny socks, cloth diapers folded into squares and arranged underneath his changing table, baskets containing organized bottles of lotion (neatness freak meets pregnant lady hormones, watch out!) – I find this hysterical now, of course. You should see my kids’ rooms (Emory Scout empties out her entire dresser on the daily – big ol’ pile of clothes right in the middle of the floor, right next to her heaps of toys and books: as mentioned in a previous post, she is a lot like me – except for this, on this, we differ). But things were nice, once.
Now, this kink is not about cleanliness; it’s about order. If I had to pick between cleaning and organizing, I would organize every time.
That’s not to say I don’t love cleaning – I do. I had a roommate once, who – bless her beautiful soul – loved to clean as much as I do. We would spend our weekends cranking up Fleetwood Mac on the stereo and scrubbing the kitchen baseboards together. I love the smell of bleach. I vacuum every single day. But it doesn’t soothe my soul the same way that making things tidy does.
My brain cannot function in disarray.
Now, you wouldn’t know this about me, by the current state of my car (aka, the Toddler Terror Zone, replete with mounds of goldfish crackers and raisins that were inexplicably licked and/or chewed, but not actually eaten), or my house (don’t even get me started on that hot mess). For me, parenting has been one massive lesson in The Art of Letting Go. I really do want to be a happy person, and in order for me to find some peace in parenting (+homesteading + working full time), I have had to let a lot go. A lot.
Exhibit One: My Dining Room Table.
(To be fair, we did just get a new fridge delivered, so this is all the crap that came off and out of it, that needs to be rehomed. Plus all the crap my kids dragged to the table at breakfast, and conveniently forgot to put away. But still, it’s there. Driving me crazy, but there it sits, waiting patiently for me to organize it.)
This actually brings me to the point of this post. See, I didn’t realize that I was a neatness fetishist (if anyone knows if there is an actual word for this, let me know – I’m sure there has to be more than one of me on the planet). I thought I merely appreciated tidy things, to a normal degree. Doesn’t everyone?
We just got the aforementioned new fridge (see ya later, you worthless piece of crap fridge that froze all my veggies solid – sayonara, you hunk of junk that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the drawers was broken in, with the worthless ice dispenser that NEVER worked).
I digress. We got a new fridge.
And after the delivery guys left, it was just me and this gleaming new piece of stainless steel, the motor quietly humming away to make fresh ice for the internal ice tray. I opened the doors. The glass shelves were immaculate, never touched by human hands. No fingerprints, no spilled ketchup or maple syrup. No yogurt smears. No clutter.
And as I found myself gingerly placing items on the shelves, labels out, wiping off the sticky bottoms of the jars, organizing the string cheese, I realized: this is nirvana. This is bliss. This is . . . beautiful.
This is also not reality. Reality is a chaotic mishmash of squirty ketchup bottles and a sticky sippy cups with dog hair on the spout and half eaten apples and leaking Tupperware tubs of leftovers that may or may not house mold inside . . . that’s reality. And that’s exactly what this fridge will house someday. I know this.
But that’s exactly what a fetish is – it’s a fantasy. It’s not reality. But in those brief moments, where reality and fantasy collide, and your fridge is a sparkling altar of symmetry, a shrine of categorization – where the condiments are all lined up first by ethnicity / geography (American condiments like ketchup and mustard, Thai curry pastes, Indian curry pastes, Mexican hot sauces), by color, and by height; in those moments, AHHHHH, the ecstasy.
Perhaps it’s precisely because these moments are so fleeting, that they are so enjoyable. I enjoyed a perfect, blissed out moment, and then, peering into that beautiful, organized, spotless fridge, I had the sinking realization: it will NEVER be like this again. So I took a picture.
I may have already looked at it . . . more than once.
Don’t worry, I’ll share: