Why can’t disorder be beautiful?

The mess in my apartment never goes away. We get this room clean, and that room clean, and the other, but rarely all at the same time. Even when we push to get everything in order, there is always something neglected — usually my mess in the second bedroom where I keep all my art supplies, strewn about, which I always promise to myself to organize but never get around to doing.

I’ll organize this, and organize that, and it will help me keep my life together for a time — organizing my closet or my deskspace or the living room — but as soon as a stressful time comes, and they come with regularity, the organization goes out the window — I throw my clothes on the floor and never pick them up, food kept on my desk with nail polish and sewing thread and sticky notes — it’s always the concept of, do what is necessary now and put everything in place later, when you’ve returned to “normal” energy state and can handle it.

But life seems to move at a faster pace than my body can keep up with. Maybe could keep up if I had a normal amount of energy, then I’d have the space and drive to get that make-up work done regularly, if I still weren’t able to just maintain everything as I went along (that being the idealized perfect state to which we aspire, right?). Maybe if I had the energy that I have when I’m at my best — but all the time — things would be great. And when I’m at my best energy level, I feel like I could continue things like that, if only I did this and changed that and kept things this way. And I try those things as they come to me, I am constantly reorganizing my entire life, never stop fine-tuning, trying to make things more efficient. But it’s never enough, I just don’t have enough in me to keep up with it all.

So maybe we get the junk off the floor and vacuum and swiffer everything, and tidy up around the edges of things, but there’s still that mess within those edges, still always something just sitting in a jumbled pile that I’m supposed to get to later. No matter how well I am — and even with an able-bodied husband doing more than his share of the work — we never get it all.

I have trouble thinking when I can see clutter. What it is about it, I don’t know, surely some gender considerations there, my insecurity about my disability always looming, and my personal idiosyncracies. But when there is visual clutter, my brain locks up and it is so much harder to process very basic things. And if only it were as easy as getting up and taking care of the clutter, then the energy I would be using on thought processing goes to the physical labor of cleaning, and I’m back to blank square one anyway, and a day later the clutter is back again.

And that’s the cycle I find myself in.

One day, a couple months ago, I sat in this chair trying to comprehend what I was reading, with a mess on the floor in my peripheral vision, and I spun around and thought to myself, why can’t this be beautiful?

This mess, this disorder, everything that comes with a life well-lived? The clothing on the floor, the half-filled mug of tea, the unmade bed, the shoes in the entryway, papers scattered about? Why do I feel like it weighs me down? Why can’t it be like the wrinkles and mottled skin and greying hair acquired with age: a reminder of everything you’ve done to earn them, a window into the life you’ve lived to get them?

Why can’t it be an indicator of richness? Why can’t it be something positive?

That one moment, I felt it deep inside. And it hasn’t come back. I just can’t look around and not feel weighed down by everything being so disordered, feel it reflects poorly on me, look at it and see nothing more than “something I should be doing but can’t do.” Something that is my responsibility, but I haven’t the capability. That is what pulls at me when I look at my mess, my beautiful mess. All I can see is everything I can’t do, while simultaneously feeling, in the back of my head, that I can do it but choose not to and that I am just of poor character, lazy, unmotivated, irresponsible, inconsiderate, slothful and selfish…

Maybe my physical mess, then, is a manifestation of my mental mess.

I just want to know. Why can’t I be beautiful too? If this is all I can do? Why do I feel lesser than the middle class folks who have these lovely tidy homes, not perfect and still full of personality, but tidy? They get to be beautiful, they get to be responsible and considerate. Why can’t I be too, if this is all I can do?

What will it take for me to look at that mess again, and see something grand? Will I ever see it again?

8 thoughts on “Why can’t disorder be beautiful?

  1. I hope so.

    Because I can’t seem to focus enough on getting my place tidied nor do I often have the time. And I tend to, myself, be a bit of a mess of disorganization from my ADD. The fact that someone is able to get past this idea that everything has to be set up the way that the majority does it or it’s broken and wrong (even if just once) is something that gives me hope that I can too.
    .-= recursiveparadox´s last blog ..We Are Not Spared: The Shapes And Sizes Shame Game. =-.

  2. Wow. That’s . . . wow. I never thought about it like that.

    I’m a cluttery, messy person by nature. I “nest” in areas, my house and rooms are full of stuff — stuff I play with and use, but there’s lots of it. I too have trouble, though, functioning when it’s really cluttered and disordered and messy.

    I have a friend, dear friend, whose apartment is likewise crammed full of god knows whatall, every shelf and available surface piled high with STUFF. And his apartment, to me, is beautiful. Because I go in there and I see his leatherworking stuff everywhere and smell his pipe tobacco and see the stacks and stacks of books and research and on and on. It’s beautiful to me, because every inch of it is him. It’s lived-in. It’s real, not for show.

    Why the heck can’t I feel that way about my own stuff?

  3. You swiffer? Wow, that’s serious cleaning.

    I get tired too when my place is a mess. But I almost never have it clean (I mostly clean on laundry day), because my life is always in progress and I tend to leave things out where I can see them when I’m working on them. Plus I never finish one project before starting the next. (Starting the next is what helps me finish the first one.)

    I’ve always been comfortable with a little clutter, and never really thought about it until a super-neat coworker made a comment about my desk. (Annoyed me for a while.) But at the same time I did read a bunch of decluttering books at one point to keep my clutter healthy. I think that helps.
    .-= Anemone´s last blog ..SHAPE at WIFTV =-.

  4. I tend to accumulate things. That’s probably the best way to put it. At the moment, my desk is recovering from “home open” mode (which effectively means everything bar the computer and the printer is *gone*) so the clutter level isn’t as high as it normally gets, but I currently have three water bottles (two large, one small, two empty, one nearly so), my “pocket clutter” (keys, wallet, train ticket, mobile phone), a glass with some water in it, the computer paraphernalia (the cooling rack I have the laptop on, the USB hub and the tangle of cords, the power supply, the mouse, the keyboard, the monitor and the printer), some lip balm, a box of tissues, some correspondence, a book, a notebook, my sunglasses, the phone (landline), and some folded tissues I’m using as makeshift coasters, plus a partly consumed packet of throat lozenges. For me, that’s comparatively uncluttered, because I tend to bring things in and forget to take them back out, or I’ll wander into the office with my book of the moment, and put it down while I get distracted by something on the computer, or whatever. I’ll tend to have things accumulate in about three or four places around the house (my desk, my bedside table, beside my seat at the dinner table, or the coffee table near my seat on the couch) depending on what I’ve been doing recently.

    I find I’m more likely to complete things if I have the project out and visible, so “putting things away” for me is a good way of not finishing things. Plus I’ve realised I don’t feel comfortable without a certain amount of “my” stuff here and there, sort of as a territorial marking thing (which is why “home open” days tend to be extremely stressful for me – not just the cleaning, but the having to hide all evidence of occupation). My rule is if I can still find things, I’m tidy enough. When I can’t find stuff, it’s time to clean up.

  5. I have a physical disability and the mess drives me mad because it is a reflection that I cannot keep up. At best on a good day I can do a few things but never really clean the house like I would like. I wish that I could see it as something other than sickness; even as proof that I am still here alive and well. I think it is also rough because of the stigma that goes with mess. To many they see it as a sign of simple laziness and that is certainly not always the case. I don’t know what the happy medium is, I just wish there were one.
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..Don’t Let A Girl Beat You =-.

  6. Is disorder beautiful? I think, no, not for me. It’s not about the visual so much, it is about the physical.
    A certain amount of disorder is very acceptable, but not if it in any way impedes my life. If I need a particular skein of yarn to create a pattern, I need to be able to reach it without moving tons of stuff, or else the tons of stuff and the effort required to move it precludes something else I need to do.
    Does everything need to be neat and tidy? Hell no. But it does need to be accessible.
    I DO think that organization for a disabled person is a different animal entirely than organization for a healthy couple. It is not about having a ‘House Beautiful’ home. It is not about the perceptions of a neighbor who may drop in. It is about my life, my space, and my needs.
    I like to have a clean space upon which to rest my eyes.
    Beyond that, the primary overriding consideration is ease; ease of movement, accessibility to the items I need, and reducing as much as possible the number of movements required to accomplish a task.
    To me, beauty is a day where I can do everything I need to do, do a little of what I want to do, and have none of my energy wasted because of senseless clutter.
    Dustbunnies don’t get in my way, and don’t weigh much anyway :-}
    .-= Diana Troldahl´s last blog ..Wandering Through Cyberspace =-.

  7. “I have a physical disability and the mess drives me mad because it is a reflection that I cannot keep up. At best on a good day I can do a few things but never really clean the house like I would like. I wish that I could see it as something other than sickness; even as proof that I am still here alive and well. I think it is also rough because of the stigma that goes with mess. To many they see it as a sign of simple laziness and that is certainly not always the case. I don’t know what the happy medium is, I just wish there were one.”

    THIS. Times 100.

    I think part of it is that women are expected to do the housework, and when I flat-out CAN’T, I feel guilty. And when you have people over, the house is expected to be at least clean-ish, which, again, I might be able to do if I did absolutely nothing else that day, but I have a toddler to chase (who, of course, makes even more mess) and a husband I’d like to spend time with (who is quite a mess-maker himself, though he knows I won’t touch his messes). And I’m messy too; I like to have my stuff in easy reach, and when I’m too tired to take a plate back upstairs, the cats decide that’s a great opportunity to snack, and the leftover food ends up strewn in a three-foot radius.

    It’s just so overwhelming, especially when I have so little energy to begin with. Add in a flare or three, plus the onset of seasonal depression, and sometimes I have to talk myself into getting out of the chair to go to the bathroom.

    But at least now I don’t feel so alone.

  8. I went and took a nap today – all the mess from unwrapping the presents was on the living room floor and I hurt too much to trash it, but man, it needed to be trashed. I came down 2 hours later and it’s gone. *relax*

    I have no problem with hiding messes in closets, drawers, or under beds. And I’m not a “clean the floor” person – Mom’s constant refrain this week is “Am I the only one who can see anything?”

    But my sister was baffled today when I asked her to clean up a hunk of mashed potatoes that had fallen on the stove handle. Until Mom said yeah, clean it up. Mom’s requests are “normal,” mine are weird.

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