The art of tidying – or not

As a child I shared my bedroom with my brother. The room was always horribly untidy, the floor scattered with torn apart toys. We argued endlessly about whose fault it was. Turns out it was probably mainly mine.

My mum never liked housework much. She was good at building and gardening and creating things, housework was just too mundane for her. My dad would often nag her to tidy up more, and I remember promising to myself at an early age that I would never be anyone’s housewife. The various boyfriends who have gradually expected me to do the majority of the housework have found themselves living in a dump.

I’m not as bad as some, I usually wash the dishes and sweep the floor and clean the bathroom, though a girlfriend did once find a severely mould encrusted cup next to my bed.

It occurred to me of late that in our culture we do look down on housework, and that perhaps this is a slightly foolish thing.

Cleaning and tidying, like gathering food, is a fundamental activity, something we’ve been doing since back before we were even human. Perhaps this is why it is seen as lesser, because it is required. Hunting food and creating artefacts, although useful, are not necessities. It is more exciting and potentially dangerous to hunt, it is more challenging and entrepreneurial to create, and perhaps this is why they are much more attractive to peers and potential sexual partners. I think however it is now perhaps time to remember the worth of the necessary tasks, for, like trees, without them at all we cease to be viable.

I recently got myself a book called the Japanese art of tidying by Marie Kondo. I thought “art is what I do, so perhaps if I can convince myself that tidying is a part of my artistic practice perhaps I can find it easier”. It is kind of working, though my love of the old threadbare cardi may prove my downfall with her “keep what sparks joy” motto. One of the first tasks she sets is to write why you want to tidy. Well that’s easy I thought, so I can find things more easily, then she says “ask yourself why you want to do that”, to be more organised, “and why that?”. Well eventually I get right back to my psychologist’s last remarks- I’m terrified that I’m loosing my memory due to my the brain malformation, and therefore my independence. The only way of preventing this is by carefully organising my belongings and my life, to be more in control – Well this was a bit heavy for a Sunday morning at breakfast.

So now I have very good reasons for tidying but that doesn’t take away the mundaneness of it. I need tidying to have something interesting to it, some magic.

My eyes focus on an old book of mine on Hoodoo. It is years ago I read it and I can’t remember much about it, but i do remember talking about it to a friend who is a Hoodoo practitioner. At the time I was in the middle of moving home. Quite a lot of unpleasant things had happened to me in that flat and I was worried about them haunting me in the new place. I wanted to leave them behind. My friend suggested that before leaving the flat for the last time I sweep the place. Sweep it well and as I do move backwards through the house towards the door, sweeping away from me as I go. I did this and found it gave me a great feeling of release, of moving on. The ghosts stopped haunting me. Now you can say that is psychological hockey pokery if you like, so what, it worked.

If housework can have power like that then it becomes much more interesting to me. Much more like an art work, and I can be an active manipulator within it. I am already becoming aware that a tidy organised room makes me happier and the tasks I carry out inside it more successful. It feels like the room is more content somehow. Certainly my cat is.

Of course I’m writing all this to avoid doing the tidying.

2 thoughts on “The art of tidying – or not”

  1. Eliminate belongings.

    I am thinking of emptying our living room as that is my studio/office/living room right now, despite the shed which is a warehouse of cases and gear aside a big desk. Zen demands succinctness. Eliminate without and you tidy within, which is the real goal. Get lots of plastic boxes and then cover them with nice drapes and throws. Live in minimalist splendour. Monks cell, completely controllable. Then manifest yourself without the restraint of identifying and recognising objects around you.

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