After months of wondering, now I can finally say: It turns out I’m a tidy person after all.
Probably, it seems strange that a middle-aged person wouldn’t know such a fact about themselves, so let me explain:
My late partner Trish was in many ways an exemplary person, more generous and loyal than anyone else I’ve ever known. But even those who loved her would not say that she numbered tidiness among her virtues. Although she kept herself and her clothes clean, she reacted early and strongly against her mother’s obsessive housekeeping. In her adult life, she was infamous for being able to create clutter around her within minutes of sitting down in a spot –even if she was in someone else’s home. It didn’t help, either, that she was always buying craft supplies against a possible future project.
I never cared much for the resulting clutter, although I didn’t object that much, either. I always kept tidy the areas of the townhouse that I frequented, like the computer workstation, as well as the kitchen and bathroom, but despite some vague threats, I never tried to tidy Trish’s storage areas. Anybody who has been in a long term relationship will understand why – there are some things that you just don’t do if want the relationship to stay happy.
Then, in the last couple of years as she became progressively weaker, even I had better things to do than tidy, like spending time with her.
But, one way or the other, I was so busy accommodating Trish’s preferences that I lost sight of my own. Although one of the first things I did in the months after her death, just to keep busy, was to tidy her things and give many of them to wherever they would do most good, I wasn’t sure how long the vistas of empty tables and the expanses of carpet that my efforts created would stay. Maybe, my efforts would be like weeding, and gradually I would slip into sloppier ways living by myself.
To my surprise, the tidiness has continued. It’s not that I’m obsessive about keeping the clutter down, or go to bed with discomfort gnawing at the back of my mind if something is out of place. It’s more that having worked so hard over so many weeks to make sure that every book had a place on the shelf and that drawers were free for random objects, I’d rather keep the townhouse in the same state. Besides, taking twenty seconds to put something away when I’ve finished with it is far less objectionable to me than tidying once a week or month in a massive effort that makes me feel that I’ve lost a day to drudgery.
Anyway, when you’re the only one in the house, you know that if you don’t do something, no one else will (not that Trish ever did much tidying, even when she was healthy). When the effort is up to you, you might as well act now than later.
So, apparently, I’m a tidy person after all. I might have guessed by the home directories on all my computers, which are so well organized that I almost never have to do an automated search for the files I need.
But like I said, what a strange thing to learn about myself at my age.