Neat Street versus Junkyard Boulevard

I’m cleaning house today because two and a half weeks have passed since the last time (I’ve been working outdoors), and I couldn’t stand it any longer. Life would be easier if I were adaptable to dirt and disorder. Before I could move my ailing father to Oregon in 1992, I had to dispose of his stuff, and this meant staying in his house, which was so cluttered with old newspapers, magazines, junk mail, things he had brought home from the dump, and, seemingly, everything he had ever purchased, that I had to sidestep through rooms. The house and everything in it smelled of mildew, and the toilet looked like it had been stolen from a rundown gas station. His cleaning efforts were limited to the dishes, and they were slippery with grease. The only good thing I can say about his housekeeping is that he didn't have any pets to add their own stench of neglect. Otherwise, I would have slept in the yard for the three weeks that it took me to dispose of his stuff at a rate of one truckload a day to the dump, one to the junkyard, and one to get rid of at an estate sale.

His level of filth peaked after my mother died, but both they and my sister always leaned in that direction, and I always leaned in the opposite. Keeping things clean and orderly doesn’t make me happy, but if I were forced to live otherwise, I would have to create my own little oasis in the midst of it, however small that oasis might be. I have done this my whole life long to some extent. In this house, my oasis is my bedroom because it is the only room over which I have complete control. My need for household simplicity is such that when Peggy went away last week, I immediately tidied up the bathroom by putting her shampoo, conditioner, and razor in a cabinet so I wouldn't have to look at more clutter than necessary.

I only know one person who is almost my equal in cleanliness and order, and it’s not Peggy, although, if she had to do her own housework, she would do better than most. Like a lot of people, Peggy likes things to look good on the surface, but takes no interest in cleaning out her drawers, file cabinets, and closets. I take this to suggest hypocrisy, although she finds that conjecture too boring to consider (Peggy has zero interest in discussing or even thinking about morality, ethics, religion, atheism, government, politics, or philosophy.)

I am unlike Peggy to the extent that there is no part of my property that escapes my scrutiny, including the attic, the crawlspace, and even Peggy’s drawers and closets once they approach the point of popping like boils and inundating the house with putrescence. I used to think that THIS time when I cleaned and organized her things, she would finally see how much better life would be if she too lived like this, but I finally realized that I would die before that day arrived. I’m no longer sure if any of us ever change in a fundamental way, but if we do, I would suspect that it’s in response to some new condition in our lives that, if removed, would eliminate the change.