A Cozy Little Mess

by Amanda M. Gordon

As I look around my living space, there are a good deal of things that catch my eye. A stack of mismatched books, old term papers and junk mail that wait on the floor for me to decide if they are to keep or recycle and randomly discarded articles of clothing that are draped across everything but the rack they belong on. My place is a mess, and I’m okay with that. 

There was a point in time when that wasn’t the case. Growing up, I was as organized as they came. My CDs and DVDs alphabetized, my wardrobe was filed from casual to Sunday best and the only thing that would touch the floor were the feet of the people and furniture in the place. I made my bed each morning, too, if you can believe it and that’s one habit I am trying to take back – but I’m fine living in a bit of chaos.

I write this knowing that I may come off as some sort of trash goblin, and while I hold no quarrel with tossing my towel on the floor of my bedroom, I know that I should know better. That I’ll be able to find the earrings I want if I would just put them back in the tray I bought for them rather than have my most favorite pieces of jewelry pile up on the bedside nightstand. That my dining table is meant for me to have meals there and not to hold up my mail, bags and books. 

I’ll have my moments where I make the time to remove the clutter and restore order. Remove the jackets from the chairs I’ve perched them on, place the books back onto the shelves and ensure everything is in its rightful place. I’m not living in filth. I vacuum, wipe down the counters and I won’t dare to let the dishes pile up– having worked in the food industry, I know that’s a surefire way to attract ants. I just don’t mind having my messy piles. I’m living on my own, so unless if I’m having company I leave the mess be.

I know I’m not alone on having clutter. Over the years I have stepped into the offices of professors and have met their bookshelves that spill papers and books nearly to the doorway, who have boxes piled to the ceiling with more information than I could ever hope to hold in my head. They held no shame as they’ve invited me to sit in the guest chair, the only furniture that isn’t covered with something, or it was but has been removed for me– and I can say that it has always been the professors whose office is in complete disarray that I’ve admired most, mess and all. 

Studies and articles on the correlation between messiness and intelligence are produced fairly regularly. While I could brag about my creativity, or that my GPA is in great health, this isn’t why I’m okay with the pile of unworn clothes at the foot of my bed. For me, I believe my packrat ways were born out of rebellion. I was raised within an overbearing environment, where if so much as a sock was left on the floor you would get an earful, but that was just the start. 

In the military, every inch had to be flawless. From the hair on your head to the stitches on your uniform, if something even looked out of place you would have to hear about it. Room inspections would come up randomly, but in basic training there wasn’t a point in time where one could be out of place. Bed sheets had to have crisp 45 degree hospital corners, chrome had to be spotless and even your toothbrush had to face a certain direction in your wall locker. The penalty for not keeping up to Uncle Sam’s standards of organization was usually paid with pushups or other means of physical exertion, but you definitely didn’t want to be known as the messy kid.

The strictness of appearances were obviously in place for learning measures. If you can’t keep your wall locker up to code, how could the government trust you in caring for a multi million dollar aircraft? I kept that mentality up for a year or so, but needing to have everything perfect all the time is exhausting and being that I have the luxury to leave things be, I’m not going to worry about that pile of papers just yet. 


A version of this originally appeared in “Comfort” The Teller November 2019 Issue #8

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