It's a tension that has slowly built up over the year that Wine Guy and I have lived together. Every day we bring more of it into the house - mail, brochures, coupons, greeting cards, invitations, receipts. Basically, crap. And it never ends.
I'm no neat freak. In fact, I'm kind of messy. But I am big on knowing where things are and putting them in their properly dedicated place. This means I rarely spend ten minutes tearing the house apart looking for the receipt I need to return something. I generally know where my keys are and my bills get paid on time because they are placed right next to my computer so they can't be missed.
Because Wine Guy and I are new to both living together and the townhouse where we reside, the organizational routine that carried me through six years living alone is all screwed up. I attempted to get a handle on the clutter during the first few months of cohabitation, but I quickly realized that the disorganization I noticed at Wine Guy's previous apartment was no fluke, and that this struggle was just turning me into a nag.
I would just organize it all myself, except that I have no idea what stuff of his is important and what isn't. Trust me, I've tried in the past and gotten rebuked for throwing away some crumpled up piece of paper that was apparently necessary to him. Do you see my rock and hard place now?
So I gave up and tried to mind my own business and continue filing my own stuff away, while his piled up. But it's not like being organized is easy for me, and after awhile - especially once his piles started taking over - I think I just threw in the towel with the sentiment "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." And the piles continued to grow.
But every day when I came home and opened that front door, I could feel a little anxiety tickle the back of my throat. Too. Much. Shit. Everywhere. Where do I put the new shit I'm bringing in? Deep breathes, deep breaths.
This is not working for me.
Rather than tell Wine Guy that he "needs to clean up" his stuff, I thought I might try creatively shuffling it around in a way that would cause me less anxiety and still preserve the sanctity of his crap pile. So I hit Pier 1 during their big summer sale and found two baskets that looked promising - one for all the new Wii video game paraphernalia scattered about the living room, and another to help organize (and filter) the mail.
When I came home from knitting group Tuesday night, I brought in the baskets and just started putting things in them, nicely stacked. He didn't seem to mind since I wasn't really asking him to do anything. I started with the video game stuff, then hit the mountain of papers on the dining room and buffet tables.
Inevitably, I had to start asking him, "Do you need this?" and "Is this important?" But instead of getting annoyed with all the questions, he actually seemed kind of interested and soon came over and started sorting through the piles himself. Perhaps they were getting to him too.
The next two hours were quite unexpected. We became cleaning, sorting, organizing machines. And it was beautiful. No longer was it me tentatively butting in to whatever he was doing to see if I could throw something away. No longer was it him rolling his eyes at me when I tell him that his piles are causing me stress. No longer was it me smugly watching as he rips through the piles trying to find that car insurance bill he just realized he forgot to pay.
No, this was pure organizational teamwork. Now that we finally have a feel for the awkward layout of our place, we could finally make informed decisions about how to organize to suit how we live. Mail sorting happens here. Magazines go here. Fun tidbits go here. The vitamins, nail clippers and deodorant that he insists on keeping in the dining area are hidden here.
We were brainstorming, laughing, thinking, improving. This was especially satisfying for someone who craves organization like me. I mean, my favorite place to go as a kid was the local office supply store where I would browse the aisles looking at folders, notepads and post-its, thinking of ways I could improve my organizational system for the next school year. Yes, I was (and am) a dork.
I came up with a term to describe just how damn happy that evening made me. Yes, this was my very first "Organigasm."
Here's to many more (but I'm not holding my breath).