Listen carefully. Can you hear the sound of fighting across our wide brown land? These are not disputes about politics or religion. Nor are they about asylum seekers or immigration or whether the burqa should be banned.
The arguments you can hear are about leaving teabags in the sink. And dropping wet towels on the bed. About a new bottle of milk being opened before the last one is finished. And leaving lights on when you leave a room. Not replacing toilet rolls when they run out. And the right way to stack the dishwasher and squeeze a toothpaste tube. They’re about putting whites in with colours. And leaving doors open and toilet seats up. About not wiping up toast crumbs AND LEAVING THE CEREAL BOX OPEN SO THE SULTANA BRAN GOES STALE, DAMN YOU.
These are the big issues of domestic life and they’re tearing happy households apart. It doesn’t matter whether you live with your spouse, friend, defacto, children, parents or flatmate, there are always petty home dramas that niggle. Chief among them are issues of tidiness because it’s statistically impossible for everyone in a house to share the same mess threshold.
There’s something about living with other people that calibrates your tidiness against each other and assigns one person the role of Clean Freak (aka The Nag) and someone else the role of Messy Pig (aka The Nagged).
Notice how both terms are pejorative? This is because each party sees the other as abnormal, tiresome and a big fat punish.
It’s a widely held misconception that clean freaks are female. Wrong. I live with a Domestic God and I don’t say that to brag. It’s hell. My husband may not be able to bake but he is a very tidy guy. Organised too. I am neither tidy nor organised domestically and this causes many problems. For him. But for me too. May I please speak up on behalf of messy people and state it’s not fun to be constantly told how to be less messy.
I am often baffled by this turn of events because honestly, I used to be the tidy one. In past lives with past boyfriends and flatmates, I have done plenty of bitching about wet towels and carelessly strewn teabags. Plenty. Similarly, my husband has been the messy one in his past.
So how did we get here?
My theory is that it starts with a slight discrepancy in your mess threshold and before you can say ‘coffee-grounds-in-the-sink’ you find yourself in opposing corners. The more you’re told not to be messy, the messier you become. Which forces them to be cleaner. Which makes you feel there’s no point in lifting your game because they have it covered.