This Mess is My Mess, but That Mess…

- by Michael!

One of the things I love about being married to Joanie is learning all the little ways that we are alike, yet oh, so very different.

And of these many facets of our life together, one particularly great example is how differently messy we are from one another.

I will not deny it: I am a messy person.

I emit wrinkle wrays, for one. (Misspelled what? Shut up.) It doesn’t matter how diligently I iron any article of clothing. It doesn’t matter if I have my clothes professionally dry-cleaned. Within ten minutes of donning any shirt, pair of pants, plastic headband, whatever, it will look like I slept in it. Perhaps at Woodstock. I’ve given up, ironing board – you and I are no longer pretending to be friends.

I also add greatly to Joanie’s stress level by leaving doors open all the time. Especially cabinet doors. Especially the very sharp and somewhat aggressive cabinet drawers to the chest in our bedroom, the ones that, when open, lie in wait for an unwary Joanie to try to navigate to the bathroom in the middle of the night and ambush her with their sharp, pointy teeth edges.

As far as household cleaning goes, I’m pretty good, in that I remember to perform the act of cleaning things on a semi-regular basis. In particular, I am usually the one washing the dishes, as it is very much a Zen-relaxed-type activity for me. But I am definitely a victim of the “boy-clean” mentality.

What is this mentality, you say?

Well, when Joanie asks me, “Honey, is the sink clean?” and I respond, “Yes, I cleaned the sink,” we are discussing two completely different things.

Joanie is inquiring as to the actual physical state of the sink, its level of cleanliness at this given point.

I, however, am referring to the fact that I performed a set of actions – sprayed some stuff, wiped it off, rinsed it away – that, when taken together, constitute “cleaning the sink.”

I’m not saying I’m right, mind you. Not at all. This attitude is silly.

I am aware of this.

But it is the way I think, just by nature, and based on life experience I’m pretty sure it’s the way most guys I know approach housework. “I cleaned the bathroom” does not mean “The bathroom is clean.” It means that I followed a list of activities known as “cleaning the bathroom,” and if there’s still mold in the shower tiles, well, it must not have received the memo.

But my work here is done, for I have Cleaned The Bathroom.

Please believe me that I have worked to fix this. I try. I do. And sometimes, out of the blue, I actually succeed. It’s not often, but it’s worth it.

When Joanie cleans things, they are spotless. I mean, eat-off-the-tub spotless. She does not play around with cleaning.

However, she is not without her own particular brand of messiness – namely, clutter.

Have you ever noticed how wire hangers seem to multiply asexually? You have one in your closet, then all of a sudden there are two dozen, and you have no clue how they got there?

Joanie’s shoes do that.

I’ll come home on a Monday and there is an adorably tiny pair of flip-flops by the front door, and I think to myself, “Awww,” then forget about them. And by Thursday, there are three pairs of flip-flops, one tennis shoe, and a pair of heels adorning the entry of our home.

This happens with other things, as well, such as pajamas on the bathroom floor and paperwork on our “vertical filing cabinet” (occasionally known as a “dinner table”), as well as the ever-proliferating sticky notes on our desk. Three of which are, right now, stuck to my forearms.

But the shoes are the most noticeable. And the funniest, since the Shoe Reproduction Cycle happens on such a regular basis. I will note that Joanie comes by this honestly – I have it on good authority that individual socks have a similar habit of random reproduction in the Brittingham household, often appearing, for instance, on top of the television. Or the dog.

I’ll also note that I am definitely not a “clutter-less” individual. In addition to perpetually having at least three drinking glasses in various states of usage scattered throughout our home, I also have a habit of leaving piles of unopened mail (usually window envelopes from Delaware) growing at strategic locations in our living room. These “Michaelpiles” proliferate almost as quickly as Joanie’s shoes.


There’s no doubt whatsoever that I’m the messier of the two of us. By a fair margin. But it does help to know that I’m not alone in generating clutter, and it’s always funny to see the different ways that we do so.

In the meantime… yes, honey, I cleaned the sink.