Saturday, January 9, 2016

One person's clutter is another person's treasure. (Yeah, right!)

When Tom and I first began living together in Chicago, we had to come to terms -- okay, take tiny baby steps toward coming to terms -- with our very different approaches to a number of things.

For example, what Tom considered keeping things conveniently available, I considered cluttering. We talked about this in terms of the purpose of horizontal surfaces. For Tom, a horizontal surface -- table, countertop -- is there for you to put things on in case you may need them later. For me, a horizontal surface is a pleasing, non-obtrusive visual element best appreciated when there is nothing atop it.

This early discussion is back now that we have moved into a new apartment.

Like many things, this difference of opinion results from -- besides Tom's wrong-headedness, of course -- different life experiences.

Before we began to share the apartment on Kimbark, Tom spent thirty years raising a family, many of those years with hordes of teenagers aimlessly roaming about and dropping things wherever. He came to consider this just the way things are. It is what it is, dude. It makes a house a home.

I, on the other hand, had spent those same thirty years in a monastery. Although one's own room(s) could be -- and many were -- a disaster area, the ideal for common areas -- living rooms, conference rooms, dining room, kitchen and all that stuff outside one's own bedroom and work area -- was supposed to be kept clean and orderly. One could mess it up all one wanted when using it. But when we left, we tried to leave it presentable for the next person to find. 

Were we compulsive about this? Well, some of us, not to name my own name, were. But my mother would tell you this was not the way I had always been. She was shocked the first time she visited me in the monastery when she saw how clean my room was. She reminded me that when I was a teenager and she told me to clean up my room because we were having company, my response was, "What business is it of theirs how I keep my room?"

So, the question of the day is:
Are horizontal surfaces made to hold things or are they there to be kept empty or at least orderly?
Talk among yourselves. There is only one right answer.

Sheldon Cooper neither inspired nor co-authored this post.

8 comments:

anne marie in philly said...

orderly

Susan said...

Great piece, Michael. I am definitely in the "horizontal spaces are to be kept orderly" camp. And living in what is considered even a large studio apartment, that ideal can seem daunting. I am constantly organizing so the coffee table does not become an open-air storage unit. The only fortunate part in this situation is, I live alone so there is no dispute as to the correct answer. :)

Anonymous said...

Can't horizontal surfaces hold things in an orderly way? I'm in Tom's camp.
Kato

Michael Dodd said...

Kato,
You will notice that the second option included "at least orderly."

Trust me, in Tom's camp, orderly is a soldier who carries out minor tasks for an officer.

Sunny said...

A wise man once said.......

"......what Tom considered keeping things conveniently available, I considered cluttering. We talked about this in terms of the purpose of horizontal surfaces. For Tom, a horizontal surface -- table, countertop -- is there for you to put things on in case you may need them later. For me, a horizontal surface is a pleasing, non-obtrusive visual element best appreciated when there is nothing (or very little) atop it.

This early discussion is back now that we have moved into a new apartment.

Like many things, this difference of opinion results from -- besides Tom's wrong-headedness, of course -- different life experiences."

Replace "Paul" for "Tom"- put me(Sunny/Lavada) in place of me(Michael) and EXACTLY!!!

My nightmare pet-peeve is the spaghetti junction of cords and cables in my line of sight behind the glass shelf TV stand. My million dollar idea- some sort of curtain/screen to go across the back of those things so us OCD people aren't distracted by all that mess.

Mitchell is Moving said...

I don't know if Tom's style really has anything to do with having kids. That may just be a convenient excuse. Jerry insists there are horizontalists and verticalists in the world. He says he's a horizontalist. I say he's a slob. But I have learned to live with it. My surfaces are usually clean and clear. But, my entire life I have had a drawer or closet that's a disaster area -- and that probably says a lot about MY personality.

Michael Dodd said...

Mitchell,
That story about my comment to my mother is incomplete. I did go to straighten (ha!) up the room, and when she came to check it later, everything was neat. Until she looked under the bed, where I had shoved everything.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind a bit of "work in progress" on my surfaces. However I do find it hard being happy when that stuff becomes too messy or chaotic.
Kato