We’ve had to make some behavioral changes since we moved into this small apartment. For one thing, there is no room for clutter here. There is no dishwasher, either, so I set the rule down before we even moved in: If you use it, you wash it.
So far, so good – with the dishwashing rule. We’re still working on clutter control. I walk around holding things up asking: Whose shirt is this? Who left this fork on the counter? What is this glass doing here? Is this towel clean or dirty? Who left their shoes in the way where someone can trip over them?
The other afternoon, I removed my husband’s glass from the table, washed it, dried it and placed it back in the cabinet. When he came out of the bathroom asking me where his drink was, I told him he had finished it already.
“There was a little bit left,” he said. “I was coming back to finish it.”
“I thought you were done,” I told him. “Besides, there was only a swallow left, and it was annoying me having that little bit sitting there on the table.”
I read that living in small spaces can give rise to increased claustrophobia and aggressive behavior. I can personally attest to that from my newly developed neurotic obsession with tidiness – which is coming close to bordering on aggressive behavior.
I flipped out the other day when my husband opened a new jar of jelly because he didn’t see that we already had one opened in the refrigerator. The way I carried on, you would think that he had committed a mortal sin.
“There’s no room in this tiny refrigerator for two jars of jelly!” I shouted. “Now what are we going to do with two opened jars of jelly?” When I saw that there was room to stack one jar on top of the other, I calmed down – slightly.
My son imitated me the other day when he picked up the pen and my unfinished crossword puzzle off the kitchen table and shouted in a high-pitched falsetto, “What’s this?! Who left this pen here? Whose paper is this on the table?”
“Do I really sound that bad?” I asked him.
“Worse,” he said.
I don’t know what’s come over me. The other night, after dinner, I pulled out the vacuum cleaner and started vacuuming the apartment. Then I opened the door and continued vacuuming into the hallway – all the way up to my neighbor’s door – and as far down the stairway as the cord would reach.
I’m sure there’s some psychological explanation for my unusual behavior. I, who normally hate any kind of cleaning, found myself looking at the kitchen cabinets this morning, gleefully musing: The first chance I get, I’m going to give those cabinets a real good cleaning!
Maybe, by keeping the apartment free of dirt and clutter, I’m fooling myself into thinking I have control over the chaos in other areas of my life now. Who knows? If I get tense enough dealing with contractors, house lifters, and New York Rising case managers, I might walk across the hall one day and start cleaning my neighbor’s apartment.