Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Message from the World's Slobs

(News-Herald, January 14) I’m here with a message from the messy people of the world to those of you who are Very Neat:
We are not the ones with the problem—you are.
Being neat wastes enormous amounts of time. Double amounts, really, because you are taking the time to put things away just so, and before you know it, you just have to get them back out again.
The entire Picking Up process wastes time and effort. The wise messy person consolidates work—in the course of a normal day, while traveling about the house for everyday business (eating, dressing, showering), we just pick up anything that’s not where it’s supposed to be and move it to an appropriate location. No extra trips, no extra effort, no time wasted.
You people with incredibly neat and tidy desks—who the heck has time to do that? If your desk is incredibly neat, I have to wonder what you didn’t get done today so that you could do maintenance on your paper clip collection.
Even more troubled are the secret slobs who keep a public pretense of perfect neatness. These people don’t waste time, exactly. Their desks are neat because there isn’t anything sitting out in plain sight that they actually use. The shiny stapler, perfect collection of clips, pristine pile of paper sitting on their desk—they haven’t touched any of it in three months. All the supplies they actually use are shoved in a big jumble in the desk drawers.
Neat freaks (yes, I called them freaks) like to think they are taking control of their environment when actually the reverse is true. Jumble your kitchen condiment collection into a disarrayed higgledy-piggledy (yes, I said higgledy-piggledy) and the slob will be able to walk right by it, still free to go about his business. But a neat freak will be at the mercy of that mess, unable to take care of anything else until the salt and pepper shakers are in proper harmony.
(To be clear, I am not arguing in favor of dirtiness. An entire collection of paperback novels stacked around the dining room table is messy. An entire collection of dishes, displaying a collection of food samples from the last month and covered with growing things that are quite possibly never seen outside of a science lab—that’s dirty, and we messy people of the world do not support it.)
Messiness preserves value. A neat person might jump to the conclusion that a plastic doohickey is not valuable just because he hasn’t had any use for it in the past seventeen years. Messy people understand that tomorrow could be the day that plastic doohickeys suddenly return to prominence in the world. A messy person is not surrounded by random junk, but by a possibly-valuable collection of potential-worthwhile stuff. We understand that someday you will be thanking us for holding onto that doohickey. Jake DeBence ran a messy museum, and Venangoland is now better for his legacy of valuable antiques at DeBence Music World.
Messiness is also more secure. Neat people believe in a place for everything and everything in its place. For the messmasters of the world, the rule is a pile for everything and everything in its pile. A messy person can find that valuable plastic doohickey just as easily as the neatnik can (if the neatnik hasn’t already thrown it away). The important difference is that in the home of a neat freak, anybody can find it.
A burglar can get in and out of a neat person’s house in less than five minutes, loaded down with valuables. A burglar who breaks into a messy person’s home will be found by police five hours later, trapped between the stack of National Geographics and the collection of boxes filled with cans filled with wrapping paper, still trying to decide if anything important is in there.
Mess protects important things. The urban planners who designed Washington DC laid it out as a deliberate, confusing mess, specifically so that invading armies would have a hard time capturing our leaders. Yes, messiness is part of what has made our country great.
Entropy, chaos, disorder—these are the strong natural forces of the physical world, which means that neat people are battling the very natural order of the universe, while we messy ones are in tune with the cosmos. Neatness is unnatural. Come on. Set down those big storage tub organizers and join us on the dark side.

3 comments:

Joanna said...

AAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!! You leave me and my big plastic storage tubs alone... :)

Bethann said...

Thank you. It's my mess and I know exactly where everything is. So there :P

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