12/20/10

On Cleanliness


The house that I grew up in was clean. Clean as I imagine the house of Louisa May Alcott was clean. No half-drunk coffee mugs lying atop half-read books. No smudges of jam that would remain on cupboard doors and congeal into plastic pink. No Twizzler wrappers or lego pieces swept under the rug or couch.

And this, I think, is part of my problem today. I am torn between the mismatched world of Holly Golightly (sans promiscuity) and the home of my youth. In the book that I am currently reading, "Truth and Beauty", Ann Patchett remarks, "If I imagine the artists in Paris, I do not see them dusting. I believe they were probably too engaged in the creative process to wrestle with such lowly concepts as coat hangers." The visual is rather appealing: spending the mornings wrapped in thick white blankets, tea-stained and uncaring, furiously composing at a typewriter, ignorant of the piles of dirty laundry and stacks of dirty dishes encroaching. Oh, to be so engrossed in the creative process that the cares of cleanliness were overlooked!

I have friends who can live this way. I, while blessed with intense focus, was not blessed with the ability to overlook disarray. Cry me a river, right?

And yet, I'm beginning to understand that a well-ordered kitchen as a representation of a well-ordered mind may not be as wonderful as a cluttered kitchen in a creative, crunchy granola, Caenesque sort of lifestyle. But that's the Audrey Hepburn circa 1961 in me.

One day, I will live in two homes: one of order and the other of chaos. In the first, I will keep my books, collections and baking supplies - labelled and in alphabetical order. In the second, I will keep old quilts, notebooks filled with introductions to novels and poetry, and a closet of well-loved clothes that I'll never wear again but can't bear to give away.

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