I’m not one of those people who was born to be clean and organized. Instead, like a true Gemini, I have a neat freak as well as a happy-go-lucky messy person inside me, just waiting to gnaw her way out the minute I lose my self-control.
Now, let me tell you about my Aunt Kay. She’s married to a guy who sells guns and helicopters to the government, and she lives in an incredible, sprawling mansion that used to belong to a former president. It needs to be a showplace for all those important clients that he likes to bring home, and it is. Everything she owns is pristinely white -- the sofas, grand piano, even her fluffy little dog, who practically blends into the carpet when he closes his eyes. My Aunt Kay is so obsessively neat that she can’t just sit on the sofa and rest, she has pick up the lint all around her.
I see her house as oppressive, like a beautiful, gilded cage. But there’s a lesson in that white carpet. Whenever I visit her, I take my shoes off outside the front door, and it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or if I’m wearing my most expensive leather boots or sandals. I can’t bear to be the one to put a stain on that snowy white expanse. It is in this way that my aunt, without saying a word, strong-arms me, and everybody else who visits her, into keeping her house clean for her.
That carpet has inspired me. If I’m smart, I can be a little lazy but still keep my place neat. Since I know that the biggest threats to cleanliness and organization are other people -- family members and visiting friends -- I can choose to recruit them as my allies instead of enemies in my war against mess and grime.
It’s really very simple. If there’s no clutter on a table, maybe your friends and family won’t add to it. If you line up your shoes neatly on the floor, a guest will do the same. And if you have a clean, dry sink and a towel next to it, the person using it will be more likely to wipe up after himself. The same way that mess will always attract a mess, cleanliness has a way of protecting itself.
One of my weapons are coasters to protect my solid wood tables from cup marks. I like the ones made of tile for heft and durability, and shaped like squares so that I can create patterns on a table. They also double as trivets if I want to eat in front of the TV. An intriguing design helps, too. When a visitor stops, drink in hand, to examine them, I’ll say in the gentlest way possible, “Those are coasters by the way.” It prompts him to use them, even if he has never come across such things before.
Here’s another tip. Since my husband likes to leave his socks everywhere, I’ve resorted to placing a laundry basket in every room he likes to be in. It’s better than nagging and making him miserable, and it’s better than trying to train him to walk 10 feet to the nearest laundry basket. If we have guests, I can easily grab the basket to hide it and if I happen to forget, it’s better than having little sock puddles that I have to hunt down and capture with my bare hands at the last minute. This is a trick that could also work for kids’ and baby toys.
Another thing I’d hate is for friends and strangers to ransack my bathroom cabinets and hidden storage to find something they need. To combat this, I try to keep high-demand items in a visible place. For example, one set of nail clippers is always near my husband’s computer, and I try to keep extra rolls of TP under the toilet paper holder at all times. And even though I don’t use sanitary pads anymore (I’m a Diva Cup user), I keep extras in a clear box, putting them in the most obvious place possible so that my girlfriends don’t have to sidestep all the guys, then come up to me in the middle of a dinner party and whisper, “Do you have any tampons?"
Finally, I’d like to mention the one thing that I keep out at all times, even though it’s really ugly. It’s an old ladder, stained with paint that I’ve vainly tried to clean off a couple of times. But since I have high ceilings, it’s dead useful. If I keep it in hidden storage, I know that people -- I have a camera crew visiting every week -- are going to ransack all my closets until they find it, then carry it around, banging it against the walls and scarring my paint job along the way. So, I’ve resigned myself to keeping it propped up against the wall near my bathroom and master bedroom at all times, where it would be available, useful and cause the least damage.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. Do you have any tips and tricks for protecting your home from messy family members and household guests? Or perhaps a “dirty ladder” of your own? If so, tell me all about it in the comments.