One day, when I still lived with the hippy lady, she popped her head around the door to tell me something. I forget what it was; it could have been something mundane such as a reminder to get my washing in, or maybe it was some passive-aggressive remark such as how helpful it would be if I didn’t keep leaving my washing on the line for too long – it doesn’t really matter – when she looked at the mess in my room and told me that the messiness of my dwelling was indicative of the messiness of my mental state.
This is actually true, I’ve found. When my head is a mess, I’m really untidy. Not necessarily in a ‘leaving disgusting trash everywhere’ kind of untidy, but I stop keeping track of where things are meant to be kept. So instead of tidying books and papers away, I just pile them on my desk. And then pile things on them. And then more things. I lose important papers. Make-up just lives on the counter-tops, not in the correct sections for lipsticks, eyeshadows, etc. Everything is just everywhere. And this makes me lose track of days and dates. I miss appointments. I forget what I’m supposed to be doing at any given time. It all just gets lost in my head.
The only other non-illness related (as in, not related to my weight or whether I’m harming myself in some way) sign that things could be going a bit wrong in my head is if I suddenly decide to cut my hair. A few times now I’ve got it into my head that I need my hair cut – and it needs to go right now, dammit – and I’ve just hacked at it with a pair of scissors. It never ends up looking terrible (or at least, not embarrassingly so) but I end up regretting it immediately. I have the kind of hair that needs to be long, because gravity alone won’t keep it tamed so there needs to be enough of it to keep itself weighed down. I always tell myself that I’ll straighten it every day and it looks cute in ponytails when it’s short – and it does look cute, which is good, because I can barely bother to brush my hair every day, let alone straighten it, so it ends up in ponytails until it’s long enough to behave itself again.
Anyway. I’m sure the hippy lady was just trying to help, in her passive-aggressive ‘I’ve never dealt with a creature from a council estate before’ kind of way, but what she probably wouldn’t have realised is that the act of tidying up alone is not enough to actually fix the mental state. If that were the case, I could just hire a cleaner and then I’d be more sane. But having someone else tidy for me is actually more likely to make me panic – I can’t find things when it’s a mess, but it’s still weirdly comforting. It’s still there. I know vaguely where it is. It’s just temporarily hidden. If someone tidies up, I don’t know where anything is. It’s been sorted and designated a new home without my knowing and I can’t cope with that.
Besides, there are two types of people – those who tidy up so the cleaner doesn’t turn up to a total mess, and those who let the cleaner clean. Being the product of old people who kept their home as spotless as though the Queen was going to drop by any moment, I am one of the former. I suppose I could arrange for a cleaner to come round and then cancel at the last minute, once I’d done my panic tidy, but it would be much easier to just not hire and ultimately inconvenience a cleaner.
What I have to do, is purge. Not in the puking sense, but in the ‘bin it all and start over’ sense. Tidying up alone will not help my head. The only thing that works for my head is making all the noise go away, so that I can gradually reintroduce one thing at a time. And it’s the same with my stuff. I need to throw everything out and then replace the items, one by one.
But you can see that’s not really sensible, right? Not only do I not have the money to re-purchase every single item I own, but that’s also incredibly wasteful. There have been times when I’ve done this, but it’s usually been due to me moving somewhere and either having to leave lots of stuff behind, or having to keep things in storage and bring things home little by little. The other reason that this isn’t feasible is because I live with other people, and other people get really pissed off when you chuck their stuff out for no good reason. Even five-year-olds. Especially five-year-olds.
The other way I’ve managed to do this is when I’m in a kind of self-imposed exile, but I think that’s only happened when my mind has hit total overload and it goes quiet. Then the peace in my head gives me both the urge and the impetus to tidy. This may have something going for it, but if I knew a sensible way to quiet my mind in the first place then I wouldn’t have the dilemma.
Because that’s the problem right now. And it has been for a while. It’s been building up for years, but over the last year or so it’s gotten even worse.
I seem to have accumulated a lot of stuff, and when I’m a mess I tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. It happens gradually, until there’s so much mess everywhere that I don’t even realise that there’s a mess. As without, so within: my head gets so noisy, I don’t even realise I can’t hear myself think. And then I start to lose track of everything. Days, weeks and months go by and I barely register the change in temperature. Until one day, I think hang on; it wasn’t always this way.
I’ve been trying to sort things out but it hasn’t really been going very well. I’ll stop one thing to concentrate on another, but then I’ll get distracted by twenty little things that I hadn’t accounted for and hadn’t noticed until it was too late. I’ll stop blogging to concentrate on studying, but then let twitter distract me. I’ll give up twitter and blogging, but then I’ll get distracted by trying to read every single article on the internet ever. And so on, and so on, forever and ever.
So that’s the first of my new year’s resolutions. Not necessarily to tidy up, but to simplify things in order for things to become manageable. If I do it right, I shouldn’t have to cut out all of the things I enjoy doing, because if I do it right then everything will have a correct place and I’ll be doing it at the correct time.
I just need to figure out a point at which to start that doesn’t involve me throwing out everything – especially the stuff that isn’t mine to throw away in the first place.
Sometimes finding a place to start feels just as overwhelming as the entire process itself. I keep telling myself I’ll figure it out tomorrow, but tomorrow never becomes today.