Just One Thing (in consideration of laziness)

Many moons ago, well shy of my adolescence, I became inflicted with a malicious virus — called laziness. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m pretty sure it was born of rebellion. My mother was a great home maker and lived by that smug mantra ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. For her, cleaning was an obsession, but one that she seemed to thrive on. You know the type of person, who says things like ‘once I start cleaning, I just can’t stop!’ What the hell are those folk talking about? I myself, on the few occasions that I do start cleaning, can’t wait to stop.
So because Mamma looked after me so well, I reached my adulthood with very few cleaning skills, not much in the way of organisational ability and absolutely no desire to adopt her way of life. Instead I developed ways of living that I claimed as bohemian but, in hindsight, were really just feral.

For instance, I proudly cultivated a special mountain by the side of my bed, where clothes could go to rest; clothes which were in limbo, awaiting washing by an owner who was never quite ready to commit to the task. Clearly the clothes couldn’t be put back in the cupboard, they’d been worn, but nor were they ready to hit the suds and miss the opportunity to be worn a second time in the impending days. It was quite the dilemma but I was convinced that dealing with clothing takes time and careful consideration.

And why dry the washing up, I figured, when if you were prepared to wait a while, it was quite capable of doing the job itself. In fact, why wash up at all until you ran out of crockery? I once lived in a group house where the pile of washing up got so high that it had to be transferred to a bath tub and then taken in shifts back to the kitchen for treatment. I think on that occasion I was assigned to one of the afternoon shifts: cups and mugs (and a couple of cockroaches). Not a pleasant day.

My favourite collection was no longer my extensive array of owl figurines, but rather a fast- growing, coffee-scented cup tower. It was established on my desk, right alongside the computer, and was comprised of every vessel I had used in the preceding week to store my liquid beverages. It didn’t require much tending and except for a bit of preventative maintenance, such as mopping up the cold dregs that waited in the bottom of the cups with a dirty tissue, in case of a tower collapse and accompanying spillage, I mostly just admired it from afar.

My disease was manifest in other ways, too: leaving the lid off and the knife in the peanut butter jar, should anyone else be in need of a quick spread; leaving pegs on the clothesline instead of returning them to their cosy basket; opening a new bottle of tomato sauce even though the current one was not quite empty (and hence building up yet another collection); and so on and so forth.

But, alas and alack, somewhere along the journey from a pair of socks on the bathroom floor to a pantry whose bounty daily threatened to cascade onto the floor when single items were removed from the pile (having been shoved in together with no thought to order), I realised that something had to give. I had to make some changes before I drowned in detritus.

So I adopted a ‘just one thing’ approach. Each day I would do just one thing to better the situation. Because I’m not one of those people who can keep going once they start, I needed to break the task down into do-able portions. Yesterday I got my glasses fixed which had been missing a screw for the last nine months. The day before that I cleaned out my son’s wardrobe (where I found a size two polar fleece, even though he is now six years old). Tomorrow’s task is to clean around the base of the taps with an old toothbrush. Exciting times ahead.

Of course, part of the reason for the change is that I don’t want to be a poor role model for my children. If I let them live like little slobs now, they will surely grow into bigger slobs with big, slobbish habits. Plus, I don’t want to end up featured on that TV show Hoarding: Buried Alive.

I console myself with the thought that my kids, too, will most likely rebel and rather than following their mother’s lazy footsteps, may choose to etch out a more organised, clean-loving life. One can only hope.

About Sonia Bowditch

Writer on society and culture in Australia. And short stories.

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