There are a couple reasons for this. First, 90% of the world I live in is my own mind. My own thoughts are my most constant companions and being jarred out of them throws me for a loop. At its worst, physical things like eating, sleeping and exercising become little more than unwelcome distractions. So when I'm done using something, I don't often think to put it away in a specific place, but just set it down wherever I happen to be and come back to it the next time I need it, if I remember where it is.
The other main reason is that I'm a hoarder with a debilitating environmental consciousness. Throwing away wrappers or chip bags or other obvious "garbage" items isn't too difficult. If it's recyclable than I recycle it. But if it looks to me like it should be recyclable, but isn't, then I can't bear to throw it away. And if food goes bad, I can't bear to throw it away, because throwing food away just tears my heart in two. I also hold on to most of the papers I get from school or anywhere else, because they might come in handy someday and might have some nostalgia attached. It's kind of ridiculous how nostalgic I am for being just under 22 years old.
I had spent hours attempting to clean my room, and afterward it looked worse than before. What I did was go through picking things up and thinking, "Can I throw this away? Do I have a place to put this?" If the answer to both questions was "no", then I put it back and moved on. I did throw some stuff away but it didn't make a noticeable improvement.
Fortunately, salvation was on its way.
I wanted to hang out with my good friend Cece. Strangely, my good friend Cece wanted to hang out with me. I thought I would just go to her place again. Strangely, she wanted to come to mine. I panicked a little because I don't really have anything to keep guests entertained. The TV doesn't even belong to me. But I figured, whatever, if she gets bored we can just go somewhere else. "But you can't come in my room," I said, "because it looks like a garage sale exploded in it."
"Okay," she said.
So as soon as she got here, what did she want to do? She wanted to look at my room. And she wouldn't be satisfied until she did. So I showed her, expecting her to run away screaming and no longer have any respect for me. She didn't. She just got real quiet and stared and said, "Wow."
"Yep," I said. "Well, you've seen it. Let's go."
"Christopher, we need to clean this," she said. "I'll help you clean this. I think that when it's all clean, you'll feel a lot better and you won't be as stressed all the time."
That actually made a lot of sense, and sounded wonderful, but I panicked a little because I wasn't entirely comfortable with her touching my stuff. After she failed to find any trash bags in the house, I convinced her to hold off until next week. Instead we got permission to use the TV and attempted to watch "The African Queen", which I had gotten from the library, but the disc had this weird problem I'd never seen before where it skipped like five scenes at a time, so we watched "A Goofy Movie" instead.
"That was beautiful," I said when it was over.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because it was just touching how he and his dad reconciled, and how he learned that it's okay to be kind of 'goofy', and she loved him just the way he was and he didn't have to change for her."
"Yeah," she agreed.
If only real life was like that, I thought. Cartoons are so silly.
So, the next time we hung out I wanted to watch the other movie I got from the library, "Romancing the Stone", which from the release year and cover art was clearly an Indiana Jones ripoff but could still be decent. She was only interested in cleaning my room, though. So interested that she showed up ten minutes early before I was emotionally prepared for it, knocking to announce her presence and then entering the house before I could get to the door. I was in the middle of listening to Sheryl Crow.
There were still no garbage bags, but this time there was no dissuading her, so we took a detour to the store and got some. She did find something useful under the sink. "I'm using Landon's gloves," she said, showing me the purple rubber gloves that said "Landon's Gloves" on them.
Ah, yes. Landon the leper. He wore those to keep his hands from falling off. It didn't work. I'm sure all his germs are gone from them by now.
Just kidding. I have no idea who Landon was. Anyway, we started cleaning. I was in charge of the music. We finished listening to Sheryl Crow, then did some Eurythmics ("Here Comes the Rain Again" was very appropriate to our current weather), "Weird Al" Yankovic ("This is a weird song," she said. "That's why they call him Weird Al", I explained), David Arkenstone, and Ace of Base, which she enjoyed a lot so I left it on. Next time, I think, will be non-stop Roxette, one of my other favorite Swedish groups.
It was clear from the start who was in charge of this operation. She worked on some stuff while delegating the rest to me, but I was distracted by keeping an eye on her part. "Don't throw away any puzzle pieces! Hey, I still want that! Hey, that's recyclable!"
She made a few things clear at the beginning. The world wasn't going to stop turning if something recyclable got put in with the trash, and she was going to throw away a lot of papers that I thought I needed but actually didn't.
"Don't be mad at me," she said. "I know it's hard, but I'm helping you."
I realized she was right, so I decided to grin and bear it. She did agree to put the papers in a box and make me go through them to find which ones were important, but now I had lowered my standard of importance to match hers because I knew she was right. But I just hope she never decides to use her influence for evil. If she ever tries to make me try meth, I'm not sure I could say no.
Anyway, after a couple hours it was looking a lot better. She stood up and stretched. "Christopher," she said, "I never want to do this again."
I was stunned. "But - I didn't ask you do to it. You volunteered."
"I know," she said, "and I'm happy to help you, but I just don't want to do it again."
"Fair enough," I said.
I didn't sleep better that night. I actually slept worse because I was stressed about the possibility of having lost something important, like my flash drive or the Amazon gift cards from my grandmother or one of the two notes from the only female who knew me outside of the Internet and admitted to having an interest in me. But I think that was just a transitional phase. As soon as I get the trash bags out of the dumpster and go through them to double check for anything important - still holding to her standard of importance - I'll be fine.
This experience made me think about what God does to us, if we let Him. All of our lives are a bit cluttered and messed up, aren't they? We have things in them that shouldn't be there, things that we can hardly bear to let go of even though it would be for our own good. And God wants to take those things. But we have to let Him. He isn't quite as pushy about it as my friend, but He will not alter the plan or make exceptions for our comfort no matter how we plead, because He knows best.
Being a slob is only one of my flaws. There are others, worse ones, that I hold onto as a matter of personal pride. I need to let them go. We all do. If only it was as easy as parting with literal, physical junk.
And in fact, maybe this is one of those flaws. Whether or not it's true that cleanliness is next to godliness, maybe God knew I couldn't fix this on my own and so He sent someone to help me. "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom." - President Spencer W. Kimball
Well, I feel bad making the spiritual takeaway so much shorter than the story leading into it, but that's really all I have to say about that and dragging it on would just kill the moment. (Insert your own quip about me having done that several paragraphs ago here.)
Have a blessed day.