I adore my husband, but there’s one thing that’s clear. He is so NOT a Penelope. (Or “Benelope” as Meredith’s husband so cleverly monikered the male members of our tribe.) He’s got a ton of other great qualities—he’s funny, he’s athletic, he’s a hard worker and the best dad—but like a lot of guys, being supremely organized just isn’t one of his strengths.
Do you know what he said to me just the other night? I was exhausted after a full morning of caring for the baby followed by 8+ hours of work. I had just emerged from my work cave (my office is in the furthest downstairs corner of our home) and plopped myself down on the couch. The baby was already asleep and I was ready to finally have some much-needed down time before bed…when I look over to my left and see a huge pile of toys strewn across the living room carpet. Sigh. Not what a Penelope likes to see after a long, tiresome day.
So I quip, “Guess I’m cleaning that up in the morning!” to which he replies, “Yeah…I feel like it’s pointless to clean. I put the toys away and the baby just whips them back out. I’m not going to chase him around cleaning all day.”
My Penelope ears were not surprised. He then goes on to say, “You shouldn’t clean up, either!”
Wait. Whaaaaa? What do you MEAN I should stop cleaning house? If I don’t do it, who will? What will become of our home? I couldn’t help but picture us living in a horrific scene from the show Hoarders.
Photo courtesy of A&E
Obviously I’m going to continue picking up the place, but this is just ONE example of how un-Benelope my husband is. He isn’t dirty, to be fair. That’s not the issue at all. It’s just that he’s untidy. He doesn’t mind clutter. He doesn’t seem to notice the crumbs left on the countertop after he fixes himself a sandwich. He doesn’t seem to have the urge to put away the pickles and the mustard immediately after fixing said sandwich. He’s totally and 100% A-OK with that crumby, condimenty mess. What’s the big deal? He’ll pick it up “later.”
And even though I’ve been dealing with it for a good decade, it still drives my Penelope self NUTS.
But here’s the kicker, and something that I’ve realized while struggling to balance my OCD with his A-OK: My hubby’s laid-back, nonchalant attitude is exactly what I need to help balance out my Type-A perfectionism. I admit, it was really tough to get used to at first. For the first 6 months after moving in together, we were at each other’s throats. Gone were the days of my apartment looking like a scene from an IKEA showroom. No longer was everything consistently in its place, perfectly color-coordinated, and in height order with labels facing front. My organized and carefully-constructed sanctuary now inhabited another member, who was more ‘bull in a china shop’ than ‘orderly neat freak’.
Over time, his un-Benelopeness taught me two very important concepts: I had to learn to relax and to compromise.
The lightbulb moment came years ago, after I complained for the hundred-and-twelfth time about a messy countertop. To which he responded, “I just don’t see what you see. If I thought there was a mess there, I would clean it.”
There it is. This simple statement put everything into perspective for me. He’s not being inconsiderate or selfish or uncaring with his minor messes. He’s not trying to tick me off. He just truly doesn’t notice these little messes that to me, might as well be flashing neon “CLEAN ME!” lights. He has blinders on by no fault of his own. It’s just the way he’s wired. Just like being a Penelope is how I’m wired.
I’ve learned to embrace our organizational differences and let them be (or, very carefully choose my battles). Sure, he’s tamed my OCD, clean-and-organized ways a bit, but he’s also mellowed me out overall. I no longer freak out if there are dishes in the sink overnight or toys on the floor all afternoon. I don’t stress if I’m too tired to vacuum that day. I’m OK with letting spontaneity get in the way of routine.
Does this mean I’m no longer a Penelope? I wouldn’t go that far. But I’m much less rigid these days and it’s actually proving beneficial with everything I’ve got on my plate. The way I see it, if mellowing out about our household leads to a greater sense of calm and peace of mind overall? I’ll take it. Even if it does mean my house isn’t Better Homes & Gardens cover-worthy 24/7.
QUESTION: Do you have a partner who just isn’t a Penelope/Benelope? How do you handle it? Has it affected your organized and tidy ways, for better or for worse?