99% of the time, living with a compulsive tidier is a wonderful thing. Bins are emptied at regular intervals, yoghurt cartons are washed and recycled, the tupperware is stacked in size order, dishes never pile up in the sink and everything is put away in its place (this does often lead to confusion as ‘its place’ is usually the last place I look for something).
It is fascinating to watch Mr Oh function and I am perpetually amazed by his constant zeal for order. I, on the other hand, try really hard to be tidy but, for the life of me, cannot seem to bring myself to put clothes on hangars when there’s a perfectly good floor right beneath my feet. Things remain where I drop them regardless of whether this is a suitable location or not. My headphones often seem to be in the fruitbowl, snaked around a satsuma. My earrings are in the pen drawer. My hairbrush is on the bookshelf. My socks are under a cushion (or at least one of them is). Once every few months, I will ‘deep clean’ my life, put everything back in a logical place, feel redeemed, washed, spiritually at ease and wait until - one by one - my headphones creep back to the fruitbowl, my tweezers into the hall, my teacup into the bathroom.
Mr Oh knows where everything is. His clothes are folded neatly. Actually, mine are folded neatly too because he takes them all off the clothes rack when they’re dry, and folds them into impossibly symmetrical shapes. He knows that I would leave them on the clothes rack for weeks and take each piece off as I needed to wear it, leaving behind random and progressively larger voids until the clothes rack was sufficiently empty to justify another batch of washing. He never gets cross about my lack of tidiness and he never gripes. Occasionally he looks shocked (and perhaps slightly traumatised) by the randomness and completeness of my clutter but he never says anything. He just tidies around me. This morning I watched as he shuffled my haphazard tower of bridal magazines into a neat, size-ordered stack. I would never have bothered doing it, but feel much happier now that it’s done.
When we were travelling in China, I would ask Mr Oh every few days to ‘OCD my life’, which meant he would take everything out of my backpack, organise it and replace it in such a way that I could find things again. It brought me immense joy.
This is not to say that I’m a terribly unclean person. I colour code everything. I put seeds, herbs, nuts and things into tupperware and write the contents on the side with CD-pen. I enjoy removing all the bobbles off my clothes with the little de-fuzzing machine. I have a fundamental appreciation of order - I just have no discipline. I get tired and overwhelmed. I put the headphones in the fruit bowl because I can’t remember where ‘its place’ is. When I fold clothes, they look lopsided.
In general, as I said, it is a wonderful thing to live with someone who enjoys tidying and organising and tilting things slightly to the left to make them look symmetrical. There is only one time, as far as I can tell, when living with a compulsive tidier is bad, and this is when one is baking.
I decided that we were going to make cupcakes for mother’s day. I have never been much into baking but thought that - as an impending mother and wife - it might be something in which I should obtain some degree of competence. (Ok, mostly I just had a craving for cake smothered in buttercream).
I had never made cupcakes before so I really wanted to get this right. I spent a week researching recipes on the internet until I found one the right one. I went to Kitchen Complements and invested in a cupcake tin, cupcake cases, cupcake glitter and little sugar bumblebees and ladybirds. I dragged Mr Oh around Superquinn painstakingly assessing different types of flour, the consistency of yoghurts and the saltiness of butter. I enlisted him as a sous-chef (more successfully this time), made sure he was in bed early the night before and woke him up at the crack of dawn on Mother’s Day to embark upon our inaugural foray into the world of baked goods.
In the style of a true television chef, I decided to make sure that all my required ingredients were prepared in advance in the correct amounts. I put on an apron. I cut things and weighed them and put them into tiny glass bowls. When everything was set out and I had welcomed my imaginary audience to my Sunday morning baking show, I began - with the help of my sous-chef - to make cupcakes. This went very well and within minutes, the cupcakes were goldening nicely in the oven.
I turned my attention to the white chocolate buttercream icing. I had chocolate. I had icing sugar. I had soft room-temperature butter...except that I didn’t because in a compulsive tidying fit, my sous-chef had put the butter back in the fridge. I took it out again and turned my attention to melting the chocolate. When this was finished I looked around to find the butter once again missing. He had put it back it the fridge again! He had to be distracted with chocolate and tea long enough for the butter to reach room temperature - luckily he is also easily distracted.