Quest for neatness can make you and others nuts


I think I am the beginning stages of not being obsessed with having my house look perfect.

I used to be so crazed that I could not leave beds unmade, dishes in the sink or anything out of place. I remember almost being late for a talk I had to do because I vacuumed up some crumbs off the kitchen floor. In those days I worried that someone might come over and report that I was a slob.

I have had many people like me in my workshops. One woman told me that she had to vacuum the rug in the same direction. I asked her why this was so important, and she responded, “I don’t want to disturb the nap.” I told her I didn’t think it was the nap that was disturbed.

I don’t think she had a huge epiphany from my comment, because she went on to tell me how necessary it was for her not to leave any dirty dishes in the sink. I told her to put them in the trunk of the car and then she wouldn’t have to see them.

Unfortunately, this woman kept going on and on with her “shoulds and musts,” because she really needed her family and friends to feel she was perfect. After a few years of hearing similar stories, I began to delve more into “why am I driving myself nuts in order to have my home resemble a museum?”

If I’d bought red velvet ropes and cordoned off certain rooms, I’d have been all set. My family could have been relegated to the basement; then I could enjoy the order and cleanliness.

However, the energy it takes to keep everything pristine is exhausting, and it drives everyone around you nuts.

My other dilemma was my ability to see a dirt ball a mile away. I’ve been blessed and cursed with high-level awareness. I would have made a great forensic scientist.

During the past five years my need to “seek and clean” has been tempered by being in a partnership with a wonderful man who is the direct opposite. Any time I walk into the kitchen, every cupboard door is open. He loves coffee and has three or four half cups in different rooms in the house. I often find one he forgot in the microwave.

He loves to eat something late at night, and I always know, since there are traces of it all over the kitchen. What I find interesting is that I laugh about it more than I curse about it.

I’ve realized that having a loving partnership overrides having a spotless house.

It takes courage to become more evolved beings, guilt giving is for the irrational!


I grew up in a family where the women had PhD’s in giving guilt. My grandmother could be heard sighing for miles. Sometimes it would go on for hours. It was her way of showing how unhappy she was over not getting  acknowledgment over something she did for the family that went unappreciated. Every time I asked her why she was sighing she would reply “ I suffer”. It took me years to realize that she was incapable of making herself heard  in a way that was not dysfunctional. My mother exhibited a different behavior. She would simply not talk until you went into severe begging, trying to get her to tell you what offense you might have committed. I not only inherited some of these behaviors but came up with some of my own. I was exceptional at pouting. When someone displeased me, I would sit in a chair with a look of complete despair. This technique takes patience because someone has to notice that you’re unhappy. Then they have to embark on a major inquisition to get you to reveal your angst. If they are preoccupied, they are not going to want to put in the effort, which leaves you without an enabler. If they finally do engage, it’s often with the same phrase. “What’s wrong, are you okay” Then comes your classic response, “If you loved me you’d know”. Over the years I learned that trying to impose guilt on family, friends or co-workers is merely another way to try to manipulate people. We develop these behaviors by imitating our family of origin and they are fairly unconscious. Becoming conscience can take years and some people simply never “get it”. It’s unfortunate that becoming proficient in communication skills is not a top priority for us as a society. We spend so much time not “saying what we mean” and “not meaning what we say.” The energy we spend on this kind of irrational dialogue is exhausting. It also creates a lot of unhappiness for all concerned. Why not spend a little time becoming more aware of what you’re saying and how it’s interpreted by those around you. Call a trusted friend and ask her/him if you are a perpetual guilt giver. It takes courage to become more evolved beings, but the end result can make all your relationships healthier, happier and more fruitful