I’m a neat freak

When I was a kid, I vowed that when I grew up and had my own home the crockery and cutlery would always and only be matching sets. In my childhood home you’d be lucky to find two plates that matched. Instead you’d find stacks of randomly assorted plates and bowls in varying degrees of deterioration, hand carved wooden spoons, an old handheld egg beater. Nothing matched and nothing was new.

My mum had a special knack for putting some ethnic garment of the dye-running variety in with my school uniform, turning my white socks and blouses a mortifying shade of pink. I quickly volunteered to do my own laundry, hanging each item with care, choosing two pegs of the same shape, size and colour and carefully pinning the item to the clothes line without stretching or creasing the fabric. Each Sunday evening I would iron my school uniform skirt so that the pleats sat perfectly flat and perfectly straight.

This was my way maintaining a little bit of order and calm when so many other things in my life felt like they were spiralling out of control. This was my way of coping. Coping with growing up in a family where there was favouritism, coping with my parent’s finally separating after years of bickering and squabbling. Looking on as one sister battled cancer and the other a teratoma. Watching my brother lose his mind and being terrified that the same thing might happen to me. These things I couldn’t control, but the colour of my pegs and the pleats of my skirt, they were all mine. If there were just one or two things that I could have complete control over, that I could rely on to be predictable and mundane and routine, well, it made the stuff that I couldn’t control just a little bit easier to deal with.

Now that I have the decision making power over my cutlery and crockery collection it’s amusing to see that there are no matching sets. Yes, the bowls are largely white and ceramic, as are the mugs, and they match because they are all appealing to me in form and function, they match in the sense that I chose them, and all together they make one large, semi-matching set.

These days I’m more inclined to relax the reins on my control freak tendencies – I won’t be mad if you cut the vegetables differently to how I would’ve cut them if we were to make a meal together. My sisters both got better, my brother’s stable, my parents are amicably separated. Time passes, the river rolls. There’s no point sweating the small stuff.



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