Whispers in the Crisper: A Perfectionist’s Self-Defense

I have spent the greater part of my life either trapped in the throes of my own perfectionism or indeed wallowing in the wake of those who seem to embrace (if not celebrate) imperfection. Unfortunately, the latter scenario has included lovers, partners, friends, co-workers and perhaps a parent or two. Finicky, obsessive, anally retentive, neat-freaky, compulsive, persnickety … all have been often used to describe me; and not always with fondness of intent and kindness in delivery. Sadly, admittedly, and voiced only in a whisper, I can no longer recall much of my earliest years or else my first mention of “greater part” would certainly be upgraded to “entire”.

Of course, my own analysis bears quite different results. I insist vehemently, although most often in private, that such tidiness is pragmatic, time efficient, and thrifty. A well-organized refrigerator yields fewer jars of moldy green olives; avoids cartons of expired milk; and is never stocked with unnecessary and duplicate, if not triplicate, jars of tasty coarse mustard.

When it is categorized, colorized, and tidily otherwise merchandised, there is little chance that any of its chilly contents will ever turn up as “long lost” or forgotten. In any preferred case, there is significant financial and, consequently, time savings. Further, grocery lists become near obsolete as one becomes more in tune with what is “on hand” just by peeking inside to note gaps or, as in my case, by a quick mental visualization.

The same organization process is true with closets, desk drawers, medicine cabinetry, nightstands, even glove compartments. Less time is required to locate most anything, unless of course one has a partner or spouse, as I do, who subscribes to the other school of thought. Understandably, now that I am fifty-five, it is no longer a preference but, instead, a way of life. It is the endless back-tracking in the behaviors of a “non-believer” that indeed waste time and money. Yet, those non-believers never change. They simply scoff and chuckle at what they call “neurosis” at what I, and my fellow enthusiasts, would simply call correct procedure. Oy.

As a designer both in inclination and by trade, I might plead the aesthetic value of my perfectionism. Bookcases are less-cluttered, with their contents always clustered by type and age, and alined by size and thickness. A three-hundred year old leather-bound manuscript simply isn’t placed beside a paperback copy of “Exodus”. A self-help tome might have issue with sharing real estate with a naughty Chatterly, in spite of its orientation and amorous leanings. And certainly some books and texts serve best from an unmarked and well-secreted box.

Kitchen cabinets are simply more appealing, dramatic, and (YES) efficient if glassware is arranged carefully by type and spices are alphabetized. T-shirt drawers are much more attractive if the t-shirts are all folded the same, correct way … and stacked in deference to color and degree of formality. Even the interior of a dishwasher is less of an eyesore if all the dishes are turned in the same direction and the flatware is separated by type and purpose, with sterling never permitted to co-mingle with stainless. As a child, I interpreted the phrase “like little soldiers” as a badge of honor, worthy of a warm and fuzzy moment.

I think you get my point, my friends, and agree that I plead a worthy argument. Of course, it is a losing one and always has been … at least in my humble world. It surely seems so even with my dear Jon, who consistently makes every effort to give me joy and to acquiesce wherever appropriate, worthwhile, and beneficial. He would argue that it really doesn’t matter where in the icebox that foodstuffs are indeed placed. I counter that world order is compromised if sodas are in the crisper or if condiments are askew.

But I do so detest the shallow argument and now see an alternative wisdom in a revised pragmatism. Now that time passes at such a whipping pace, I now through caution to the wind, label-makers be damned. I shall spend my last few (hopefully) decades just enjoying my life and my loves, though “cringe” may yet become a future “mot du jour”!

However, I shall have no explanation should I revert to ways of my childhood. Those memories seem now forever lost, and no witnesses remain who can attest to my youthful predispositions. I can only pray that my inclinations for such resolve are indeed innate … as I no longer have a back-up plan in place.


(Images by Alex Gross)

2 thoughts on “Whispers in the Crisper: A Perfectionist’s Self-Defense

  1. Dear Mark,
    I so love your postings . Such attention to thought and ambient mood. Would be so lovely to see all your writings in a book to savour and save for future re reads.it would be beautiful .
    Diana Battle

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