FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: Let’s Get Messy

Hi, friends! It’s Friday and I’ve been kind of attempting to clean up our house day-by-day all this week. We have family coming to visit for Remi’s birthday this weekend and we have a list of things we want to do before then and we’re making very slow progress, TBH. I start teaching my one fall class on Thursday and Remi starts pre-k for the first time next week and then there’s the fact that we live in one big toddler-fueled romper room that used to be our home. Oh, and Waffle and I both work full-time, opposite hours.

Life. Is. Messy.

Literally and figuratively, we are just getting through the mess day-by-day. I wish that I could KonMari my life sometimes and I certainly do feel satisfaction and peace when my house is closer to clean (though it’s never really orderly). However, I think maybe I’m just a messy person. And maybe it’s OK to be messy, a big ol’ beautiful mess.

I always have slightly too much going on. I can’t remember the last time I was only working one job. I’m always doing two or three or more jobs at once, usually a full-time job plus a few side jobs. However, that ability to work multiple jobs at once let me test out a lot of possible futures and gain skills I couldn’t get in my day jobs. I love being an adjunct professor of LGBTQ history. I loved traveling around the U.S. delivering sexuality programs as a public speaker. I love writing for Autostraddle. It’s always been worth the messiness of balancing multiple jobs. In KonMari terms, my side jobs spark joy.

At home and at work, I’m not a streamlined, everything-in-its-place person. I’m what you might call a “horizontal filer” meaning my papers and things just end up in piles and it’s very easy for me to let a surface like a desk or a table evolve into clutter madness. That said, 85% of the time I have a rough visual memory of what I put where, so there truly is some level of method to the seeming lack of order.

The one area where I’m not messy is my emotions because I’m a stoic Capricorn who keeps my real feelings pressed into my fists and tucked under my hairline. That is a type of messiness that scares me, personally, and I find myself being a little jealous of people who can let their emotional mess out without shame or fear.

After all, who decided it was bad to be “a mess”? Was is the same person who decided women were hysterical? Because it feels like that, like messiness is sometimes code for “can’t keep it together, can’t cut it,” when the work of cleaning up messiness is very much feminized across most cultures. What if disrupting capitalism and sexism and cutting through heteronormative noise is also wrapped up in celebrating messiness, reclaiming messy space? Like the amorphous and multi-dimensional planes of sexuality and gender, perhaps messy is a naturally queer state of being.

If that’s true or if it can be, maybe we are allowed to celebrate the job that comes with unswept floors and bold emotional displays and packed schedules and chaotic energy. Maybe we’re allowed to be too much and take up too much space and let our messiness be a part of our choice to claim power.

Or maybe I just want to believe that! Either way, I know I’m going to get the most cleaning done in the final hour before my family arrives at our house and, quite frankly, that’s probably more than enough.

How about you? What’s messy in your life? Or do you keep things tidy because that’s what works for you? Are you a KonMari devotee or do you think it’s nonsense to talk to your old tank tops? What’s your relationship to mess?

Also, feel free to just tell me all about what’s going on with you and your delicious life! What’s new? What’s old news? How are your kids and furkids? What is your current Netflix binge? Tell me! I wanna know about you! I’ll be here all day, so come as you are and maybe I’ll make some progress on my to-do list while we hang out!


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KaeLyn is a 35-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, over-caffeinating herself, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, eating carbs, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 207 articles for us.

55 Comments

  1. Messy as in “all my mic cables and guitar cables and PA cables and computer cables and patch cables have tangled into knotted roots running under the carpet of the band room” messy? Because I have that kind of messy. Also 3 binders full music charts that are NOT ORGANIZED IN ANY FASHION HA HA HA HA HA

  2. Not that I’m a saint of cleanliness or anything, but I had a roommate in college who only understood space in two dimensions. Depth was not part of his reality. A table was a good place to store things, so he stole a folding one from the dining hall and dragged it into our room. A chest of drawers was a good place to store things, but only on the top. All the drawers were empty except for the cookie tin his mother had placed in one on the day he moved in. Clothes were hung up in the closet, but only when his girlfriend did his laundry(!). He left a jam-smeared bagel under a stack of papers for MONTHS. I used a picture of it in my photography class. There were sand dunes on his half of the room. THERE WAS SAND IN HIS BED.
    It was better than the first two roommates I had.

      • It wasn’t though! Just a regular hippy school dorm with some kid from New Hampshire where everyone is a particular brand of peculiar. He didn’t have much (except the stash of gay porn in the hall closet, that was extensive) it was just…. incredibly messy. Like, never learned how to use three dimensional space and his mom always put things in drawers for him and picked up after him and sheltered him from doing any chores ever kind of deal.

  3. I’m very messy. I try to think that one day I’ll learn to be organized and be able to maintain a clean apartment…but I can’t. Clutter doesn’t bother me, and I get very overwhelmed when I try to organize. I don’t have very good visual-spacial awareness (I’m a auditory learner/process-er), so I’m bad at things like playing dishwasher tetris and putting away laundry in an orderly fashion. I live in a small Manhattan apartment that I share with 2 roommates, so I try to keep common areas clean and contain the mess in my bedroom, and I’ve been pretty good at that. But my bedroom constantly needs to be organized.

    If I may, I’d like to share this Facebook post I wrote last night:

    A bizarre hobby led me to a big self-discovery tonight.

    Since I don’t watch tv, I unwind by looking at listings of apartments I’ll never be able to afford, and tonight, after deciding I want to be a mom (which was its own big self-discovery), I started to look at suburban houses. I love living in the city, but I think down the road if/when I get married and have kids, I want to move to the suburbs. The idea of paying significantly less money for significantly more space, a backyard, town pool, etc. sounds very appealing to future me. Now all I need is to meet someone who wants to marry me, move to the burbs, and co-parent some kids. And I have to learn to drive.

    Happy weekend, all!

    • I don’t know if this appeals to you, but I do know some very happy single folks who did the burbs plus baby thing on their own and, well, it’s maybe an alternate option!

      One of the more challenging things about not living with roommates is that I don’t care about keeping my own space tidy, while I’m very intentional about it when living with someone else!

  4. If I had to be honest, my dating life is a bit of a mess. Part of me still has the idea maybe the bff and I can just move in together and live the queer polyam lifestyle. But, the other part of me is like I want more than words, I want someone to be the big spoon & the top. On the plus side, it is also September, which hopefully means she is back in town. My room is fairly clean, but my closet, on the other hand, could use a bit of tidying-up. I have a few too many junk items hiding. Also, that reminds me I need to get my car washed and vacuumed this weekend.

    How is everyone’s week going? I’ve been having it is too hot and dry sweats all week. All I want to do is get into a walk-in freezer & relax with a frozen Arnold Palmer(light on the sugar). I also want cis white men to pay me $20 a day every time they spew some bs when I am in the same room. I am not one of you, nor have I ever been. At least it’s a long weekend so I get to be out in nature.

    Spent my Sunday on the old Mulholland road. It was way too hot, especially with a helmet on; so, I cu my ride a bit short. I need to really build up my leg strength more since I am off foods that are supposed to increase T. Side note really want a friend to come with me so I can get T blockers.
    The view I had while I stopped.

    And as promised picture of my new ride.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my post. Have a positive & cool long weekend!

    • Siiiiiick bike! I like the wraps and disc brakes. You had help with just that part, right? I think they’re easier to calibrate than the caliper style, but they cost way more to repair when they wear out. Where’s the flask basket?

    • Shit if I hadn’t already given all my spiro away I’d send you some to tide you over. I don’t miss taking it at all, it made my pee stink. And riding a bike without the lumps is way better! YMMV.

        • Oh I meant balls. Lumpy balls. I got mine excised a few months ago and it’s pure Bliss not having them anymore. No more spironolactone, half the estradial dosage, and since I’m now a 38c I stopped the progesterone too. I had a stash of leftover meds after surgery, but gave them all to a friend in need. Sorry! If I could slip you the remainder of my scrip I would.
          I don’t mind veggie stink, like broccoli or asparagus or cabbage, but the Spiro gave me a nasty chemical smell I could do without.

          • Oh, that chemical smell doesn’t sound too fun. I am sure if I want an orchidectomy, probably a no, but I do know I want to start t blockers. c

          • I was on the fence about surgery for a few years. Getting on E was just so incredibly life changing, I was happy like that for a while. The thing that tipped me over the edge was my insurance changing policy and covering full bottom surgery, right when my hospital was starting up a trans surgical program. It was covered, it was super cheap, and I could recover and do follow ups right here at home. And since no one knows about the program, I didn’t have to wait. As soon as I got my letters I booked the surgery. I was the tenth surgery they’d done here, so a little risky but I’m very happy with the results.
            Anyway, if you’ve never been on blockers and hormones, I hope you get a chance to try it soon! The emotional change for me was almost imediate and better than I had hoped. Good luck getting someone to help you!

  5. I love decluttering and organizing my stuff (and that of others). Two weeks ago I had a day off and watched YT-tutorials about how to fold bed linen and socks. Highly recommended! I don’t talk to my tank tops though only the car. It’s an extroverted teenage boy with social anxiety.

  6. I can deal with some degree of mess and then I’ll suddenly get incredibly stressed by it and tidying up has to be done right this very second or I can’t concentrate on anything else properly until it’s done. The only place I really allow to be a mess is my kitchen because the hours I work mean the washing up doesn’t always get done straight away because I’m tired and it can wait until I run out of glasses and plates. Still a neat mess though, if that makes sense.

    I’m always intrigued by what other people consider to be mess and what they notice and what they don’t. I used to live with a housemate who was fairly tidy but had a habit of stepping out of his shoes and just leaving them there, whether that was the middle of the kitchen floor or right behind the front door so that it got stuck when I opened it from the other side. He seemed to completely forget his shoes existed as soon as he took them off. I never understood that when he was tidy otherwise.

    • Ahaha. That’s true, that it’s interesting what each individual person considers to be “mess.” I’m pretty OK with stacks of books and papers. I’m not OK with dirty dishes in the sink. It stresses me out!

  7. Emotionally I am messy. I wish I could be stoic and buttoned up but my physical reaction to stress or frustration or seeing a dog in a movie trailer is to cry, and no matter how often I’ve tried to change that about myself, I always end up exactly where I started – sniffling in the center of a circle of used kleenex.
    I consider myself a bit of a messy person by nature BUT I realized in the last year that my anxiety skyrockets when I am surrounded by mess and things, and I feel so much calmer and happier when things are clean and neat, so I’ve been trying to learn to become a neat person. Owning things also causes me a lot of anxiety so I’ve been trying to KonMari the shirt out of my life, and be as minimalist as possible while still keeping my space cozy and friendly. It’s difficult because I am always in a hurry and it’s faster and easier to fling things on my desk/chair/bed than put them away, but the payoff is so, so worth it to me.

  8. I’m very tidy and always have been. My wife is messy. So we struggle to maintain harmony in our home, especially since we have had children. We have recently started to KonMari our stuff. The full process, in the correct order, including saying thank you to our things before let them go. It’s hard going and fairly time consuming but working for us so far. Once a category is done it stays done! Happy days. Never succeeded in maintaining order before, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

    • My partner pushes me to get rid of things we aren’t using, which is a healthy habit as we both have the ability to accumulate “things.” I really like the Netflix show, but can’t seem to find the energy to actually try the KonMari method!

  9. As a child of one hoarder and one obsessive neat freak, my relationship to mess is FRAUGHT AS FUCK. My apartment is never clean enough, and can probably never be clean enough to my great dismay. (I am told it looks normal.) On an emotional level, I am trying to allow some messiness but it’s hard. My partner seems to be on the same journey with their (messier) house and squished emotional expression so at least we’re on this journey together.

    • Yes to being on the journey together and I’m absolutely sure your level of clean/messy is fine. I can only imagine how challenging it would be to have parents with some complex relationships with mess as a child. Good on you for working through it!

  10. Hi, I’m a mess. And messy.
    A very shameful condition for a German!
    However, I feel like some people just are more drawn towards entropy than others.
    A friend once said to me, „Whenever one of us walks into a room, it just explodes around us within ten minutes!“
    True.
    Also, though, I have issues throwing stuff out, and hanging onto things.
    A rather unfortunate combination, one might think.
    On the other hand I can literally order my head and my life around me, and lately, I‘ve taken to doing just that to own my life and move forward.
    Creating some kind of order out of chaos is strangely powerful, I‘ve gotta say.
    If anyone is in a similar predicament: „Unfuck your habitat“ is a great resource.
    And also: Be kind to yourself.
    If you want to hang onto that movie ticket from that one night five years ago, when you had wine after with your ex that you’re totally over, just put it into the „sentimental stuff“ box and no one needs to know.
    I used to not clean up/sort things because I was too daunted by the task of having to let go of things I wasn’t ready to. Now they just go into a box that might get revisited some time (never), no questions asked, and I get to move on.
    It’s so helpful to do yourself the favor to have things on hand and just know where they are,too! I have an endless amount of papers, that just keeps multiplying like the tiny Trill in the Star Trek original series, and some agencies keep wanting to know random numbers from these, and it’s just so frustrating, and stressful and time consuming! But I do have a general idea where things are most days, and looking them up takes me five minutes.
    Passport, Travel insurance, Oyster card and British plugs? Ten minutes.
    Last years tax receipt? 3 days.
    Nobody’s perfect, and I did enjoy the last days of summer having coffee with fabulous friends. 🤷🏼‍♀️
    Btw., speaking of having trouble letting go of things: I did finally quit my job! It’s been such a struggle, with me and my inability to end things, that all of my friends keep congratulating me profusely.

  11. Mess makes me anxious so I usually try to avoid it. The one exception is my desk; I love mess if it means there is random shit to fidget with, and I guess I have trouble getting rid of papers etc.
    I wish I could be emotionally messy too, but as an Aquarius with lots of Capricorn and absolutely no water in my chart I’m a little screwed on that front.

  12. I’m naturally messy. But I did an ideal routine when I was at Ruckus (go there if you can btw) and now Saturday is my bin day and Wednesday is my general clean day, so I have a plan.

  13. I would say I’m a mess but I’m not a messy person.
    Like my personal life is a mess and personal includes: dating, lack of friends, not being out, my mental health – stuff like that.
    I don’t let things get cluttered and I try to keep things organized and out of the way.

  14. Everything in my life feels like I mess right now. I’ve been in a rut for the last few months. I’m looking for a full-time job and having a hard time summoning the optimism necessary to continue applying places. My apartment is a wreck. I haven’t done laundry in weeks and the clean clothes I do have never get folded and put away because I don’t have a dresser to store them in. My mom has been giving me words of encouragement and trying to help me keep my spirits up, but it’s been very difficult and I would like for something to fall into place so I don’t feel so shitty anymore.

  15. I just moved into a new house a couple weeks ago and am still working on the whole ‘getting furniture’ thing. So I’m currently living in the perpetual state of mess that comes with living out of boxes. I enjoy having things tidy, but it never seems to stay that way for very long.

  16. I might have a potential writing job and I just can’t deal. I hate all of my writing and myself right now.
    While I love your writing Kaelyn. I feel like I’m have a crush on it. It’s so beautiful…

  17. O_O

    My life is the messy, I’m considering introducing my self as a natural disaster.
    The past 2 weeks I’ve managed to break records on eating my way thru family sized cheerio boxes.

    Excerpts from a communication:

    “I vomited out my nose this afternoon. New experience that was, and very unnecessary”

    And

    “Would there be anything I can get you?”

    “A new body, this one is defective and rude”

    ————-
    My furkids are great and in the depth of my misery might have blubbered about how we human just don’t deserve dogs they’re too good and kind as they tried to heal me with puppy kisses and cuddle guarding my corpse in close quarters.

    I been taking turns binge-watching Dexter and Wu Assassins.
    Dexter becomes irritating by season 4, the main character doesn’t seem to have learned his lessons from season 3.
    Wu Assassins for all the wonderful action scenes it has feels a bit uneven in plot and pacing but at my core I’m an action junkie so it doesn’t bother me as much as a dumbass making the same mistakes but with more to lose.

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