I’m sitting in the one tidy room of the flat. Everything here is where it should be, the surfaces are dusted and unless I look at the glass in the window to the adjoining balcony (must do that later), there’s nothing needs doing. Baby’s sleeping, the coffee’s poured; it’s time for a Mummy-Me half hour.
We’re not very good at tidiness, G & I. In fact, if it were possible for the tidiness gene to have been missed completely out of two peoples DNA, we were probably the ones who hit the jackpot. It’s probably a (logical) subconcious reaction to our upbringings. We both had one tidiness obsessed parent but with a combined age of well over half a century, you’d think we’d have passed the rebellion stage by now.
At this moment in time, with M a precious 11 weeks old and changing every day, housekeeping falls far down my list of priorities. It falls below the cuddle-time nap in the afternoon, and way below the morning sit-on-Mummys’-knee-and-talk time. Running the duster round is relegated to post-breakfast not pre and if I accidentally skip the morning meal, chances are the dusting gets bumped off too. Our home is clean. There are no bugs crawling round waiting to attack, or salmonella germs sitting on the counter, but were you to crawl behind the sofa – the one against the wall that’s a p.i.t.a to move – you’d likely find a dust ball or two. Dust never killed anyone, people. (shhhh. that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
The definition of what’s tidy varies widely person to person but culture to culture the difference can often be a big gaping crevice. Yesterday I was driving home with a friend. On the way, her husband called to say unexpected guests had arrived. Our joint thoughts: Is the house clean? This is a country obsessed with the tidiness/cleanliness of a person’s house. Problem is, people can’t seem to distinguish between the two. One equals the other and that, my friends, is a major, major p.i.t.a. One that sends normal, educated western women into frantic panic at the thought of an empty mug on a dusted coffee table or a rinsed out dish in the sink.
The thing about Istanbul, to me, is that no matter how much you assimilate to the culture and the conventional norms, you will never be a perfect fit. It’s not Europe; it’s not the East. Even when your windows glow and tabletops repel the dust, there’ll always be a streak in the mirror; a telltale sign. If you can keep this in mind, there’s a marvelous freedom to be found in knowing you are comparable to you and only you. There’s no “keeping up with the Jones’,” or measuring your achievements on the curve. You draw the line. And just as you’re holding the pencil, you get to determine whether you fall above or below.
One of lifes’ few certanties is that my Mum will forever be dismayed at my lack of tidiness; housewifely. Another certainty is that the only way for me to keep a tidy mind is to compartmentalise e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. When it’s all out there at once, a plethora of chaos and unfinished thought, i can’t stay in one place. The beauty of Istanbul, as an expat, convert, wife and Mum is the freedom of being the only one of me in a city of millions. It’s the chance to be and become the me I want to be. As life changes, my boxes change and need repositioning around. In the repositioning is a chance to recomparmentalise, to rethink to evaluate.
With a new baby in our world, the right place for anything has changed. Not only are we untidy, but we seem to have a sadistic desire to display this untidiness to all who enter our home. 90% of our furniture is open shelved. We own a grand total of 6 drawers within which to hide our clutter and the rest is piled into, well, piles. Of a fashion. This has gotta change. Not only will everything on show and accessible to sticky fingers make our home an all-too-soon wonderland for a newly crawling M in a few months time, but the untidiness and clutter’s only going to get worse. So while I spend my weeknights tidying the clutter of my mind, we’ll spend our weekends tidying the clutter of our home: Furniture shopping looms large.
The rest of the time, those daytime weekday hours, that’s M’s time and we’re far too busy blowing bubbles and finding babies in mirrors to worry about alphabetized letters in a stack. So I apologise in advance to all Turks who visit my perpetually untidy house: there will always be one room for you to sit, clutter and dust free, but if you ask me, my time’s much better spent keeping everything else in its right place. Or out of it, as the mood takes.