Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness.

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction;

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthralls the crimson stomacher;

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbons to flow confusedly;

A winning wave, deserving note,

In the tempestuous petticoat;

A careless shoestring, in whose tie

I see a wild civility;

Do more bewitch me than when art

Is too precise in every part.

The British poet Robert Herrick writes a fine sonnet about the allure of the slightly askew, the saucy, the off-beat–the messy in dress! Well, he has a point, but I don’t agree in general. I like neatness and appreciate the beauty of orderliness.

Too precise hand-writing Hanger, EMC college days

Too precise hand-writing
clothes hanger, college days EMC

Mother was a neatnik too, every hair in place under her prayer covering, the whole house scrubbed clean every Friday, a place for everything and everything in its place. On the other hand, my dad, who was precise in the mechanics of fixing machinery in his farm supply business, was by nature messy, messy, messy–in his office, inside his truck, on the porch of his shop.

Dad's Office

Brother Mark before sale of business

Brother Mark before sale of business

Daddy’s messy manner drove me crazy. Besides, it was embarrassing! In the middle of the village of Rheems, the shop faced Harrisburg Avenue with two main sections, one behind the other. The front part housed dozens of storage bins for nuts, bolts, screws, odd implements and, curiously, a Victrola sitting squat right beside the door to the sales office. During planting season, bags of Royster fertilizer for sale would be deposited off to the side near a loading/unloading door. As you walked to the rear, a long wooden ramp led to the back section where the dirty work was done, Daddy and his helpers fixing disk harrows, plows, or welding broken parts. Behind the shop was an assortment of implements stored Sanford & Son-style from which the mechanics harvested parts.

Occasionally, when Daddy said, “It’s time to sweep the shop,” I shuddered because I would be working in the cold with piles of stuff everywhere. Spritzing soapy water from a bucket to settle the dust, I watched charcoal-grey pustules of dirt and grease bead up on the cement floor, then tried to push-broom the filth into a dust pan, often an exercise in futility.

Though Daddy was messy, he had a strong Pennsylvania Dutch work ethic. At the shop six days a week, he caught up with office work and telephone sales in the evenings. “I worked like a Trojan today, and still didn’t get the Fox Harvester ready for Phares Weaver in time,” he’d say to Mother as he walked in the door. And he did so well in sales, dealerships would send him and Mother as VIPs on all-expense paid trips to Ohio, Florida, or Arizona to learn about new farm equipment. Once his sales were so high, his whole family, including three married daughters and son enjoyed a week-long vacation in Jamaica.

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather

So there’s neat and there is messy. “God is a God of order!” shouts one. The other camp retorts: “But you can’t be creative and neat at the same time!”

This post began with an homage to the slightly slovenly, the off-kilter. It ends with a writer lamenting her neat freakiness.

Being A Neat Freak

Being a neat freak, is certainly not a
blessing! No one enjoys, being this
way. When I find everything thrown
all around, on impulse, I have to put
them all away. I have always lived by
the creed, there’s a place for everything
and everything, in its place! It’s
aggravating, dealing with this, but I
know it’s something, I’ve got to face.
I’ve often wondered, how does a
person, get to be this way? It didn’t
happen over night, or in just a day.
Perhaps, it’s what we learned, when
we were young. And frankly speaking,
I’m tired of hearing people say, try not
to be so high strung! I’d like nothing
better, if I could let up, just a little bit,
by not letting myself become so
perturbed. Upon giving this some
thought, I realize, isn’t all of this, quite

Now it’s your turn: neat vs. messy — Can they co-exist?
Is it possible to find a middle ground?
Thank you for sounding out on this topic. Your thoughts please. They keep me going! And I will always reply.