A Slattern’s Diary #4: You’ve got to see it to tidy it

In her regular column (which has been slightly less regular of late due to the creation of a new person) Margaret Cabourn-Smith lays her slattern-ness out for all to see. In this instalment, though, she turns her attention to another member of the household, who wears very special goggles.

Illustration by Joanna Neary.

Illustration by Joanna Neary.

My husband suffers from a condition called Tidyblindness. I recognise it because, as a child, I too suffered from it.

My mum would tell me to tidy a room “as though Granny was coming over”. Looking around, I honestly couldn’t see what Granny would have a problem with. Why would anyone – even Granny, who lived in an immaculate temple to good taste – have any kind of issue with the books and toys and congealing crockery and apple cores and underwear which adorned every surface?

The lived-in look was in, right?

My childhood strategy for tidying my room was simple:

Grip the end of the rug and hold it up high.

Shake it so that everything on it falls into a congregated pile on the floor below.

Prepare for the magic:

Gently place the rug over the assembled mess.


Now gaze with pride over the lumpy misshapen floor which has transformed the space from an untidy bedroom into an undercover obstacle course. (Feel free to employ this advice at will, kids.)

It took years for me to get wise to Tidyblindness, which translates as getting to the point where I could at least recognise a mess. (Note: this should not be automatically interpreted as me doing much at all about it, but it’s the recognition that counts.)

Of course then, it was always going to be a knocking bet that I would end up with a partner who was even worse (better?) than me.

He’s never been the sort of person to come home and give me a hard time about the place being a state, even though I’ve been home all day. However, this may be because he genuinely is the sort of person who wouldn’t notice whether there’s dog hair all over the the sofa or not. (We don’t have a dog.)

“It took years for me to get wise to Tidyblindness, which translates as getting to the point where I could at least recognise a mess.”

If you were to question him about a mess he’s developing – a fort of books, papers and jagged bits of Amazon cardboard – he’d look around and say: “It’s OK, I know where all this goes,” as if that knowledge completely excuses him from putting it all where it goes.

It’s the knowledge that counts.

He also has a habit of half-doing jobs; taking pride in dust-free bathroom shelves while ignoring the resulting crowds of displaced shampoo bottles and Calpol staring up at them from the floor.

One time, on leaving the house for the evening I wearily gazed at the stacks of folders and dusty boxes surrounding him and warned: “If I come home and you’re wearing a foil hat, there’ll be trouble.”

As ever, his sense of humour is both his saving grace and my Kryptonite.

I got back and he’d made a foil hat, not only for himself, but for the baby too.

Simply too funny to get me too bothered about the state of the place. We’ve got our priorities sorted.


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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.