“The Dirty Sock Syndrome”
(I’ll get back to the title shortly. Bear with me.)
Every now and again I’ll say “I have just got to tidy up my work area.” to which my wife usually responds with bit of a snort and “You spend as much time tidying up in there as you do working in there.” Not quite true but close enough to be worthy of a snort.
I try to put tools and materials back where they belong as soon as I’m done with them (even for a minute) but I am not by nature a neat and orderly person. As a consequence the cruft tends to build up – especially when I’m in the middle of, say, mounting and matting prints – until there isn’t enough vacant space on the work surface to put anything else down. I guess the price of tidiness is eternal vigilance. But that’s a short-term issue.
A longer-term issue is that of the dirty sock syndrome. I read of it in (of all the unlikely places) a chapter on building maintenance in an excellent book on church governance*. In it the author says that if you see a dirty sock on your bedroom floor you pick it up, put it in the laundry basket and forget about it. Come laundry day it gets clean, you put it in a drawer and all is well. If you don’t pick it up – leave it there for, say, three days, it becomes part of the décor and you stop seeing it. It will stay there until your spouse (or whomever) picks it up. Exasperated parents will instantly recognize this phenomenon in occasional visits to their child’s bedroom. This, not seeing what is obvious to a stranger, is a longer-term issue. Once in a while I have to spend some time picking up the dirty socks in my work area. Looking around me as a write I see about eight – starting with an ink bottle containing maybe 2 ccs of ink standing proudly beside a full one and a small kitchen timer that stopped working even after I put a new battery in it. I have no idea how long they’ve been there but now that I’ve noticed them they are gone.
* “Moving on from Church Folly Lane”, Robert Latham, Wheatmark Press 2006