Wednesday, April 13, 2005

J-Hat Cleaning Frenzies for a P-Brain

I mentioned yesterday that Marla’s Blog Types aggregator is now up and running. I’ve talked about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types here and here in the past.

I’ve found it helpful to study personality types (my main source was
Please Understand Me, which has been superseded by Please Understand Me II). It's helped me to understand, in a very real sense, that, just because I’m interested or something, or just because I crave certain environments, it doesn’t mean that everyone feels that way. Or, most importantly, it doesn't necessarily mean that they should feel that way.

My personality type is INFP, which means Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving (as opposted to Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging). The following little essay will make more sense to you if you're familiar with MBTI (but hopefully you'll enjoy it anyway, even if you know nothing about MBTI).

I’m going to tell you about my J-hat today. It’s my Judging hat. In MBTI terminology, Judging does not mean “judgmental”; it simply means that you tend to want to act on things in your environment. You want to finish tasks, to cut out all of the unnecessaries, to meet the deadline. We Perceivers ("P-brains”) do not make such demands on ourselves. We don’t particularly like making decisions or taking strong stands … because you never know when more information may come in and change our perceptions of things. It’s important to be capable using both J and P approaches to life—to keep your options open, but also to complete tasks.

I wear my J-hat at work. I am a strong P-brain, so the J-hat doesn’t fit me very well. Still, I jam it over my P-brain the moment I enter Cubicle Land. I take it off the moment I step out. It’s the hat that enables me to meet deadlines, to organize my time and my work, to get things done in record time. It’s the hat that has been responsible, at a number of jobs, for my reputation as a conscientious, organized, dependable person. (Ha! HA!)

I wear the J-hat each afternoon for a few minutes as I plan meals for the next week. I have to plan meals. If I don’t, I’ll forget to go to the grocery store. The meal plans help me to make grocery lists. Without a grocery list, I’ll get to the store and have no clue what to buy (other than ice cream and wine). Or I’ll forget why I came. Or I’ll start out to the store, but will end up at Lowe’s or Hallmark or on the Blue Ridge Parkway instead. And then the Hubster and I will have to spend yet another week eating canned soup and crackers for dinner.

My J-hat also the hat that I force over my P-brain once or twice a year when the house becomes a health and/or fire hazard. To tell the truth, clutter and dirt do not bother me (just ask my mom). There are just so many things I’d rather do. And cleaning always seems to undo itself. Why is that? If I clean on Saturday, well, the house is just going to be messy again by the time Wednesday rolls around. So why bother?

But like I said, there are times when the clutter gets to be too much, even for me. There comes a time in every slob’s life when the quaint mold garden in the tub just needs to go. Last Saturday was such a day for me.

Why did I try to cram all of the tasks into a single weekend? you ask.

It’s because I hate to clean. Hate it.

I know it makes more sense to “do a little bit every day,” but I can’t bring myself to do it. If I’m going to clean, then I may as well go all-out. If I’m going to clean the bathroom, well, I just may as well throw in the kitchen, the bedroom, the office, the Inner Sanctum, the fridge, and the nasty floor underneath the oven. I guess my P-brain hates to leave anything out.

This past Saturday morning, before I even crawled out of bed, I jammed my J-hat on. I made a list of all the stuff I needed to do. The first two hours of the day were spent at the coffee shop, writing (I can’t neglect my P-brain writing!). The rest of the day was devoted to the Cleaning Frenzy. That’s what I call it: a Cleaning Frenzy. It occurs once or twice a year and involves playing loud rock and pop music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s while and I attack the house with a dust rag the way a starving man might attack a plate of fried chicken. No rhyme. No reason. I dash from bathroom to kitchen to bedroom, throwing stuff away, dusting, cleaning windows, scrubbing, and whatever else is necessary. No corner goes unscrubbed, and no stray speck of dust goes unvacuumed.

(Because I burn so many calories running back and forth, I also refer to this activity as “cleanercize.”)

Cleaning Frenzy days typically include a trip to K-Mart for the purchase of (1) more cleaning supplies; (2) Diet Cokes (these, along with pizza, are the preferred Cleaning Frenzy fuel); and (3) organizing supplies such as little containers, a spice rack holder, or whatever else I can use to make life a bit easier; and (4) labels.

Uh-oh. When I start with the labels, then you know I’ve truly gone mad in my Cleaning Frenzy. The J-hat has begun to smoke. Last time I had a Cleaning Frenzy, I bought little sticky stars and stuck one star on the top of each spice container. Then I took a Sharpie and labeled each star with the first letter of the spice. Spices beginning with the letters A through F had a blue star. G through M had a silver star. And so on. It’s actually made it easier to find stuff.

I once had all of my books arranged in Dewey Decimal order. With labels on the bookcases, like at a bookstore. And, of course, the fiction section was in alphabetical order.

If you didn’t know me better, you’d think I was one of those anal-retentive neat freaks who can’t stand to have things out of order.

In other words, you’d think I was an extreme J-brain. Truth is, all of these overly-organized things were done during the brief periods of my life when I’ve forced the J-hat on. (Though I must admit, Cleaning Frenzies are kind of fun, in a sick sort of way.)

If I didn’t wear that ill-fitting J-hat every now and then, I’d have my own little science laboratory growing in the bathtub (not to mention the fridge). You would need to be a pro-football player to make it through our house without tripping over the many obstacles in your way. The stacks of papers and junk mail would grow to untold heights. Our garbage can would resemble that of that great and honorable heroine of mine, Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout!

And if I didn’t make crazy to-do lists for myself, then I would end up spending all of my time reading, writing, playing piano, and looking at flowers and birds (which is a wonderful thing to do … but I would starve to death because I would keep forgetting to eat). (I once had my dinner ready, but then misplaced it. Looked all over the house. Couldn’t find my dinner. Finally, a few hours later, I found it on top of a bookshelf because I’d stopped on the way to the table to look something up in a Norton Anthology.)

So I must jam on my J-hat and overcompensate for my P-brain.

What amuses me to no end (and would make my mom die of laughter) is that there are a few people in my life have only known me during my J-hat moments. These people think I’m a neat freak! They think I’m obsessed with organization! Crazy about cleanliness! In love with labeling! As far as they’re concerned, I’m as J as J can be.

But you, dear readers, know me better than that.

And just to make sure you do, I’ll make a true confession: despite the Cleaning Frenzy of the past weekend, I couldn’t bear to get rid of the mold garden in the tub.

Maybe next year.

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