Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Tidy Conundrum 1

Filed under: culture,fallacies,housekeeping,how to,naïveté,tidy conundrum — alison @ 21:41

(Possibly the first in a series.)

In my previous post I said that being tidy is hard for me because it’s complicated. For most people it’s the opposite. Trying to live and work in an unordered heap is complicated. Wandering through life quietly restoring objects to their rightful places is both obvious and rewarding.

So I thought I’d post about the things that my disorderly little mind struggles with so unsuccessfully. To start off: nail clippings.

I was brought up to clip my nails in such a way that the clippings would fly through the air and fall randomly to the ground. This always seemed a little odd to me. Breadcrumbs and sand are not disposed of by sprinkling them over the floorboards or the bedclothes, but apparently nail clippings are a special exception.

I thought I would be clever and cup my hand over the clipper to catch clippings before they flew off and collect them so they could be tidily thrown out. Well. It turns out that this is Gross and Disgusting. Approximately on the order of pooping on the table. I have been shrieked at for my little piles of clippings, and my first boyfriend almost broke up with me, shaking with rage, when I forgot to throw out my tiny heap and he came home and saw it. This is fairly easy to resolve, of course: only clip nails when utterly alone and with a waste-paper basket within your field of vision. But I was curious. I could imagine that social convention dictates that a piece of nail, once separated from the digit that produced it, becomes so revolting that it may not be looked at or touched. Social convention dictates a lot of things that don’t necessarily make sense. But do all my friends and relatives truly believe that these repugnant objects dissolve into the air or melt into the linoleum?

I asked around, and apparently it’s true. Those horrible nail clippings evaporate if you don’t look at them. And you shouldn’t look at them. They are abhorrent.

Okey-dokey. Nail clipping and disposal in secrecy it is.

It was one of the first things I asked Mark when we met. He has lots of strong ideas about waste disposal and I thought he would be able to resolve the conundrum of simultaneously acknowledging both social convention and object persistence with respect to nail clippings. My confidence was well-founded.

Mark’s answer: clip nails into the bathtub where they will scatter randomly and… provide invisible traction for your feet when you take a shower.

I actually think this solution is a little gross, but I am so relieved to be living with someone who has a rule about nail clippings that makes any sense at all that I don’t quibble.

So. You see why tidying is so complicated for me? Every individual item could get a whole blog post.



  1. I think you should go with it! Run with the idea! One blog post per individual item! I am entranced!

    Personally, I am NOT so grossed out about nail clippings, and you are quite right about the bizarre thing of it being ok on the body and disgusting off. Note that hairs have the same reaction, esp if found in food.

    What I do? I usually clip nails over my office waste basket or the kitchen waste bin. They fall directly in. Any that fly off I pick up and drop in right away. It has more to do with the fact that little bits of nail are prickly, and tend to stick in socks and the like much like cactus spines in your feet. Toenails I usually clip when I get out of the bath. I also clean under them, and the dead skin around cuticles with the nail clipper at the same time, since it is all softened up in the bath. I take a piece of toilet paper or kleenex, dig around under and around the nails, wipe it on the kleenex, examining it for extraordinary grossness or lack of it, and then cut the nails, putting them on the same wad of kleenex, which I squash up and throw in the garbage. I do not remember ever having a nail clipping disposal dilemna. Though I have had the social dilemna of wanting to clip a torn or ragged nail with others in the room, or out in public, and knowing that it is considered “gross”.

    Go figure.

    ps, doesn’t your cleaning lady clean the floor? Clip your nails onto the floor the morning of or night before she is set to come by. ;D

    Comment by Leanne — Thursday, February 12th, 2009 @ 23:33

  2. Nope, no cleaning lady any more. The lovely and unilingual francophone Denise left us several years ago for an arranged marriage in Northern Ontario with a unilingual anglophone fellow cult-member. No idea how that went, but we haven’t heard back.

    Mark said he didn’t want to hire someone else because he wanted to save money, so he is now the cleaning lady. A weary and self-pitying combo cleaning lady, tidying-up lady and dishwashing lady.

    Comment by alison — Thursday, February 12th, 2009 @ 23:51

  3. I couldn’t believe “Messy”. That is me to a T. I can’t start cleaning cuz it takes me to too many other places. And I have no where to put things. It drives David crazy. I hide stuff or pretend I don’t see it. And if I don’t see it, then noone else can. I know where things are. If someone tidies for me I am lost.

    I thought nail clippings disappeared. I thought it was odd, but I didn’t question it. David guided me toward sitting on the edge of the bathtub and clipping into the toilet.

    Comment by Nora — Friday, February 13th, 2009 @ 00:16

  4. one of the most liberating places to clip your nails is of course, out in the woods. or on the road? nail clipping can be fun when you get back to nature.

    Comment by Alan — Friday, February 13th, 2009 @ 08:06

  5. I have been brought up to clip your nails and brsh your hair in private. It’s a funny thing I know, but I cringe when I hear others clip their nails in public. After careful thought I think it stems from my mother’s or perhaps cultural belief that leaving a part of yourself in a public area is easy access for anyone with an inclination to doing juju (voodoo) on you. I don’t personally believe it… yet I fastidiously dispose of my nail clippings nonetheless.

    Comment by Bea — Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 @ 14:15

  6. I clip my nails carefully and cautiously and even so there’s always one toenail that takes flight, never to be seen again. At least they’re biodegradable!

    Comment by Roz — Friday, February 27th, 2009 @ 18:14

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