This is a story about inconvenience...
Being an independent man is not all it's cracked up to be. The trash that is strewn throughout my apartment is there to greet me when I get home, exactly where I left it all. Despite my best efforts to streamline my life and create an efficient existence, the daily demands of basic living outpace my ability to stay ahead.
Upon my coffee table are empty beer and cider cans, a used fork, mug and wine glass, half a pint of lime cordial, €50, a cigarette lighter and two candles, baby wipes, two rechargeable batteries, a rubber band, the plastic wrapper from a piece of cheese, a red ribbon and a roll of kitchen towel.
On the floor lies the plastic that held a 4-pack of cans together; the cans having since been separated from each other; no doubt their contents now consumed.
This is - in the English vernacular - my 'living' room. If I was going to do any withdrawing it would be to my bedroom, not my drawing room. I am not lucky enough to be blessed with a drawing room. My minuscule city centre apartment only has one reception room, which must double as both a place to sit and a place to eat - a 'lounge-diner' in the parlance of an estate agent (also known as a realtor, for my North American readers).
As well as clearing away the trash and doing my recycling, I also have the glamorous job of putting away my dried laundry. As you can see, my kitchen is not capacious enough to accomodate my trashcan, recycling AND leave me able to open the door to access my washer/dryer. Everything serves at least a dual purpose in this microcosm.
Gone is the luxury of the Nick Grant patent Floordrobe™ which allowed me to dump clean clothes into a number of boxes in a pseudorandom manner. Underpants and socks would be slowly sorted towards the rightmost boxes. Jeans and hoodies would be slowly sorted leftwards. Other garments would find themselves in whichever box they could fit in. Getting dressed would be a kind of rummaging exercise.
Now, I must carefully pair my socks and put my undergarments away in one of the three drawers that I store my clothing, bedding and towels within.
My life is pretty much indistinguishable from that of a successful multimillionaire pop star, as you can see.
Somebody has not been following the Operating Procedure Manual correctly. Used orange juice cartons should be discarded, as the waxed paper is not recyclable. The beer can should be in the recycling bin, ready to be emptied into the communal store. The plate and other cutlery should go into the sink, in the absence of any other space in which to temporarily queue these used implements, in preparation to be washed by hand.
The backlog of washing up is slowly accumulating. In order to fill this sink with hot soapy water, it may become necessary to remove the dirty items beforehand. I admit, this is an inefficiency, but I have not yet managed to find a convenient gathering place for the things that I will need to clean at some future time.
Living alone, I feel slightly better that I don't have to fill my dishwasher before I run it, in order to make energy-efficient usage of the household appliance. It's no hardship to wash a few plates, glasses, cutlery and utensils, but a dishwasher serves as a place to neatly stack the dirty dishes while one waits for the critical mass to be reached to justify the electricity, water and detergent that will be used.
I'm pleased that my refrigerator is not overbrimming with things that I am unlikely to consume before they are rendered inedible through mould and bacteria. It might be a sad sight, to see a fridge that belies such a pitiful existence, but at least there is nothing rotting or smelling bad in here.
If there appears to be a system, you are mistaken. By accident, all the alcohol has been concentrated on the top shelf, while the door contains the milk and orange juice as one might expect. However, the discrepancy between the position of the ketchup and the mayonaise shows that this is perhaps the most randomised of all areas which might be covered under my Operating Procedure Manual.
Now, we may look upon the systematic and rigorous thinking of an engineer and marvel. Upon the top shelf is bicarbonate of soda, which is useful for baking as well as making crack cocaine. The middle shelf is where my favourite crisps and biscuits are stored. The bottom shelf contains freeze-dried meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner - oats, pasta and noodles - which can be prepared with the simple addition of boiling water and only require stirring once or twice, to prepare a modest quantity of food within just 5 minutes.
Although the food in this larder has extremely high salt and carbohydrate content, there are actually some nutrients contained in these convenient packages.
I prefer to look to my fridge for a meal which can be microwaved, containing a mixture of meat and vegetables. The 'ready meals for one person' that I purchase - two for £5 - are the mainstay of my evening diet, excepting alcohol and crisps. I am supposed to consume 2,500 calories on a daily basis, as an average adult man - my breakfast starts healthily with orange juice, strawberry compote, a banana and porridge; my lunch marks the beginning of a downward spiral, as I devour a heated buttery flakey pastry with rich meaty filling; my dinner is largely a liquid diet of either beer or wine - I'm not fussy as long as alcohol makes up the bulk of the remaining calories that are the source of my sustenance. I imagine that I am consuming more calories than I need, given that my flat stomach now lurks somewhere beneath a modest covering of fat.
With my belly now full of wine and cottage pie - eaten directly from the plastic container in which I microwaved it - I eagerly anticipate spending the remainder of my waking hours restoring my tiny oasis of calm to a state of good order. Actually, I'm being sarcastic as fuck. I'm appalled by the idea that I now have to make several trips to the trashcan and recycling box, put away my clean laundry, wash my dishes and clean down the surfaces.
The more astute reader will have picked up on references to objects that seem out of character with a life of singledom. What, pray tell, would I be doing with a red ribbon and candles? On closer inspection of photographs, one can see strange objects like a hairbrush which looks like a penguin, were it to be turned over. It's not uncommon for hair straighteners, hairdryers, women's shoes and handbags, as well as other feminine accessories, to be seemingly randomly distributed throughout my apartment. In the course of courtship, visits seem to bring a shower of objects that would have no place or purpose in my normal day-to-day existence.
What should I do with the talcum powder on my dining table and hairbrush that I found buried deep in my couch?
My own life is barely manageable. I'm upset that I haven't found the time, energy or space to write for over a week. Some of my most beloved friends in the Twittersphere have written to me with concern that I have disappeared, fearful that perhaps I have relapsed and disappeared into some kind of institution, or perished.
When I set out to write a blog two years ago, I said to myself that I would try to write every single day; to be disciplined and give my life some purpose, even if I didn't understand what that purpose was at the time.
Now, as I slowly approach the million word mark, I'm pleased that I have written so much and so regularly, but the thing that I always wanted to avoid - mundane writing about my day-to-day life - has imposed itself upon me to such a great extent that I share with you, my beloved reader, the intimate details of a somewhat lonely and desperate existence. Of course, my blog charts the ups and downs of bipolar disorder, substance abuse and functional alcoholism, along with the journey from homelessness to somewhat more stable living arrangements.
The most perceptive amongst you will have detected the subtle undertones of a cry for help. How is it that a grown man can collapse under the trivial weight of some unopened mail and the other detritus of daily life? I don't know, but I can tell you with certainty that the effect on my sense of wellbeing is nontrivial, when I arrive home to an apartment in some state of minor disarray.
I'm happier than when my life was unencumbered by dating and women - as well as meeting new friends - but I'm also disproportionately freaked out by my delicate system being disturbed by tiny things that have seismic impact, psychologically. Is this hyperbole? Yes, it seems like it when I have tackled the list of easy tasks to put things back in good order. But my priorities are somewhat perverse: work, sleep, eat... and write. To say that the domestic duties are beneath me is wrong. I clean as I go. I tidy, wash and organise as an integral part of my movements. The left hand washes the right.
The minimalism with which I live my life - everything I own that's important to me fits in one large suitcase - is encroached upon by other lives which are messy and hard to integrate with my own systemic approach. Why would you leave that THERE? I wonder to myself, attempting to reverse-engineer the thought processes that probably don't exist.
A place for everything and everything in its place.