July 10, 2008

Fold-o-mania.

Apparently, compulsive neatness is a learned characteristic:
[L]egions of retail grads have spent countless hours neatly folding T-shirts and jeans and stacking them on tables and shelves. Now, their peculiar idea of perfection is straining marriages and leading to bizarre behavior ranging from buying clothes based on an item's foldability to straightening up sloppy displays while shopping....

Phil Walmsley, 24, of Vancouver, still uses the plastic folding board he stealthily slipped into his backpack on his last day of work at Club Monaco five years ago. "I like the idea of having a perfectly folded closet," says the graphic designer. "It's kind of like my own little retail store."...

Romey Louangvilay stopped working at Abercrombie & Fitch three years ago but it was only last October that he was finally able to go shopping without automatically spending 10 or 15 minutes refolding messy T-shirt piles in stores. The 22-year-old assistant account executive for a public-relations firm in New York forced himself to kick the habit after growing tired of having to awkwardly explain himself to other customers asking him for help. "I still kind of have the urge to do it," he says.
Straining marriages? Why isn't it nice to have a super-neat partner, keeping everything perfectly nice? I love when a place looks very neat, and sometimes I neaten things up myself and feel good about it, but then I let chaos set in for a while before I get remotivated.

I suppose there are people who specifically like messiness or have their own order in messiness that they don't want someone else to ruin by imposing superficial neatness. And I realize there's this other problem of living with someone who insists that you behave the way they do, neatening beyond your natural — or job-learned — urges. But the people described in the article aren't doing that. They've just internalized a commercial aesthetic.

19 comments:

blake said...

Typo: "I suppose their are"

I've never worked retail but I do occasionally straighten out shelves at stores, particularly if something was misplaced. (Books, DVDs, etc.)

People come in and take something off the shelf and put it back somewhere else, so the next person looking can't find it. Undoing a little of that chaos seems mildly civic minded.

I'm not compulsive about it, but I do like to keep my books Dewey style.

PatCA said...

Moms will be sending their kids to apply for jobs at A & F in droves!

Seriously, there is a connection between perfectionism and sloppiness. Perfectionists are often paralyzed by their self-imposed high demands for neatness, so often let it all go. I guess the stores teach them how to channel that perfectionism in a productive way.

Meade said...

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Why yes, yes I did!

Ann Althouse said...

Doing research on Cindy McCain again, eh, Meade?

The Drill SGT said...

I'm by nature a sloppy person, but when I was an Army basic trainee I had to fold and roll everything. Ever seen an Army footlocker ready for inspection? the comb shall be exactly the width of a quarter from the top edge and the right edge of the top drawer. The toothbrush shall be centered on the comb and...

Seriously, I was a Drill Sergeant and taught advanced folding, however I never went to OCS nor was I a cadet at USMA so I didn't do grad studies in neat.

Neat never took with me, and though I appreciate neat, I could not be married to a neat freak

Meade said...

You could tell?

Call it a fixation. An obsessive/compulsive disorder even. I had to know every thing about her: Did she ever smoke? What was she like in bed? (No, not that bed - the flower bed!) Does she listen to the Kinks? How much of her daily fiber needs does she get from her favorite breakfast cereal?

I couldn't get Cindy out of my head.

And let me tell ya - it strained my marriage.

MadisonMan said...

I never went to OCS

OCDS is a better acronym for this story.

As a former library worker, I will still occasionally put library books back where they belong when I see them out of place.

fcai said...

He stole the folding board from his employer? And admits it? But it is called "stealth" in the article? Is that what it's come to?

Triangle Man said...

You Tube has an amazing variety of instructional videos about how to fold t-shirts, pants, towels, and possibly other things too (I haven't checked). Here's one on how to fold a t-shirt in 3 seconds.

Mej said...

It causes problems in relationships when you find yourself getting frustrated at your partner, who not having absorbed this obsession, are okay with hanging up their pants folded in half along the crotch and not down the center of the leg making that nice crease ...

Ahem. The ex-retailer feels as though the burden of extra work is being forced upon them because if he/she doesn't do it for the partner, it's not going to get done right, and can be confused and angry when told they're just being silly or it doesn't matter.

Al Swearengen said...

I venture to say that the neatness cunts are the ones folding the clothing that is hanging off the lines on the thoroughfare.

rhhardin said...

I had a neat house once, I think in 1986. Then I finally ran out of bookshelves, and things began to find homes in piles.

I can still find anything, though. Name it and give me ten minutes, and I'll have it in hand.

Chip Ahoy said...

Phil Walmsley is a little prick. Did he think Club Monaco is the sole source of folding boards?

In my building, renters persistently steal furnishings from open areas. They're all little pricks too. Oddly, management is averse to allowing me to put up signs in the elevators, "Will the pixie prick who prickishly stole the accent table from underneath the mirror on the 5th floor, like a prick, politely return it? You little prick."

I don't know why they're against it. It'd have the advantage of letting the thieves know we noticed, and what we think about them.

I'm a neat freak because I hate searching for things. That's an obsession. But it's neat only if you discount the huge piles of crap all around. Plus, there's always more than one project open, and of course, dishes are only ever briefly caught up. Thankfully, a wonderful woman comes around once a week to make sure things never go too far. But she folds things differently!

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

"Straining marriages? Why isn't it nice to have a super-neat partner, keeping everything perfectly nice? "

Maybe because nobody wants to be married to Felix Unger?

Except maybe this guy.

Randy said...

I'm a neatnik. I also live alone.

Meade said...

"I can still find anything, though. Name it and give me ten minutes, and I'll have it in hand."

Ten minutes huh?

Alright. Find your lost marbles.

I'll let you know when your ten minutes are up.

In fact, I'll give you twenty.

Years.

TMink said...

Mej and Pissed Off Hillbilly (probably a cousin of mine and Edjumakated Redneck's) got it right.

Living with Felix Unger is a royal pain. Having an obsessive compulsive house cleaner is a blessing, well, at least if they are straighteners with a good work ethic, it would be awful if they were lazy counters.

When I did some training at a local mental health center the staff (not I, I was a student and took a dim view of the practice) would "check out" one of the chronic ocd patients. She was a cleaner. They would take her to their home, feed her, and let her work. She did actually enjoy it, but it was horrible to do to her.

Nobody wanted to marry her though.

Trey

fcai said...

Okay, one more tidbit - not only do I not fold my clothes, I pile them on top of the dryer. I don't even use the dresser anymore. Seems a waste of effort - just take them out of the dryer, pile them up, then when I need clothing, walk out to the dryer, get what I need, and go on my way. Much less work.

And yes, I do live alone - this system tends to drive women around the bend. My explanation of the elegant efficiency of this method falls on deaf ears. Ha!

MadisonMan said...

fcai, this system would be most efficient if the dryer was in your bedroom.