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Incorrigible Slob Dishes Out Dirt on Littered Lifestyle : Sloppy: You think you're messy? Consider Jeannine Stein, who never met a broom she liked and who has a place for everything--'where it lands.'


If cleanliness is next to godliness, then my nearest deity is a couple of solar systems away. I am a slob of the highest order, proficient in the art of the mess.

Like most of my kind, I can trace my roots back to childhood. I wasn't a rebellious kid, but when it came to cleaning up my room or doing chores around the house, I was lazy and stubborn. When I was a teen-ager, my mother--finally tiring of telling me for years to pick up my things--shut the door to my room and didn't bring it up again. But, as part of the deal, she banned our cleaning lady from setting foot inside.

When I moved away to college and into an apartment with a roommate, things went from bad to worse. She was comparably sloppy, and when two slobs get together the mess increases exponentially. Left to our own devices, our slovenly natures reached epic proportions.

At one point we counted seven different shapes and colors of mold growing in the bathtub. The carpet was so littered with newspapers and other junk that little, if any, of the rug showed through. When bits of food would drop onto the kitchen floor, instead of picking it up we'd just leave it there. "The cockroaches will get it," we'd say. And they did.

Our neighbors once dumped their trash in our living room because they figured it was the same thing as throwing it in the Dumpster, and our apartment was closer.

We were shocked when we moved out and the landlord refused to return our security deposit. Over the phone he screamed something about having to sandblast the bathroom.

During my junior year at UCLA, I moved into a Brentwood condo with a friend whose parents owned the place. While I did my best to keep things tidy, I had a lapse that cost me the roof over my head.

My roommate's mother came by one afternoon and discovered that I had left some papers scattered around and a few pens on the couch. Pens! I was floored. I mean, I put the caps back on them. What was she complaining about?

But in terms of neatness, no one matched my next roommate, a very sweet, quiet, polite girl with whom I shared a Santa Monica apartment.

Her idea of a holy mess was a pair of shoes left in the living room. But rather than nag or yell at me to pick them up, the shoes would suddenly appear in my bedroom. When that happened, I knew I had crossed the line. Then would come the sweet notes with the happy faces: "Hi, Jeannine, the bathroom sink is looking a little dirty and I think it's your turn to clean it. Thanks!"

This one was clever. She didn't get angry; she just played on my guilt. She was so nice that for the first time I actually felt bad about making a mess.

But when she moved out I immediately reverted to my natural state. Shoes stayed in the living room permanently.

I've always known that I've operated against type. Girls are supposed to be the neat ones, the nurturers, the nesters. I guess you could say my apartments resembled nests, scattered with twigs, pieces of string and little shiny things.

When I finally got my own place, I was free at last to live as the slob I was born to be. I moved into a single apartment in Beverly Hills that in no time was crammed with stuff. Clothes overflowed from closets and drawers into several shopping bags and spilled onto the floor.

Dust bunnies grew to the size of cabbages, windowsills were perpetually grimy, and the kitchen floor went unwashed for months (fortunately it was brown tile, which provided great camouflage). I knew where the phone was only when it rang.

Things improved three years later, when I broke down and hired a cleaning lady. While I reveled in the ammonia smells and vacuum-cleaner carpet tracks, I never felt compelled to keep it that way between visits. An hour after she left, clothes were again on the floor and dirty dishes were in the sink.

Of course, there's an advantage to being an incorrigible slob. It eliminates the expense and hassle of entertaining. The exceptions were my three female neighbors, who were messy too.

We greeted one another at our respective doors with: "Comeoninsorryit'ssuchamess." It was a perfunctory gesture of manners. Our apartments were variously littered with magazines, bras, bank statements, shoes and lipstick.

Dates were usually met outside. On rare occasions when I felt brave (like minutes after the cleaning lady left), I'd invite a guy in. In the first few minutes, his expression would change from happy/optimistic (thinking: "Hey, this is kind of funky") to frightened/horrified ("Hey, this is kind of a nightmare").

Comments included: "You have a cleaning lady and it still looks like this?"

"Do you own a vacuum cleaner?"

"You know, if you just got some shelving units, or rented one of those storage sheds. . . ."

I'd just smile and nod, humoring them. Obviously they didn't realize whom they were dealing with.

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