I have previously written about the state of Andrew’s flat.
He is a perfectionist, and this has the opposite effect of what you might expect. You’d think that a perfectionist would have a pristine, immaculate home, and some perfectionists probably do, but there’s actually quite a strong relationship between hoarding and perfectionism.
I don’t think he is an official hoarder, but his home wouldn’t look completely out of place on a documentary about hoarding.
People think that perfectionism is a positive quality, but true perfectionism can be paralysing. It stops people getting things done, because they put things off until they think they can do them perfectly, or avoid doing things altogether in case they fail.
In Andrew’s case, the reason his home is such a shit tip is because ever since he moved in, he’s struggled to make decisions about how to arrange things, because he wants it to be perfect. He’s put off doing things like assembling furniture and unpacking until he has the perfect circumstances, which never come.
There are definitely people who are more on top of cleaning than I am, but I do like my flat to be reasonably tidy.
Whereas my approach to is to do a little and often, probably doing just a few minutes cleaning every day, Andrew does absolutely nothing (not even putting rubbish in the bin) for weeks, then spends hours and hours cleaning one area of his flat in forensic detail. Because he works such long hours, he can’t afford to do this very often.
So, two years after moving into his flat, he still hasn’t unpacked.
This is because he doesn’t like the brand new carpet that was in his bedroom when he moved in, so he decided to replace it, but he couldn’t make a decision about what carpet to buy.
He thought it wouldn’t be the perfect order to assemble his flat-pack wardrobe and chest of drawers first, and have to move them when he gets around to getting new carpet, so the furniture has been still in its packaging, taking up most of the living room, ever since he bought it.
This means he has nowhere to put his clothes, so most of the time, all his clothes are either piled up on the sofa (meaning there is nowhere to sit) or on the bedroom floor, or in carrier bags.
On a bad day, when I go round to his flat, the bedroom floor is covered with clothes and piles of papers, and carrier bags with random things in (e.g one bag full of neatly rolled up ties, another with a carrot in, and another with rubbish in).
The living room, which is actually a big, spacious room, is mainly taken up with the flat-pack bedroom furniture and a bike, tins of paint and rubbish.
Well, that was the way it was, until this weekend.
A couple of months ago, I went around to his flat, and the state of it made me heart sink. It hasn’t really got worse, I had just lost patience with it.
“It’s getting to the stage where I don’t want to come around anymore,” I said, hugging him. “The state of your flat makes me feel bleak inside.”
“I know. I need to sort it out,” he agreed.
Then, a few weeks ago we went to a carpet shop together, and he decided what carpet to buy for his bedroom. He ordered some samples, so he could look at them in the room.
The carpet samples were only about 3 inches squared, but he put them all the floor and trod on each of them, to compare how they each felt.
I feared this would be where it would stall, but then he did go ahead and order it!
There was a couple of weeks wait for the carpet to come.
In the meantime, I convinced him to address another thing related to his perfectionism.
I remember, one of the first times I went to his, I saw a box that had Christmassy paper on it.
“What’s that?” I asked, as it was June.
He groaned and looked embarrassed.
“My parents gave me a laptop and printer,” he said.
“What? And you haven’t unwrapped or used it yet? What???”
It turned out he had been putting off opening and setting up his laptop, because he thought he would ‘spoil it’.
It was now coming up for two years since he’d been given these Christmas gifts, and they were still unused.
The same weekend he made the phone-call to the finalise the carpet delivery, he opened up the laptop.
For a horrible moment, I thought he was going to leave on the sheet of white plastic protecting the screen, but then he took it off.
We’ve been watching Netflix in bed on his laptop.
“It’s good having a nice new laptop to use, isn’t it!” I said.
“Yeah! It’s a shame I can’t tell my Dad and thank him, because then I’d have to tell him it’s taken this long!” He replied.
Then, on Friday, I went around with my tools. The carpet was due to come on the Saturday morning, and then we were going to build the wardrobe and chest of drawers.
First we needed to clear everything out of his bedroom.
I bought him a big box file thing with loads of different sections to put all his piles of paperwork in.
He was writing ‘mortgage’ on the first little label to put in the first section of his folder.
“Oh no, that’s too messy!” He said, tearing another label off, about to write it again.
“No, it’s fine! Use that one! I don’t want to come back in later and you’ve done nothing but written ‘mortage’ 25 times trying to get it perfect!” I said.
He laughed and put the imperfect ‘mortgage’ label into the file.
While he sorted out all of his paperwork, I went into the living room, to create space so we could put the mattress on the floor to sleep on, once we’d dissembled the bed.
He actually has quite a lot storage space, so I rearranged a cupboard so there was space for the tins of paint that had been strewn all over the living room the whole time I’d known him.
I was slightly ruthless and threw away some rubbish. Even just rearranging all of the clothes, books and post into piles made a real difference.
“Wow!” he said, when he came back into the living room.
We took the bed apart and carried the mattress through.
We had a slightly tense conversation as we dissembled the bed. He seemed to think we had to keep the different sections of the frame perfectly square as we took it apart, so he kept propping up corners of the bed with piles of police textbooks, or unnecessarily getting me to hold it in place, like it was a car propped up on bricks while its wheels were being replaced.
“OK, but this is a real waste of time,” I kept huffing.
Eventually we went to bed and it was quite fun, sleeping on a mattress in the living room. It felt like we were camping.
The carpet man was due to come between 9am and 11am the next morning.
The Rugby World Cup final was on it 9am.
Andrew put the rugby on the TV and I drank tea while we waited for the carpet man.
We suspected the carpet man might be watching the rugby as well, and would turn up as the final whistle blew.
He eventually showed up at 12.00 midday.
“Who won the rugby?” The Carpet Man asked as he arrived.
He pretended to be surprised when Andrew told him what the final score was.
That was a clever bit of theatre.
I heard him talking to Andrew in the hallway about parking.
I’m notoriously bad for not being able to judge when people are drunk, but just hearing his voice, I thought, He sounds drunk!
Andrew was saying, “I can help you carry things in if you like, but No, I don’t have permit for you to be able to park outside.”
“See, it’s not about carry… I just don’t want get a ticket!” The carpet man slurred.
Andrew came back into the living room, where I was still lying on the mattress on the floor.
“I think he’s had a drink!” He whispered, while miming a ‘drink’ action. “He was sweating a lot.”
Oh no, this is stressful!
I imagined installing carpet probably involved sharp tools and fine motor skills.
I winced every time I heard him through the wall, cutting the old carpet out.
I pictured Andrew’s bedroom being left with a random polygon shape of the expensive, new carpet in middle of the floor.
Maybe it’ll be fine, I thought. My friend Leona had an alcoholic builder working on her house for months and he did a really good job.
Apart from accidentally setting fire to the back of his van.
I heard Andrew asking about the service of shortening the bedroom door, if the new carpet is too thick, which he’d been told they could do.
The man said he couldn’t do it as it was a fire door.
Andrew asked what made it a fire door and the Carpet Man went on an incomprehensible tangent about Grenfell and how easy it is to kick in doors in council flats.
Then the old carpet managed to come out without any injuries.
Andrew offered the Carpet Man a cup of tea, and the Carpet Man seemed to perk up.
Not long after that, the new carpet was installed, and it looked great!
The Carpet Man took things back out to his van and we inspected the carpet. You’d never know it had been fitted by a drunk man!
Andrew was perturbed because there were a few marks on the wall afterwards, and he was saying he’d have to repaint them, but I licked a finger and touched the wall and said they’d easily come off.
Annoyingly, Andrew had to go into work for a meeting on Saturday afternoon, so I went and had a nice lunch on my own.
On Saturday night, we started put the bed back together in the bedroom (more tense conversations about whether the bed needed to be propped up like a delicate, Fabergé egg during the process).
Then we started on the wardrobe.
This felt momentous.
It was going quite well, until we reached a stage where we had half-assembled most of the frame, and the instructions said to turn it over, so we could nail the back on.
It was really big so it was hard to turn it.
As we started turning it, we heard the unhealthy sound of splitting wood.
It had come apart. Lots of the screws and things we had just put in had got ripped out, leaving damaged wood behind.
“Damn!” We both said.
We tried to work out what had happened. It seemed like the tall pieces of wood had got warped from leaning against the wall for the last 1-2 years, so when we had screwed them together, they hadn’t quite fit as they should.
I later realised I had put one bit the wrong up as well.
Andrew decided we should give up. He thought the damage wasn’t salvagable.
He thought he would have to somehow get rid of the partially assembled wardrobe and buy another one.
God no. It’ll stay in his living room for another 4-5 years.
“Why don’t we try and carry on? Most of the damaged bits are just around screwholes which will be covered when it’s finished.”
I thought if we nailed the back on without turning it, it would be trickier, but I knew the back would give it a lot more stability and shape.
It took a bit of creativity to fix a couple of the broken things, but we did it!
We went to bed quite late and watched another episode of the OJ Simpson programme on Netflix on his new laptop (I know we’re about two years behind the rest of the world but we’re loving it!).
I felt like we were on holiday when we went to bed, as his room looked so different, with actual proper furniture in it.
There is a reason it has become a bit more relevant for Andrew to make his flat fit for human habitation.
I’ve been offered a new job, and it’s much nearer his place than mine.
When I first texted him saying I’d seen the advert for this job, he texted me some encouragement.
About half an hour later, he texted me saying he’d looked up where the main office for this job is, and what the route from his flat would be.
I thought it was sweet. He seemed really excited about the idea of me getting this job, and kept saying, “we could see a lot more of each other!”
He said he’s happy for me to stay at his as much as I like, and he’s even keen for me to move in with him!
The job is basically the same job I’m already doing but in a different part of London.
I haven’t been happy at work for the last six months or so, so I’ve been looking for a change. The friend I made on EMDR training worked in this new service and was really happy there.
I think there may be more opportunities for career development there too.
I think at first I’m just going to stay with him more, when I start the new job, and see how it goes.