Have you ever looked at a person you love or even one you do not even know and think, “How could you possibly be any more annoying, inconsiderate, or crazy?”

Maybe it’s the lady in the grocery store who keeps appearing in the same aisles you are browsing with her shopping cart dead center of the path blocking your access past her. Or maybe it’s your partner who drives like a maniac or mixes the peanut butter with the jelly because he does not clean the knife before double-dipping.

I am a neat person, in more ways than one, but mostly, I like order and cleanliness. Confession: I do not have a pantry that looks like something off a Pinterest pin about organizational ideas, but I do keep my shoes in order on a rack, always make my bed in the morning, squeegee my shower and I never ever leave dirty dishes in the sink. 

I prefer to straighten and clean the house throughout the week as messes occur rather than spending a big chunk of time on a Saturday doing 6 loads of laundry, wielding a toilet brush, or scraping dried egg off the stove.  

Back in the day when my handsome held the title of “boyfriend” and we lived in separate homes, he operated completely opposite. He liked to collect dirty clothes, dishes, and other assorted items in designated areas such as the bedroom floor, sink and dining room table, respectively and “deal with it later.” The definition of “later” was the time right before I would arrive for a weekend visit. Sometimes “later” was still happening when I arrived. I would feel somewhat obligated to help him. I hated sitting on the couch watching Golden Girls re-runs if someone is making me feel guilty by being productive!

One Friday afternoon, I escaped the clutches of work early and texted him that I would head to his house earlier than usual. He was fine with that but warned me that he hadn’t finished cleaning yet. I immediately pictured a sink full of dirty, smelly dishes, an unmade bed with sheets that would need to be changed, and an overflowing trash can. I was already getting angry that he waited until the last minute rather than getting up early to tackle them. His chores were going to cut into our limited time together.

I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that this was not my problem. Handsome never once asked me to help with his chores, nor did he expect it; I’d always just jumped in and did it even after he’d mildly protest. That was my problem, not his. I decided right then and there that if my assumptions about the condition of his house were accurate, I would try something new: NOTHING. I would find something to watch on TV, take the dog for a walk or take a nap while he finished up. I immediately started to feel better because I was back in control of my feelings and was looking forward to the evening.

The house was as I expected. I plopped down on the couch and got in touch with Sophia, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche while he emptied the sink, ran the vacuum, and started a load of laundry. A delicious Friday night was underway! As I heard the washer filling with water, my Handsome stepped out of the laundry closet and said, “Did you do this?!” while holding up the detergent bottle.  

“Do what?” I asked innocently. 

“This mess!” he replied as he pointed to the dried-on blue drips of detergent all over the rim of the bottle under the cap. 

I sat back, startled, and sputtered, “Well, yeah. That bottle spout is a leaker!”

He laughed and replied, “Who does that?! Why didn’t you just wipe it off with a paper towel?!” 

I was speechless and that’s when it hit me: I can be an annoying jerk too! It never even occurred to me that someone would care if the laundry detergent bottle was a dripping mess since it’s hidden inside a laundry closet so I didn’t think twice about leaving it that way. 

The moral? We spend a lot of time trying to get others to operate the way we think is best. We get upset when someone does not do what we think they should on the timeline we think is best. We get annoyed by partners, coworkers, and even strangers for minor offenses, but it’s a waste of time.It took me 30+ years to figure that out. Now when someone is doing something minorly annoying, I just think of boyfriend’s incredulous tone of voice saying, “Who does that?!” Then I remember, I leave laundry detergent bottles a sticky, unsightly mess. Who am I to get upset at others?!