I've never been neat. At all. All the way back to 3rd and 4th grade, I can remember that I almost always did every assignment twice because I'd do it once, lose it, and then have to pick it up from scratch before it was due.
Nothing ever really changed. Going away to college didn't fix me, boot camp didn't fix me, moving into my apartment didn't fix me, and (so far) moving into my own home hasn't fixed me.
I'd like to think this is why I've never been a neat freak: some other alternative always seems more interesting than cleaning. I'll pick up the phone to talk to a friend, write e-mails, read news on the Internet, read books, work out, or do just about anything first. It's not that I'm opposed to cleanliness in theory, it's just that it loses out in practice.
It wouldn't really all matter except for two reasons:
(1) It's embarrassing. I was more or less on my own for the past few years thanks to the training and deployment cycle. Now that things have changed (see any and all entries on 'community building') I'm finding it far more likely that there's actually another human being in either my car or home. It'd be nice to not have to do a five-minute spiel everytime this happens about how I keep meaning to get rid of those eight Dunkin Donuts cups on the floorboard but haven't done it yet. Personally, I don't care -- at all -- whether someone else has eight Dunkin Donuts cups in the footwell, or a box of Cup of Noodles that's been there for five months, but the reverse Golden Rule doesn't really work here -- other people do.
(2) And far more practically speaking, it leads to stuff getting lost. Any fan of George Carlin knows how important 'stuff' is in our lives. When you can't find your stuff, you can usually just go out and get more stuff. But that option becomes a lot less palatable when you're on a tight budget. And sometimes the 'stuff' you lose isn't readily replaceable. If it's a work-related item, it can be mighty hard to explain to someone that you just 'lost' it, whereas a lost sock can easily be replaced without anyone else being any the wiser.
Bottom line: Hearkening back to my entry about not making excuses about how things will magically fix themselves sometime in the future, I need to start with neatness.
It's going to be hard to break the old habit but the solution will come from: (1) being a lot more conscientious about where 'stuff' ought to go when it gets put down, and (2) reprioritizing cleaning vis-a-vis other potential ways to spend time.
Besides the better appearance/impression that ought to result, I'm hoping to gain back some of the time I spend cleaning when I suddenly don't have to stop in my tracks and upend everything in sight because I can't find my 'stuff.'