I’m an obsessive cleaner. If I spot a few bread crumbs on the kitchen floor, I immediately grab my cordless Dyson and zap them. For serious hoovering, nothing beats my Miele.
Wet towels on the bed, dirty clothes on the floor, and jam stains on the kitchen counter make my skin crawl, and I can’t go on with my daily business until everything is clean and tidy.
Given my obsession with cleaning, you’d think our house is spotless, but alas that’s not the case. My daughters share none of my passion for tidiness, and on a bad day, their rooms look like a disaster zone. And as I write this, I notice that my desk is cluttered and disorganised, and there are coffee stains on my tax return form. For someone so obsessed with cleaning, I am remarkably messy.
Lately, my compulsion to clean has extended to the digital sphere as well. The other day I spent much of the afternoon decluttering my mobile phone, deleting apps that I’ve never used and never will.
In a bid to cure my phone addiction, I made the radical decision to ban my phone, including charger, from the bedroom.
Having removed every bit of digital technology from my bedside table, I fetched a simple analogue alarm clock from storage and set it to wake me up this morning. I must admit I checked the clock several times before turning off the light, to make sure it was all set. Putting my faith in something as old-fashioned and unreliable as an ordinary alarm clock caused me a fair bit of anxiety; would the alarm go off as intended, and would I hear it? Or would I oversleep, making the girls late for school?
You might think me completely neurotic, but I’ve got a reason to mistrust alarm clocks. Years ago (in the olden days, as my eight-year-old calls the 1990s), I once overslept the morning of my final exams in college. I’d set my alarm, but exhausted from a night of studying, I slept through the alarm and only woke up an hour after I was supposed to have been commencing my first exam. Panicking, I threw on some clothes and ran for my life. Minutes later I was standing in the door of the classroom, looking like a madwoman, but the compassion of my professor saved me.
‘Go and get some breakfast, and come back and sit the exam,’ he said.
As soon as I’d finished writing the exam, I went to the nearest shop and bought two new alarm clocks, and for the rest of my time at university, I used all three to ensure I never overslept again.
I didn’t oversleep this morning, although I only had one alarm clock. In fact, I felt oddly liberated, as if I’d already cured my phone addiction, which of course I haven’t. But, not having my phone next to me at night-time meant I wasn’t tempted to check if for emails, text messages or news before going to sleep or when waking up in the middle of the night, as I often do. Instead, I just rolled over and went straight back to sleep.
It’s early days of course, and since waking up, I have looked at my phone a number of times, but it now sits, not on my desk or bedside table, but on a shelf, hidden from view. And it feels good, really good.