Tampa woman shoots messy housemate, scares slobs everywhere


Maybe it’s my age, but I like things to be neat and tidy. I like my office to be cleaned up, and everything put away. I like when my workbench is cleared off and the tools are put away.

This is a far cry from when I was a kid.

Back then, I loved the chaos of having everything I owned out on display for everyone to see. Things got so bad that rather than my mom bugging me to clean my room every day, she just shut the door and refused to let me keep it open.

The stories about the deadly stench of teenage boys are grossly under-exaggerated.

But I didn’t keep it messy all the time.

I would actually clean it up every three months, diverting a nearby river to wash everything away. And then making exciting archaeological discoveries, unearthing lost treasures from piles of dirty clothes, like a lost library book with $5,000 in late fees or half a sandwich.

I’m just kidding: I would never not eat half a sandwich.

I actually found there was nothing so satisfying as turning a superfund site of a teenager’s room into a bedroom that any mother could be proud of.

I also learned that delayed satisfaction was much sweeter than immediate gratification, so I started holding off as long as I could between cleanings. After all, the longer I went, the better it felt when it was all cleaned up.

My mother didn’t see it that way, so my bedroom door stayed shut 364 days of the year.

Those of you who grew up as neat freaks don’t understand the unspeakable joy that comes from shoveling out a mess to make your bedroom look drill sergeant tidy. Or the feeling of contentment — and safety — that comes from cramming stiff gym socks into a laundry hamper.

As I got older, I decided it was easier to accept the instant gratification of keeping things tidy rather than the delayed satisfaction of a once-in-a-blue-moon clean-out. I developed the habit after learning that while my mom would no longer bug me about keeping the house neat, my wife sure would.

Nowadays, I like to keep my workspace tidy. I work hard to keep it from getting cluttered, even a little.

Every so often, I get distracted and let things go. Small things start to pile up, like a handful of receipts or a small stack of unopened mail or magazines. It starts getting under my skin, like a pebble in my shoe, and I can’t work anymore until I get everything back into shape. So I’ll spend a couple of unproductive hours cleaning everything up and making it drill sergeant tidy again.

In fact, I love nothing more than tidying things up when I have a deadline. You can always tell I have a project due in several hours by how organized my office is.

Before I moved my office to my garage, my favorite garage activity was to spend a cool fall Saturday afternoon “playing garage,” puttering around and cleaning while I drank beer and watched six hours of college football.

It’s actually fairly easy to keep things tidy, especially in the garage. There are a few simple rules to follow:

1. If you’re not going to use it in a year and a replacement is less than $10, pitch it. You’ll never need it again anyway.

2. If it’s expensive, keep it. You won’t use it again, but you’ll feel better.

3. If it was expensive, but it’s old technology (like a 15-year-old cell phone), pitch it. Seriously, no one needs a 15-year-old cell phone.

My family is not as concerned about keeping things as tidy as I am. My kids’ rooms are enough to give me fits, but rather than bug them about cleaning up, I take a page from my mom’s book and nail the doors shut.

It’s much easier to just ignore the problem than to have an ongoing battle that we both know I’ll never win.

My philosophy sure beats what happened down in Tampa a few weeks ago when 71-year-old Patricia Whitehead decided she’d had enough of her roommate refusing to clean up after himself.

So she shot him. Several times.

Her anger must have been building for some time because Whitehead told police she was mad at the unnamed victim for not cleaning up after himself. She said when she heard him slam the front door as he was leaving, she grabbed her gun, followed him outside, and shot him.

Look, I understand the need to keep things tidy, but that’s a bit much, isn’t it? I get irritated when there are a lot of dishes left in the sink, but I just make snide passive-aggressive comments about how I can’t find any clean plates.

But then I’ll spend the next two hours cleaning the kitchen because I have a deadline to finish this column.