I’ve never been a particularly organized person. I was never one to make my bed each morning or color-code assignments in a planner. I once prided myself on this disorganization, seeing those who opted for neatness as trivial or overly obsessed with aesthetics. In my mind, prettiness was a barrier to efficiency — a trivial and unnecessary focus in the grand scheme of “getting it done.”
As I’ve aged though, I’ve learned to appreciate the extra step of aesthetic attention. Whether it be dotting on concealer before class or staying consistent with note formatting, I’ve learned that neatness has a previously unappreciated benefit — it affirms standards I hold for myself, even if it serves no greater purpose.
The grade on my test may not be impacted by the straightness of my lines in my notes, but it is a mental affirmation that my academic endeavors are important, even the little details. Perfecting my notes is surely a better use of my time than going on my phone during lectures. While I may be the only one to see my made bed at the end of the day, it reminds me of the effort I put into myself. Neatness has become a form of self-care and self-respect, routines of daily accountability toward myself.
Attention to aesthetics is often seen as a byproduct of excess time, vanity or misplaced values. We often see the pursuit of beauty as antithetical to hard work, evident in stereotypes of “bimbos” or “dumb blondes.” Beyond the blatant misogyny that this dichotomy presents, it also undervalues the importance of actions that facilitate self-care over productivity.
We’ve all heard the stereotype that engineers (or any other rigorous student body) don’t shower. While the engineers I know prove this stereotype false, there’s something to be said for the lack of care we give ourselves under stress. While I usually stay faithful to daily showers, I catch myself slacking on dressing nicely or keeping my work organized. Defaulting on my neatness may not directly result in academic failure, but it is a form of disrespect to myself. Maintaining standards for aesthetics, as trivial as it may sound, reaffirms my dignity in stressful situations. If I am going to be in a library for six hours straight, attention to physical detail redirects nervous energy into something semi-productive. Amidst worries about organic chemistry mechanisms, the last concern I need occupying my mind is the state of unbrushed hair.
I’ve never subscribed to capital W “Wellness” or the intentional pursuit of some greater, more enlightened, mindful self. But there’s no prize for acting too cool to care about yourself. There’s no shame in being “high-maintenance.” I take pride in my desire to keep my lifestyle neat and pretty. Little acts of lifestyle beautification make me feel confident, work more efficiently and manage stress. There’s nothing trivial, or shameful or useless in that.
Julia Poggi is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected] The Outbox runs every other Sunday this semester.