People whom Miss Manners politely refrains from characterizing as slobs are habitually rude toward those whose living quarters are neat and whose lives are organized.
Distasteful words, such as "compulsive" and "anal," are lobbed at such upstanding citizens quite casually by those who paradoxically pride themselves on their humanity. The assumption is that no harm is done, because anyone who keeps books in alphabetical order and clothing off the floor does not possess human feelings.Characterizing themselves as warm human beings (although Miss Manners does not quite understand how this automatically follows from an inability to put anything where it belongs), the unorganized routinely accuse the organized with whom they have supposedly warm relationships of petty larceny, petty tyranny and small-scale sabotage:
"Did you take my glasses?"
"I must have given you the tickets, because I don't have them."
"No, it's not my fault; you're the one who forgot to remind me."
"I would have put them in the dishwasher, but it was full, and I would have put the clean stuff away, but I don't know where you keep things and I knew you'd be upset if I didn't put everything away exactly where you think it should be."
"Why didn't you tell me it was my mother's birthday?"
"Of course I had to open another bottle - how was I to know that there were already two open in the refrigerator?"
"I didn't stand you up. I just didn't look at my calendar."
"OK, what did you do with my keys this time?"
This is not warm human-type behavior. Miss Manners does not claim that the fact of being disorganized is rude - only that it often leads to rudeness in the way of inconveniencing and blaming others. The least these people could do is to stop bragging about their problem and start appreciating those who tolerate and help them.
But they need to do more. Organizationally gifted or not, everybody has to take enough responsibility for managing time, duty and space to keep from making havoc of responsible people's lives, inside the household and out.
This means that everybody maintains a calendar of his or her own appointments and participates in a master household calendar (and while electronic ones are admittedly seductive, nothing has replaced the refrigerator door, the one place everybody stops). A central command post not only enables everyone to spot conflicts but to issue reminders to others and to find others in case of emergency - having first agreed upon the definition of an emergency, and whether it includes "I can't find my skis!"
Household duties can be divided according to individual talents, and some people should never be asked to keep track of when Thanksgiving will occur, much less connect this with the necessity of buying a turkey. But people who aren't sharp enough to be in charge of taking the car in for inspection while it is still legally possible to drive it can still be trained to take out the trash.
They must also learn to limit the consequences of their behavior by such measures as confining their messes to whatever out-of-sight space is designated for that purpose, and understanding that they have no authority to accept invitations on behalf of others or perhaps even for themselves. Also, they have to learn such basic household skills as leaving the newspaper intact and replacing the toilet paper instead of leaving unpleasant surprises.
Even Miss Manners doesn't expect the disorganized to be able to figure out where their own scissors are or make a connection between running out of shampoo and buying more. That would be too much to expect. But she does expect them to resist the temptation to allow these shortcomings to lead them into a life of rudeness and thievery.
Dear Miss Manners: After dinner at her house, a friend announced that we were going to a local ice cream shop for dessert. She made her selection there, paid, and stepped aside for me to do the same. I had a moment of anxiety, thinking I had brought no money, but found I was able to afford a dessert.
How could I have politely registered surprise at this arrangement? How could I have even declined to buy anything?
If a host offers me food, I will enthusiastically take whatever I am given, but I am considerably more scrupulous about what I buy for myself, and I did not particularly want to buy ice cream.
Gentle Reader: Then why did you?
Miss Manners appreciates your feeling a sense of obligation to react graciously to an offer of hospitality, but that does not require swallowing everything you are hospitably offered, only a simple "no thank you."
However, a shopping expedition - perhaps especially an involuntary one led by someone who defaulted on the offer of a meal - has nothing to do with hospitality. Not only are you free to pass on what is available, but you are as free to say you don't care for it as you would be if you accompanied a friend to a hardware store.