I have several exes who can tell you that I am not a natural homemaker. I didn’t come stock with domestic tendencies, I don’t run a tight ship, and I am not someone that would be described as “neat and tidy” ever. I don’t live in total squalor, I just don’t make cleaning my house as much of a priority as some might.
When I do clean, I mostly just straighten.Push the junk to the edges to make the middle look clean, like veggies on a 6 year old’s plate. I’m a big fan of cramming things inside other things and putting a pretty sheet on top of it to hide the whole mess. Not so shockingly, this is how I tend to deal with emotional issues, too. I put them in little boxes to be gone through later, I straighten them out enough to pass for having my shit together, and I cover them up with a new hairstyle and fun earrings. (Don’t ever underestimate the power of fancy, shiny earrings.)
Turns out, this isn’t the best long term plan for either dwelling. The clutter eventually overpowers us all. (There’s a Shel Silverstein poem about this, actually. Ok, maybe Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout isn’t about this exact thing, but… close.)
The time came to clean house. First, I chose to focus on my emotional abode. I unpacked all the crap I had crammed away into random spaces, and spread it all out on the floor. I took inventory, got rid of what I could, and reorganized the rest with handy little labels. Really, that makes it sound almost fun, when in reality, it was a whole lot of me sitting on my couch staring at the wall, writing angry letters, and bursting into tears over the death of my fantasy TV alien dad (I can’t be the only one that wished they were part Vulcan, can I?). It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and it’s fucking exhausting. It’s making a point to think about things I intentionally block out, saying out loud things I’ve never told anyone before, and confronting people I’ve been terrified of since age 4. (Even if that confrontation comes in the form of a letter that will never be sent, it’s a start.) One day, it might also be telling my story. But today isn’t that day, so vague hints are all there is for now.
Re-shelving what remains doesn’t mean I’m done with it forever. It just means I’ve looked at it, I was honest about how I felt about it, and I put it where it belonged instead of just sweeping it under the rug. I could get rid of it later, but for now, it’s too painful to part with.
While all of this was happening, my actual house suffered a bit more than usual. It was taking all the energy I had to appear in public for 40 hours a week, masquerading as a functioning adult, and keep a teenager from starving to death. I had nothing left for my friends, I wasn’t really showing up for the rest of my family, so I definitely had no energy for things like picking up my shoes. (And seriously. I have a lot of shoes.) At first, I felt guilty. Partly, because that’s like breathing for me, I’m pretty sure most things are somehow the result of my negligence. But also because I thought I was being a terrible role model for my son. However, there was something else he needed to see. That we have to take care of ourselves, and sometimes that means letting ourselves be lazy. Like everything, there’s boundaries, and healthy limits, but sometimes, we just need to watch 3 hours of The Big Bang Theory in our sweatpants while eating Taco Bell, and that’s perfectly fine. Even if it’s 3 nights a week instead of just once in a while. Everyone needs compassion and understanding, and we need it from ourselves most of all. Also, I asked him for help. That’s not an easy thing for me either, but it’s something I want to try to teach to him. Without going into a lot of detail, I just told him I was tired, and I needed him to pick up a little of my slack, even when it might not be totally fair. Since he’s an amazing human, and I pay him $10 a week, he did it with very little resistance.
Today, I cleaned my kitchen. Not just straightened, scrubbed with a toothbrush. There’s still some major cleaning to do on every front, but I think I’ve got a handle on all of it. If I don’t, that’s ok, too. The multitude of stray shoes will still be there when I’m ready.