As a young newlywed, I kept a spotless home. Every evening we'd have a beverage or two after dinner. When we'd finish, I'd get up and wash up the glasses, so the house returned to its clean state of perfection. One evening, my husband turned to me, "Stop it! Sit down and relax!" And I did.
Our home became much more casual. It reached a peak a couple of years later after we'd moved to Portland. One evening my husband brought home a friend from church. I cringed to have someone see how we were living. That weekend I cleaned the house. And, for years I cleaned every Saturday. At the end of the day, the entire house was spotless. And, between my Saturday cleanings, I kept things neat and tidy.
As I matured, I relaxed some on my cleaning, and it became every other Saturday. As my children grew and were more capable, it became a matter of cleaning what was dirty when it needed it. No more weekend rituals.
Two years ago Tom and I moved into our new home. It was bigger but missing a garage. In our old place, the garage was a large part of our storage space. With the move, we had boxes everywhere! I had to sort each one and make decisions. What stayed, and what went. I'd reach a point where the kitchen cupboards were full and still have kitchen boxes left. More sorting.
Amongst the unpacking, we had some big projects outside. The "barn" needed a concrete floor so Tom could use it as a shop for his work. The exterior of the home needed attention before winter. I wanted to expand the garden. Bottom line - there was lots to do, and housecleaning fell way down on the list. I'd clean a toilet as needed or sweep the floors when they were obviously dirty.
Then last summer, my son Jason took his own life. Immediately after his death, the family got together to clean out his apartment. There was a lot of stuff in his one bedroom apartment. One of Jason's ways of coping with his depression was shopping. We donated loads of clothing and other items. He was a tech geek, so there were crazy amounts of electronic toys. He'd kept a lot of what he'd bought over the years. We brought home many boxes of items for sorting later. And, some of that got done - again as the family gathered. Our guest room became a haven for the last of the boxes.
It's been eleven months of raw, gut-wrenching grief. Each day has been a journey to find the energy necessary to take care of necessities. If I had any extra energy, I went outside. Working in the dirt feeds my soul, and my soul needed feeding. Housecleaning? Furthest thing from my mind.
During this time, we've had guests. They had to ignore the boxes in the bedroom. About ten days ago, my daughter asked if she and her new boyfriend could stay at our place. They wanted to explore the gorge and use our home as a kind of bed and breakfast. We said yes.
And the wheels started to turn. We had several boxes of electronic stuff. Cables and old gadgets and whatever else floating in there. Tom found them a home and out of the room they went. Next was the painting supplies. They'd been in the house for a year now. The day before Jason's life started to unravel I'd purchased paint for the living room. After his death, the paint and supplies ended up in that room along with Jason's box of painting supplies. I sorted and organized it all and moved it to the shop.
Then I started looking for "that" table I usually had in the guest room. We had a water leak in the house this winter. I moved the table into the living room to hold phones and other miscellaneous items. They had been on a wine rack, but it couldn't sit on the wet carpet. I cleared the table and moved the wine rack back into its place. The table went back into the guest room. Next, I cleaned the guest room and organized the furniture to make it all look welcoming. Ahhhh!
Now I was on a roll. Clearing the last of Jason's things - the things we didn't want or need - had freed up some energy. I continued sorting and cleaning out the corners all over the house. And yesterday, I finished up my cleaning spree with a deep clean of the floors in the kitchen and dining room. The house is not perfect yet, but the change is remarkable.
My daughter would be furious if she thought I cleaned house for her. But this wasn't for her. Their visit was the catalyst to start the process. This cleaning has been for Tom and I. It's been a healing journey. And, there have been some tears along the way. I still have one more room to clean and two boxes of Jason's memorabilia to sort. One day soon.
Meanwhile, I don't expect I'll become a neat freak like I was in my young adult years. But at least I've returned our home to a pleasant place to be. No more needing to ignore the mess floating around underneath our feet. And today when I look at Jason's picture, It's a little less painful. I've taken another step on the journey of healing.