Next to Godliness
My mom was a really great housekeeper. I don't mean that like she was a "housekeeper" (I always picture Alice from The Brady Bunch...and desperately wish I had my very own Alice). I mean she kept our house really clean and neat. She got that from her mother, who was a really fastidious housekeeper. She had solid cleaning routines: rubbish baskets emptied on Saturday, floors mopped on Wednesdays and Sundays, furniture dusted on Mondays. It drove her crazy that my bedroom was a complete disaster area for my most my pre-teen and teen years. I used to joke that you'd better not leave a glass sitting somewhere that you planned to sip from again because Mom would sweep it up and have it in the dishwasher before you could blink.
When I was young, I really resented this obsession with cleaning. My friend's mother didn't seem to worry about keeping the house sparkling clean and their house was fine. What did it matter if my room was a nightmare? I kept the door closed. Still, all those careful routines and cultivated habits worked their way into my DNA. When I got my own space and was suddenly responsible for keeping things clean myself, I found that I wanted things to be neat, clean, orderly.
Recently, I've been struggling a great deal with depression. The one thing that depression does really well is to not only tell you that you're a garbage person but also that you deserve to live a garbage life. For me, this manifested as my house becoming a real, true, total mess. It was a mess I just had to live with, too, because I didn't have the energy or gumption to get up and make it better. I've spent the majority of my time in bed the last few years. Amid the chaos of my house, I pulled the covers over my head and hid from it. Even though it made me feel terrible to see dishes piling in the sink, a ring around the bathtub, clothes scattered everywhere, boxes still unpacked from my recent move, I could not do anything about it. Just thinking about doing something about any one of these things would sink me further into a black hole.
So, last winter, I did finally ask a friend for some help with the 3rd bedroom in my house. Since the day I'd moved in, it had served as a storage room for unpacked boxes. Some of those boxes had not been unpacked since my 2012 move. I didn't even know what was in many of those boxes anymore. She very kindly spent the day helping me unpack and sort all the stuff I found waiting for me. Over the course of last year, I slowly got the 3rd bedroom organized into a livable space. Then, I backslid. Now, it is a slightly livable crazy mess. Craft supplies are everywhere. Junk rests on nearly every surface. I put a garbage bag in there weeks and weeks ago with the intention of filling it and throwing things out. It's still there...empty and waiting.
All of those good routines that my mother demonstrated for me have fallen by the wayside the last few years. I want to live in a tidy space. When my house is clean and neat, I feel so great. I spent a good chunk of this weekend cleaning and tidying the kitchen and my bedroom. I woke up this morning feeling like a million bucks because everything looked so good. So neat. So organized. It is my goal to get that 3rd bedroom sorted by the end of March. Then, I want to move on to the closets. Then, the kitchen pantry. Then, the nebulous "bonus room" area off of the kitchen which has become a warehouse for things that don't have any other home. These goals are all good ones, but I wonder if I'll be able to tackle them.
Cleaning and keeping organized is as much a habit as anything else. I've fallen out of the habit while struggling with my depression. It's just like exercising (another habit that disappeared under a black wave of sorrow). It's just like self-care. I've let so many things go, I sometimes feel overwhelmed thinking about all of the stuff I need to re-learn.
In the meantime, while I'm still re-learning how to clean and exercise and take care of myself like a human adult, I am committed to keeping dishes out of the sink and doing laundry once a week. Those are small but vital steps. Hopefully, they're steps that will lead to unpacking all the stuff that is stacked in the garage! We'll see...