It started with a shelf.
That’s usually how it always starts. It’s one item, in one room, that I want to rearrange so that, when I look at it, it offers some glimpse of serenity in the chaotic mess.
Like every half-hatched plan I work up in my mind…it usually goes far beyond a simple straightening of one small thing.
That was my bedroom this past Wednesday. One shelf that has remained the same since we moved in over three years ago.
For those not in the know, my husband and I moved out to his family farm to live in his grandparents trailer house and save up to build our own home at some point. The house was larger than our home in town and to be truly honest – my husband and I are not town people. We didn’t like having a ton of neighbors and I don’t think either of us were truly comfortable with the constrictions. We’re happier with acreage, goats, chickens and a small amount of neighbors we know and enjoy the company of.
So, we moved out here after spending a few weeks cleaning the past out of the trailer, re-carpeting the girls room and tearing up the carpet in the kitchen to replace it with new sub-floor and tile.
Some things, however, have remained the same.
Like the shelf in our room.
It was bare save for a cast iron toy of a wagon being pulled by six horses.
So last Wednesday, I tucked the toy safely away and took over the shelf.
Everything on there means something to me now. They’re pictures our daughters created, a painting I made at a family reunion, one of our wedding pictures, a picture of Dustin holding Samantha, the girls school pictures, a ceramic pot I made in school, a carving from my grandpa Hansen, a collectible horse from my uncle Steve and that flip flop up in the corner? That was Mady’s contribution when she realized she didn’t have enough up there that was hers. So, off she went to glue a flip flop to a piece of cardboard she’d wrapped in two different kinds of scrapbook paper. She also glued beads and sequins to the flip flop. I have to admit…I really love it.
It feels like it belongs to me now and I adore it. Everything about that shelf is something that means a great deal to me. Well, maybe not the books. One of them is just pure smut, but hey, sometimes you have to have a book of pure smut.
What happened after that shelf was what usually happens when a cleaning venture starts out with one simple thing.
I was suddenly on the floor, tearing things out of my closet and throwing them in the garbage or in a laundry basket, organizing my shoes, tossing clothes I no longer wore in boxes. The bed was taken over by haphazard organized piles – good will, laundry, girls room. A pile on the floor migrated and dissipated as I worked.
You know what happens when you do this with kids in the house?
They look at everything you put in a box to good will and claim they were looking for this toy or that toy for ages and they finally found it!!
Cleaning goes from a solo venture to me against them. And I move quick when this happens. I also throw clothing over toys so they can’t see what I’m up to because realistically, they’re kids and if it’s not right in front of their faces, they don’t know where it is. Tricky, right?
That’s my cleaning style. Total destruction is a requirement. A means to an end. Anything that doesn’t involve destruction is just straightening up.
My sister has a habit of doing this. Or had a habit of doing this. We don’t live in the same house anymore and she’s on her toes with four kids to keep track of and a business to run, so who knows when the last time she went into deep clean mode was. The days she would do that were my mom’s favorite days because they usually involved the kitchen and more specifically, the kitchen cupboards. She would attack clutter relentlessly and we would jokingly ask her if she was on speed or something. She never was. She just hated looking at it and was in a mode to make it disappear.
Maybe it’s an inherent trait.
It’s more comforting to me to think that my body is finding natural ways to deal with my anxiety and depression. I’m aware that clutter tends to provoke anxiety and depression. The more we surround ourselves with messes that contain things we don’t necessarily need in our lives, the more anxious and depressed we feel.
For the most part now, when I walk into my room, I feel peace and enjoy the space. Nothing about it makes me frustrated or anxious. My girls have taken it over a bit because they love to set their Littlest Pet Shop sets up on my dresser and play. I let them, as long as they promise to get everything out of there when they’re done.
Destruction to self-medicate anxiety. Sounds counter-productive, right? And yet, it seems to work.
Or at least it seems to work when it’s just one room. No one wants to destroy a whole house in one day to clean it all up again. Then again…if you do want to take that approach, have your kids handle the destruction part of it. They’re pros at getting it done in a third of the time it would take you.