I’m alive, somehow. Weird, isn’t it, that depression doesn’t actually, actively kill us? Depression wants us to go all-in with that final show of commitment. My treatment plan was/is simple: stay alive. Shockingly, this is not a self-cleaning house, and therefore as ever so, I’m emerging from the deep to find the house judging. You. A failure at housework. Again. I’ve been here before. I’ve failed at flylady, UFYH, and countless motivational systems designed to make! your! environment! healthy! I exist another day. I exist to try again, so I add housework to my treatment plan.
The kids are outside and I’m channeling Annette Benning.
It’s March, almost. My youngest two children: tornadoes of flung backpacks and lunch boxes every afternoon, they change clothes as if they had a pit crew, then explode into the yard. Their pool noodles are horses, trotting around a tree they’ve named Penelope. When I call them inside, my voice is a tool of torture. “Penelope! Will miss us! It’s not even dark!” They’re shocked at suppertime, horrified when bathtime arrives. Every day!
I want that, don’t you? I want to be so involved in my life that I’m astonished to be pulled into what’s next. I long to lose myself in play, like those two, without consideration of the next moment in my life. It’s taken care of. I want to be bewildered by my death, do you?
“I will clean this house today!”
She’s hard lines and angry motions, but she’s chanting a mantra. I get you, Carolyn. “I will sell this house toDAY!” I wake up and chant “I will clean this house toDAY!”
Even though I could argue that my genius prevents me from being creative in a clean space, some research shows that my brain chemistry can be altered just by changing my surroundings. Clean house, clean mind. Removing the clutter from my environment will create a mirror image in my head. I’m not attached to things. Throwing away is easy. Cleaning is hard to love. You don’t have to love everything you do. Sometimes just the doing is enough.
It’s working. Here’s why:
I give myself fully and completely to the task in front of me, ticking of items one by one on my various lists. I require lists. I use lists from this website, and I use this app on my phone to organize them. Using a system keeps me focused. Now I can really engage the working meditation of housework. I don’t think about anything else. The mess on the counters doesn’t respond to introspection and it doesn’t wonder why it exists; it will respond only to the sponge. Clean up the mess.
My middle daughter decided she’d rather attend public school than be homeschooled. Her decision worked out well for both of us, because at least 30% of my crushing boulder of shame/depression was related to guilt, because I couldn’t leave the house. That’s a made up number. You can’t quantify guilt. I’m an introvert; maybe a radically awkward introverted introvert, or a person with extreme social anxiety or PTSD but the why doesn’t matter. Clean up the mess.
Now that my daughter is in school, there’s no reason for me to stay home. I need to do something besides college and Sherlock reruns. (I’m one of the students involved in this scandal, and my school holds my credits and my future hostage for a ransom of $4690.00) It seems I may unemployable. I need to be productive.
Housework makes me feel productive
Clearing out clutter and cleaning the house makes me feel productive and useful. There is a measurable, tangible result at the end of each task. I do other work, too. This is different. This is a product that I can show. I did this. I care. I’m committed.
Housework Grounds Me to My Life
Caring for this wounded house – with its constellation of stains on the ceiling from that time when I threw coffee at my teenager and holes in walls from doors slammed open and the layers of dust from neglect grounds me.
I’m fighting my way through, tossing out what isn’t needed. I’m peeling away layers of dirt. I’m slowly re-entering my life. Inch by inch, here I am: painting toenails, putting on a scarf. Being engaged is painful; it’s a staring into the sun/bright lamp early in the morning kind of sensation. I’m getting through it. One load of laundry at a time.