Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Cleaning--It's All In Your Head!

I LOVE spring cleaning.  You probably hate spring cleaning, so you assume we don't have that in common. But not so fast.  Here's what I mean.  It's like running. When people find out that I run, they always say to me "I hate running".  The implication is that I enjoy it so we're different.  I actually think running is kind of horrible. It's really boring, and I hate listening to my labored breathing. Also it's uncomfortable, and I hate being uncomfortable.  Ask my husband, he'll confirm my distaste for discomfort. I don't enjoy the part where I'm actually running at all.  The fact is, though, when I round that last corner and I'm headed for home and I've just finished my run, it's exhilarating! It feels awesome to have done that.  I feel strong and in charge.  It makes me want to treat my body like a temple--eat lean protein and drink a green smoothie. The harder my run the more I feel that way, it's directly proportionate. It makes me feel optimistic and hopeful and generally happy inside. Plus I feel rad. The result is so amazing that I have vision for the workout, which in turn, actually makes it fun in a twisted sort of way, see? It might make me say "I love running" even though I kind of hate running. It makes sense, doesn't it? So, if feeling on top of it and in charge is such a great feeling for me, and if organization and order are the things I love more than all other things, you can see how the thought of spring cleaning makes my heart feel light, even if I dread getting started. But I do have a "how to love spring cleaning" trick and here's what it is. I approach it in two distinct stages.

The first stage of spring cleaning happens entirely in my head.  It's a planning stage.  I let myself live here for awhile because I know that if I don't actually have to do any work yet, it won't be as overwhelming to start engaging with the disaster that the house has become.  I start intentionally opening my eyes as I go about my life and make mental notes of all of the chaos that I would ideally like to address.  I don't even make a list yet, I just start looking and noticing. Look at my mail sorter, wow, there is actually some garbage in there, and is that a cassette tape?  Really? Oh, huh, look at those baskets in the laundry of "crap I don't know what to do with", those are really packed to the brim, aren't they? Interesting, I had no idea that there was an empty shoe box in the broom closet next to that $25 bottle of stinky vitamins I wasn't sure if I could return. 

 It actually ends up being a lifeline of hope through the last of winter.  There are no expectations on me yet--I don't have to do anything--but I am starting the process and because I know now that this stuff is going to be addressed at some point, I can relax about it for now. I also like to think about some projects that I am excited about, so that some of the much needed cleaning and purging will be about making way for new life.  I would way rather purge the toys in the basement if I am planning to finally put in those shelves down there and hang some stuff on the walls.  It's going to be so much easier to clean out the clutter in the girls room if we're planning to paint and rearrange the furniture when we're done. Even thinking about shopping for spring clothes makes addressing my closet seem less horrible.  I mean who wants to hang a pretty new spring jacket next to dusty wool slacks? So I just think and plan and dream. Those things aren't miserable, they're fun!

I actually find that eventually stage 2 happens on it's own. I'm not even joking. Instead of avoiding the thought of spring cleaning because it's sounds so overwhelming--and I'm depressed enough because it's March and the weather report is snow and rain for the rest of eternity--I just call noticing Spring Cleaning, and voila! I feel like I'm making great progress even though I'm not doing anything at all. It's a two step process and I'm halfway done. Progress always feels great and plus now I'm in charge, not my chaos. Feeling great is like a positive spiral.  Eventually, I'm dying for the sun to come out because I have a head full of things to get to and I'm sick of thinking about them.  I'm actually chomping at the bit to get started doing them!  

In the past, when I'm bogged down in the winter blues and I have chosen to avoid engaging with the house, I wake up and suddenly it's spring. It's time to address  the dirt and the clutter and it's overwhelming and I don't even know where to start.  Trying to warm up the engine at the starting line is a huge job, and it's not that great for the engine either.  So this is my nugget for the day.  Motivation and action are different jobs, and spending some time warming up is universally a good idea. So look around, it's fine! Dream a little, have some ideas, shake your head at the mess.  That wasn't so bad, was it? Congratulations, you're already well on your way!

Friday, March 23, 2012


I have a friend who is the opposite of me.  I mean in terms of her non-negotiables.  I care deeply about mess and clutter. I will go to the ends of the earth to find solutions for mess and clutter while turning a blind eye to grime around the shower head.  And frankly, unless it's a major cleaning day,  I only care that the "company path" gets dusted (my basement collects dust like crazy--poor kids!).  I really just need it to be pretty, and organized.  She, however, cannot abide in a house that feels gross.  I have personally witnessed her get out the mop--not the broom--after our kids have had lunch when we are at her house.  She thinks I'm crazy and has on more than one occasion laughed at me for things like this:

But I swear I've seen her take a potty break during coffee and then emerge from the bathroom with yellow rubber gloves on and the 409. She would be horrified to se this in her house:

That is the space underneath the very same pantry closet. Or how about  this (Heather make sure you've had breakfast):

And these are things I found today while cleaning house that I am not even planning to do anything about.  I'm actually not kidding.  If I get to them, I will, but you should have seen the examples I could have come up with this morning before I got out the cleaning supplies. I'm actually sad that I already vacuumed out my coat closet. It hadn't been done since last spring, I think. Eew. It's what made me think of this post. Well that, and my husband posting something funny on Facebook this morning about moms blogging instead of raising their kids. Okay, the shower grime I probably will do, but only because you guys have seen it now and I feel ashamed. 

This same friend is famous for her permanent collections of things like tax return documents, playmobiles, phone batteries, coins and general randomness on her beautiful, granite, handcrafted kitchen island (it's actually where these things go I think.  It is there home), but I personally would lick soup off of her floor without a second thought. I swear I've never seen a smudge on her windows and that's saying a lot because her house is literally made of glass.  She actually bought a glass dining table when she has three young children--on purpose! I was flabbergasted. I thought certainly she hadn't thought it through, but I was grossly mistaken.  She said that if it's glass she will know exactly when it gets dirty (precisely the same argument I use for not having a glass table).

Ultimately, her non-negotiables are all about knowing it's clean.  She knows who she is and she's setting herself up for success.  You can find glass cleaner and a roll of paper towels any time you need them right within reach. Her mop is handy, her electric sweeper is always plugged in and ready to go. The cleaning supplies are already next to the toilet and the sink--fully stocked with clean rags.  She will likely trip over all kinds of wayward items on her way to the bathroom, and if you look inside her closets it's the most hilarious collection of goods. She used to keep vitamins and the ziplock sandwich bags on the top shelf of one of her kitchen cabinets, and I remember in the hall closet there were some guest bath towels, extra blankets and cartons of Costco soup. But I'll be darned if there were any dust bunnies in the corners of said closet and those towels may not be stacked and folded according to color and size, but I bet they got washed with dryer sheets and spritzed with lavender linen spray that very afternoon.

My point is simple.  "Know who you are and be that" is really about understanding your non-negotiables and letting go of stuff. And it's really different for everyone. I've spent a bit of time talking about this through my own eyes, but we all have different vision. I thought Heather's eyesight was an interesting change of pace.  I'm sure many of you can relate to this! She is someone who does things really different from me, she makes entirely different choices, but she knows what she has to have in order to be at peace, and what she can let go of just a little. We just can't live forever determining that everything is a non-negotiable.  The goal for me is to be able to sit down periodically and enjoy some peace, some fellowship, (some tv). Or to be at home with my family and feel like it's under control. That I'm running the place not the other way around. To be truly honest about what drives me mad and find realistic solutions that keep the Inspector Dreyfus twitch at bay, but allow me time and energy to invest in the things that I really care about.

Like this:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Will to Live

I haven't posted in awhile because, well "if you can't say somthin' nice...".  I'm having some trouble with the late winter blues. I'm dreaming of putting flowers in my pots, taking the kids on crisp, spring walks, sitting with my hubby sipping evening cocktails on our patio while the kids kick the ball around in the back yard.  I'm even looking forward to hollering at the kids for taking all of the dishes outside to play Little House and leaving them full of muddy water on the porch. Listening to the neighborhood kids laughing in the yard until way past bedtime. I can't wait to pack away coats and hats and not have to dig them back out again. To have a few months of relief from finding socks for everyone every day.  

I love spring and summer more than anything.  I start looking forward to it the day after Christmas, which unfortunately is only a few days into winter. Some good wine and Top Chef can keep depression at bay for a little while, and in February I fool myself into thinking I'm almost there so there's a resurgence of momentary optimism, but by March...I 'm just all done. I just lose my will to live. Then this morning I went downstairs and found that while I was gone with the girls all afternoon and evening yesterday this is what was happening to my house:

It's very discouraging and it doesn't help very much. I figured I should go and try to find my reason for living. The good news is that I found this:

and this:

I also found this:

And then it wasn't long before I saw this part of his neck:

I hate winter, but there is something alive, undeniably vital, about the raging need for smooches that came over me.  Every season passes eventually and in the meantime I guess I have some pretty great things to keep me busy. I think I'll hang in there for a little while longer.