Cleaning my way to happiness

A few times a year, the unmanageability of my life becomes so completely overwhelming and intolerable to me that I am driven to the most desperate of measures. I clean. I vacuum, polish, dust, sort, organize, throw away, and fix anything and everything I can get my hands on.

It never starts as a conscious decision. Rather, on a seemingly ordinary day, I will reach into the closet to pull out a hoodie and suddenly find that every single item that was once in my closet is now heaped onto my bed. How did that just happen?! Great. Now I have to put it all away or I’ll have nowhere to sleep tonight. Sigh.

As I sort through my 30 hoodies, old event posters, 20-year-old high school kilt, and collection of painting t-shirts, I slowly start to feel just a little bit lighter. Hey, this feels kind of good. If my life was this closet, it would be totally manageable! I’m just going to sit here forever admiring the manageability of my life as represented by this beautifully organized closet with its tidy stacks of hoodies. I think I’m in love.

Unfortunately, sooner or later, I have no choice but to venture out into the rest of the house which now, by comparison, looks even worse than before. Oh god, how have I let my life get so out of control? Dust bunnies everywhere, dead flowers in the vase, empty water glasses all over the house. And when was the last time I even washed my bedsheets?! 

That’s when something shifts inside me and my cleaning trance turns to cleaning mania. No knickknack will be left undusted, no corner unvacuumed, no dish unwashed, no cupboard unsorted! Enough is enough! 

For the next few hours (days), I fixate on bringing even the most minute things throughout the house back up to military standards. Nothing is going to get in my way – not phone calls, not texts, sadly not even showering.

And somewhere between scrubbing the fingerprints off the light switches and aligning the shoes in the hallway, I feel another shift. I am overcome by a feeling of inner peace and calm. I can suddenly sit still. I can breath again. 

Somehow, magically, there isn’t any doubt left in my mind that my life is manageable. Of course it is. Look at this house. This is the house of someone who has a good life. Somehow, completely unexpectedly, I’ve managed to clean my way to happiness. I know it won’t last forever and that’s ok. Today is a good day. I’ll take it. And happily, it’ll be a good long time until I have to clean again.

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