Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cleanliness is Next to Alcoholism

Lately, I’ve been frustrated by housework.

I don't live in a dump. The house is picked up. There's a logical flow to the furniture and the way the kitchen is laid out. I try to keep on top of the dishes and laundry. I wave the vacuum attachments around in the arcane signs that ward off cat hair at least once a week.

I just don't feel like it makes any difference.

Because I have stuff.

Everywhere I turn, there’s stuff. It’s on my counters and my table and my couch. It fills every cabinet and closet and drawer. It’s under my bed, and sometimes on my bed, and in my garage and every other room too. Some of it’s awesome stuff. Some of it’s Matt’s stuff. Some of it’s… hang on… what is this anyway? Where did this come from? What does it do? Why do I have this?


I’ve long known that I have a stronger stomach than most people when it comes to gore. Years of zombie movies have inoculated me against sights that make other people wretch. Compared to your average slasher film, those “Trauma in the ER” shows are tame: I watch with academic curiosity as people get operated on, sutured, saved from horrendous accidents. As such, I have consigned myself to the fact that there are certain shows I can only watch when my poor, sensitive husband is not in the room.

One of those shows is Hoarders, which exposes people who live with so much clutter and junk that they can’t walk through their own homes. Some can’t open certain doors or use their own kitchens, others have literally lost pets in their mess. It’s madness.

It’s like a train wreck – I’m disgusted, but I can’t look away.

When Matt is on business trips or working late, sometimes I like to curl up on the couch with a fluffy blanket and a bowl of ice cream and queue up an episode online. “I’m glad I don’t live like that,” I say to the cats, who purr contentedly in my lap.

It’s one of my guilty pleasures, the voyeuristic feeling of watching a show with no artistic merit or positive value to it, save one:

At the end of the show (or sometimes in the middle of the show), without fail, I leap from the couch, tossing aside cats and fuzzy blanket, and declare, “I have to go clean now.”


“Really?” a friend said when I told her about it. “It has the opposite effect on me: I watch Hoarders and then decide my house isn’t so bad and I can totally read a book instead of cleaning.”

I don’t know, you guys: I can’t stop seeing myself in the people on that show. I have stuff everywhere!

I don’t know where it all comes from. I don’t even go shopping. Still, these things accumulate. An item here, an item there, that little thrill one gets from finding the perfect product at the perfect price, and then it’s a week later and I’m looking at one of these spur-of-the-moment purchases and thinking “Why did I buy that?”

I often think about just getting rid of everything and starting again from scratch, setting up my home like the sparsely decorated beach houses in the travel magazines. I sit on the couch, glance around the living room, and plan.

Yes, indeed. Everything must go. 

Except for that picture. I really like it.

And that vase.

I should keep that throw blanket too.

And that wall hanging is actually really nice and would look great in a beach house.

And there’s that other thing …

And eventually I’ve justified keeping everything I own. Seems that all of it would look fantastic in the fictional beach house if I only arranged it properly.

The problem must be the homeowner (which in this case is me).


I don't really like cleaning. Nobody does.

See, cleaning is like alcohol. Nobody likes alcohol either.

(Alcohol / Cleaning) is disgusting. The first time you try it, you think it’s (gross / not fun). You wonder what all the fuss is about. Maybe you know older and wiser people who (imbibe / routinely clean up after themselves), and you look up to these people so you keep trying it.

If you stick with it, you start to notice the benefits of (the occasional drink / having a clean house) so you (develop a taste for it / just get’er done). If pressed, you’ll admit that it’s still (sort of disgusting / tedious and boring), but you like the (buzz / sense of satisfaction) you get from it.

Early on you learn that if you (drink / clean) too much at once, you’ll feel it the next day. Sometimes it’s worth it, but mostly it’s better to spread it out over time.

Of course, one mustn’t go overboard. We all have that friend who (drinks / cleans) too much. Their (life is a total mess / house is totally spotless), and that’s just not right.  These people, we all agree, desperately need Jesus, or a hobby, or an intervention.

Sometimes people have (deep-seated personal issues stemming from a lifetime of familial or societal abuse / stuff). Maybe they (lack access to reliable and affordable mental health care / don’t want to get rid of their stuff). These people use (drinking / cleaning) as a coping mechanism. Really, we should pity these poor people. Because they’re (crazy / oh heck yeah so crazy).


So my house is clean but it’s full of stuff.

I don’t have all the answers.

But I might go have that drink.

No comments:

Post a Comment