I’m a horrible housekeeper and always have been. I have learned to tolerate a lot of clutter that would drive other women crazy. I have a place in my house that even I refer to in my head as “the embarrassment.” It started with a box that I put down in front of my desk, thinking, “Its just one box. I’ll take care of that later.” One box became two boxes became boxes and bags and tubs and laundry baskets all jumbled and falling into each other. The kids began to use that as their catch-all place, too. I have only a vague idea of what all is there. I considered taking a picture to include here, but it’s way too embarrassing even for that. I haven’t been able to sit at my desk in . . . I don’t even remember how long. I’m sitting at the kitchen table now (which I can do only because I cleaned it yesterday).
The embarrassment is a disaster, and I really do mean to tackle it. I don’t even know where to start. I’ve tried sitting and staring at it, but that doesn’t work any better than staring at my closet in the morning and expecting a new wardrobe to appear. I’ve stopped attempting to clean anything in that room now. What’s the point of vacuuming the floor when there’s a huge pile that takes up half the room? It isn’t like a clean carpet is going to miraculously hide my mess. For the most part, I’ve just gotten so used to it that I barely notice it. When I look at it with fresh eyes (I’m staring at it right now), I wonder how on earth it got to where it is. One thing piled on another thing and I got so used to it as it grew that I just take it for granted.
Our sons wanted to invite their girlfriends over for a cookout yesterday, so we decided it might be a good time to tackle the downstairs and try to get it in some semblance of order. We discovered that the plug on our vacuum had been damaged beyond repair, so my husband and daughter made an emergency run to get a new vacuum while I made potato salad. They came back with a fancy new vacuum and even argued over who “got” to vacuum. Awesome!
Apparently, all the store had was bagless vacuums. My daughter was so enamored with our new vacuum that after she did the front room, the stairs, and the hall, she tackled the room with my giant mess—not the mess itself, but the carpet around it. Oh, the horror! Those bagless vacuums are quite distressing. Did you know you can see all your dirt? Just a quick swipe around the room filled the canister with fluffy blossoms of dog fur and what looked like old ground-in dirt. Ew. I much preferred sucking my dirt into a bag that doesn’t let you see what’s there. You can pretend the dirt and fur aren’t as awful as you somehow suspect they are. There’s something about coming face-to-face with your ground-in dirt that is humbling. My daughter kept vacuuming that carpet until no more dirt came up. Finally, I looked at the canister and smiled. Because I was looking at the canister face-to-face, I knew that the carpet was really clean.
Is working on cleaning up a marriage any different, really? The giant mess started as just one box that I wanted to put off until later. Because I didn’t deal with it, it attracted more mess and affected the carpet around it. It threatened to take over the entire room, which I then neglected.
Our marriage problems began with just one box that I didn’t want to deal with, and before I knew it, it was twenty years later, we were both unhappy, and we had no idea where to start to tackle it. It wasn’t until I began to just clean up what I could see, one patch at a time, that I knew we were making a dent in the pile. And the only way I began to know we were truly cleaning up our marital mess was to look the dirt straight in the eyes. I’ve stared starkly at so many of my flaws, sins, and bad habits. If I hadn’t seen them face-to-face, it would have been easy to set them aside in the “I’ll get to it later” section of my mind. Instead, I can’t pretend they aren’t as bad as they are. And because I can see what we’re doing, as we get through one patch, I am completely assured that things really are getting clean.
The longer you wait, the bigger the mess grows and the harder it becomes to tackle it. If you have some work to do on yourself or your marriage, start now. Putting it off won’t make it any easier.
Today, I filled one box with recyclables from the mess. It’s a start, right?