At the end of last week, we began to move from the house where we’ve lived for nearly fifteen years to a smaller place not far away.
We’ve moved the furniture and some of the essentials. While most of our stuff is still at the old place, my husband and I are sleeping at the new place.
This is a fresh start for me and for us.
While I look forward to a new season in life, I have come face-to-face with my worst habits.
I’m a horrible housekeeper. I’m a packrat. I procrastinate. I’m a knitter and a reader, and while those aren’t bad things, the sheer volume of books and yarn stashes is overwhelming.
Add a bout with depression around ten years ago, a house that was too small for all the stuff we had, a husband who isn’t particular about housekeeping, and three kids, and my house slowly devolved into a disaster.
I’d had good intentions to de-clutter my house for several years. In fact, a couple years ago I began to be intentional about not getting new things—but that didn’t help me tackle the mess I already had. I would take a look at any room and just be overwhelmed. Experts say to get three boxes—for things to store, things to toss, and things to give away. What they don’t tell you is how to do it when you don’t have space on the floor for those three boxes. We’d tried to cram in way too much furniture to leave us much floor space for living, not to mention setting out three boxes to sort through things.
I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad it was until we began to move. I was truly horrified when I saw the state of my bedroom after the furniture was moved out. How did I have so much stuff—and how could I not have realized just how much stuff there was? And the dust, oy . . .
In the process of carrying the furniture out, my guys knocked over a few bags and boxes, so some of the work I’d done became undone.
I surveyed the chaos and realized that I didn’t have a clue where or how to begin.
I sat down on my old bedroom floor and started with a good cry—one full of shame for how bad it was, regret for not having begun the process of purging and sorting a year ago when I had loads of time, worry about what habits I’ve passed on to the kids, and awareness of why the kids usually went to their friends’ houses instead of bringing their friends to our house.
Every room in the house needs hours of my attention, so I am putting in a few hours every day. It is physically and emotionally exhausting.
Here I am trying to settle into the new place and looking forward to a brighter future, but the old place is dragging me down.
I find myself wishing I could just ignore the mess at the old place. I wish I could just get rid of it all. I wander about my fresh, clean, and uncluttered new place and think about what it would be like to just start fresh by throwing everything away and not looking back.
But I know I can’t do that.
Some of the things at the old place are family treasures. There are some projects that are so close to being finished that it would be silly to just leave them. Some things there were a financial investment, and others are things we will need at our new place soon.
In addition to that, there is a great deal of paperwork with our identity plastered all over it. I have several boxes aimed for the shredder.
As much as I want my family to shoulder the blame for a lot of the mess, the truth is that I am the one who made the choice to hang on to so much stuff without a place to put it.
Coming face-to-face with the remnants of my bad habits is incredibly difficult—but I also know that the process of going through this will be painful enough to make me avoid ever having to go through this again.
De-cluttering isn’t just about getting rid of the stuff I already have. It is also about making sure I don’t replace it with other stuff that is just as much a problem.
Each item must be measured. What is its value in our new home? What is lost or gained by the choice to either toss or take?
The task ahead of me is overwhelming. After I had a good cry on my bedroom floor, I decided to just start where I was. I grabbed some boxes and garbage bags and started with the spot right in front of me. And then I ended up with a larger clear spot than I’d had before.
Each day, I go in and pick just one spot to work on. It really doesn’t matter what room I work on first, or even how I tackle the work. I just need to do something.
With every item I touch, I allow myself to think about the ways I have used that item—and then I make a decision about what to do with it. One item at a time, I am turning my house from a disaster into a place with spots of peace and calm.
God is right there with me. He is a rock for me to cling to when my emotions get the better of me, and he reminds me when it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself so I can get back to work.
It isn’t much different from the work I did on sexual intimacy.
So much baggage was weighing me down. I was overwhelmed at the prospect of figuring out how to start, so I avoided it altogether. I found myself wishing we could just have a fresh start on our relationship.
I’d let hurts and habits accumulate to the point where even when I had good intentions to work on sex, I didn’t have the slightest idea where to begin.
Removing some of the big pieces (my hardened heart and my resistance to change) revealed so much that had been hidden.
When I did finally come face-to-face with the chaos that had become our sex life, I was horrified. I felt shame for having done such a bad job of maintaining our marriage, I was deeply regretful, I was worried about what my kids had learned about marriage from watching me, and I became aware of how my insistence on little sexual intimacy had affected our marriage in so many ways.
Every aspect of sexual intimacy needed attention, and the work I did was exhausting at times.
Just as the stuff of the past is dragging me down with my house, the stuff of the past was dragging me and our marriage down. I wanted to blame everyone but myself.
The work of cleaning my heart and getting rid of the clutter I’d let accumulate surrounding sex involved looking closely at each memory, habit, feeling, and thought. Each one needed to be measured, and I needed to think about what role it might play in the new version of our marriage.
I had to think how it all related to who I was, and I had to think about whether it held lessons or habits that would serve me well in the future.
It was incredibly difficult coming face-to-face with my bad marital habits—and although I didn’t really know where to start, I got started anyway with what was right in front of me.
One habit, one feeling, one thought, one belief at a time—sexual intimacy transformed from a chaotic disaster into a source of joy and unity in our marriage.
God was right there with me. He has been a rock for me to cling to when my emotions get the better of me, and he reminds me when it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself so I can get back to work on myself.
It is embarrassing to admit what a bad housekeeper I am. The next few weeks of purging and sorting will be incredibly difficult, and I expect many more tears as well as small celebrations as I drop things off at the thrift store.
Many women would take one look at my house and wonder why I hadn’t stayed on top of things in the first place. They would ask why I’d waited so long to work on it.
When I hear about the state of sexual intimacy in some marriages, I want to ask the exact same thing.
How does the state of your marriage bed compare to the state of your housekeeping?
In my case, both of these were a disaster. I’ve successfully worked on one area, and now it’s time to tackle another. How about you?
Image courtesy of varandah at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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