I used to keep an immaculate home. I washed the dishes every night or at least frequently enough the kitchen was usually pretty clean, and the rest of the house received regular scrubbings and cleanings too. I worked really hard to maintain the cleanliness and then my depression returned full force and just getting out of bed and into work every day was a huge effort and accomplishment. Then more children came along with more stuff to call their own and between my depression and our expanding family’s ever-expanding piles of stuff, I lost control and I have yet to get it back under control.
We live in a small three bedroom condominium and there’s very limited space for each person. It’s not impossible but it takes work and it takes compromise and it requires mutual respect of each others’ space. All of which we struggle with as each person has different needs and different ideas. My husband is a collector of super hero and sci-fi paraphernalia. He places a much higher value on his stuff than I do on my own so I sometimes don’t honour the value he places on things just because I don’t feel the same way about stuff in general. I’m trying, but it’s hard when I barely have a bookcase worth of space to call my own, while he has several bookcases and shelves. The children have no boundaries and their toys and book bags and whatnots and whathaveyous end up pretty much anywhere it’s convenient for them to drop them when they are finished with them. Yes, it’s part of the problem. My husband tries but there’s no consistent measures being employed to set these boundaries and maintain them. It’s on my to-do list…
To give a measuring stick of the mess we live in, we would not qualify for an episode of Hoarders but watching Hoarders makes me feel better about my mess. And it shouldn’t. Just because Hoarders is worse doesn’t make my situation less poisonous, suffocating or overwhelming. I hate living like this but I feel like I’ve surrendered to the beast simply for the sake of my sanity. Going to war every day with the beast and feeling like I was always on the losing end of the battles was and is emotionally exhausting, so I put up the white flag and surrendered. I let the mess envelop me and define me. I took on the mantra of this is me, this is my home and if you love me and want to spend time with me, you must accept my mess.
Yes, I have good days where I get up and say, today is the day I tame the beast and I’ll pick up my bucket and scrub brushes and go to war against the disorganization and dirt, but it’s always short-lived because as one place is improving another is falling apart or while I move on to tackle the next area, the first place falls apart all over again, and so I surrender yet again and the beast is victorious.
It’s not one battle that will win this fight, it’s a systemic planned attack with everyone working together and the adults setting good examples for the children. I can’t get mad at my daughter for not cleaning up her room when I haven’t seen the floor beside my bed in weeks. I have to take the lead, show her (and my other children) how it’s done and encourage them to work with me, but I feel so overwhelmed and I figured out why this week. I went to an Angel Healing session and I asked a question and as part of her answer she said, I sense your house is very oppressive.
It was like a light went on. That is the exact word to describe our home. Oppressive: weighing heavily on the mind or spirits; causing depression or discomfort.
At first glance it doesn’t seem so bad but it’s the emotional stuff people don’t see that really makes my home feel oppressive. The gunk, the unresolved anger, the frustrations, the unspoken emotions, and the soul grinding pain that lives just below the surface and robs us of our ability to live happily. It affects all of us to some degree or another and it won’t stop until we face the mounting pile of repressed emotions.
We’re very good at throwing things in boxes and sticking them in corners and pretending they don’t exist because taking the time to open them up and go through each piece of paper and item to decide what to do with it all feels overwhelming and impossible. There are probably more invisible boxes of emotional detritus that need clearing than there are boxes of stuff we need to go through but we are even better at ignoring the invisible stuff.
We’ve all found ways to cope with the invisible piles of emotional gunk that oppresses our living space. We’ve pushed it down and hidden it away, pretending it’s okay when it’s not. We’ve put up barriers between each other to keep a safe distance so we don’t accidentally trigger one another. If someone is accidentally triggered it rarely ends well. We have all developed defensive mechanisms and they are very quick to kick in.
I’m passive aggressive, I use guilt trips and am quick to assume the martyr role. My husband runs away, pushes away or lashes out if you insist on getting too close, mostly with painful words. My 18 year-old fumes, swears and hits things. My 10 year-old whines, throws temper tantrums and she’s learned a few techniques from me as she resorts to guilt trips and “feel sorry for me” lines. The four year-old is still working on finding his place in this little game we play.
My husband and I have set a horrible example for dealing with conflict and difficult emotions. Until he and I can sit down and put all the detritus and craziness on the table and face our parts in this game nothing will change.
I believe in living by example and it extends to everything not just cleanliness skills. If children see you model good conflict resolution skills they will learn them too. If children see you lovingly deal with difficult emotions and honouring the individual’s trials with help and on-going support, they will mirror that back into the world. If children see you own up to your mistakes and apologize they will learn that too and if children see you trying to work on your weak points, they will know it’s okay to have weaknesses but that you need to always strive to do better. Having a weakness is not a valid reason to hurt others, and the excuse “that’s just who I am” is a very poor excuse to hurt the ones you love.
We must all strive to do better by each other. That is the true gift of loving someone, and it starts with a willingness to unpack and sort through the gunk that’s holding us hostage in our home. We really want to move, but I’d rather not take all this craziness with us. It’s time to purge, it’s time to clean it out, it’s time to tame the beast!