Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wash me Clean

It seems so simple... if your house is a mess then clean it, right?

A few months ago I had a new heater installed.  The heater guys showed up (on time!!) at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.  For six hours or so I had nothing to do but stay warm and wait for them to finish.  I couldn't just go back to bed because they might need to come inside for something so I bundled up on the couch with coffee, a book, my laptop and some knitting and figured I'd have plenty to keep me busy. 

I also had what we refer to as Mount Laundry to deal with before I could actually sit on the couch.  I folded and folded and folded... and ended up with a huge stack of bathroom towels that I didn't know what to do with.  Normal people have places where things go.  If they have a corkscrew or a serving dish or a dozen bath towels they know where those things go.

I don't know where my clean towels go.  I know where they end up - floor.  I know where they spend their clean hours - laundry basket, shower rod, foot of bed.

At some point - second or third cup of coffee - I started thinking about the hall closet.  Most people keep their clean towels in a closet close to the bathroom.   A very helpful (and forgiving) website once told me to only take out what I could clean in an hour.  It occurred to me that I could clean out that closet in an hour (it took two) and that I really didn't have anything else to do.

I threw a lot of things away.  Old makeup and hair curlers I never used... expired cold medicine and tangled ribbon.  This is where I stashed things that seemed vaguely bathroom-related that I didn't know what else to do with.

Turns out, it was also where I stashed things related to my husband that I couldn't deal with when he died.  Pictures of us, his cologne, a stack of Playboy magazines, Kung Fu movies.  When he died I almost immediately boxed up all of his clothes and got rid of them.  I had his best friend come over and take what he wanted from the fraternity paraphernalia, video games and miscellaneous boy things in the den.  Everyone grieves in their own way... and his death came sudden and just before the finality of a divorce that broke my heart.  I knew that if his things didn't immediately leave my house I might not either.  I had this image of myself crying on my bed covered in his sweatshirts and jeans.  I had no time for that sort of carrying on; I had a child and two jobs and grad school to deal with. So I purged.

Everything else got stashed in a closet or thrown away... and a few months ago, in my excitement to have a grown-up place to put my towels I had stumbled across a hornet's nest of sad.

I didn't throw everything away.  I kept the pictures, tossed the cologne...

This is not the only closet full of Jeff in my house which may just be why I don't nurture the little cleaning lady inside me.  It may also be why I choose to sit in bed and watch television (and knit and read) rather than spending time in any other room of the house.  It may also explain why I have been specializing in dating unavailable men. 

It's not that the downfall of my marriage and the death of my husband turned me into a big slow-moving slob.  Oh no.  I'm a dyed in the wool kind of lazy pack rat... but I am no longer comfortable with the messiness of my life and every time I start to try to fix that I seem to run right into the dead guy.  Figuratively, of course.

Last weekend I cleaned out a kitchen cabinet.  Just one.  At the top where I can't see anything I found twenty shot glasses, a martini glass, a beer stein from a casino, a flask and several lids whose sad travel mugs had been deemed lid-less and thrown away.  I don't have any idea why we had twenty shot glasses.  I don't generally drink shots and Jeff used his Notre Dame shot glass or no shot glass at all.  They're gone.  So is the martini glass and the stein.  I haven't made a decision about the flask yet... so it is back in the cabinet looking very out of place among my pretty Corningware and Pyrex baking dishes. 

But my pretty Corningware and Pyrex baking dishes appear to be very at home in the cabinet.  Because now that's where they go.

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