The Mourning of a Neat Freak
I might be a slow learner, but it has taken me almost four years to come to terms with the fact that I am no longer a ‘neat freak.’ It all started after my emergency belly surgery, or ‘The Event.’ I had no idea that a simple little surgery would totally turn the life that we knew upside down.
Before The Event, I was a bona fide neat freak, and why not? I had more than enough energy for both myself and probably to fuel a small town somewhere. So I cleaned…and cleaned…and cleaned some more. Instead of sitting around, I got up and got busy. I regularly wiped down walls, windows, mirrors, cabinets, showers, fridge, organized and oiled furniture. Every single day I did laundry, vacuumed, mopped, swept, dusted, scooped the litter, dishes, all counter tops, toilets, and tidying up. My clothes were hung by type and color, my shoes by type, heel height, then color. Before grocery shopping, I would go through and organize everything, wipe the fridge down, and toss out old food to make room for the new food. Every single item in our then apartment had a place and if not, then it was a goner. I took pride in how clean my place was.
After The Event, I simply did not have the energy to get through the day, much less clean. It may have something to do with the fact that my heart rate is perpetually that of a marathon runner (while running a marathon), or that I developed energy-sapping, super annoying symptoms of POTS. To this day, I still have to take naps or rest mid-day to get through the rest of the day. It’s annoying.
I used to feel jealous as I watched old TV shows that featured the mom putting dinner on the table in a spotless house and dressed in her high heels, pearls, and dress. I keep watching in hopes that her representative energy would somehow be contagious and hold the key to getting back to how I used to be. Then I realized that this was in a time where children ‘were to be seen and not heard’. Women of her day spent hours cleaning and cooking instead of spending time with her children. They hardly even disciplined their kids, everything was always, “wait until your father gets home.” It was not a child-centered lifestyle but rather a house-centered one. Who wants to live like that?
In sharp contrast to Before, I spend most of the day sitting around in between activities. Some days I end up allowing myself to do something fun and productive like sewing just so that I don’t lose my mind in all of this. Usually though, I have to allocate my energy accordingly, and unfortunately the house tidying ends up not getting done. Don’t get me wrong, I do a decent job. I mean, I keep the house clean, but not tidy. I keep the bathrooms scrubbed, the floors vacuumed and mopped, the dusting under control, and the laundry washed (but not usually folded for a day or more). However, the kitchen table is usually half-covered, toys scattered throughout the house, dried pots and pans left in the drying rack, and the fridge is not even remotely as organized as I used to keep it. On the very rare day that I do have energy, I spend it entirely on tackling major cleaning/organization tasks. For four years, I have mourned the loss of my energy and thus clean house. For four years I allowed the sight of my untidy house make me feel anxious, nauseous, overwhelmed, and slightly depressed.
I finally realized that I do the best I can, and that I need to stop beating myself up over it and actually enjoy life. The hardest part is that C has not yet accepted this “new” situation. After four years, he still gets as frustrated and angry as the day it all started. Part of it is my fault. Before we got married, he was totally against cleaning his apartment. While dating, I used to go over and clean his apartment from top to bottom. I marveled over the 1/4″ thick dust on his bedroom furniture, found myself elbow deep in week-old dishes, and don’t get me started on his bathroom. You know, like a stereotypical 25 year old bachelor.
Then I came along and showed him The Light. I showed him how much nicer it is to wake up to a clean, tidy house each day. After marrying, I continued about my neat freak ways and he slowly learned to be neat himself. He hated cleaning (still does) but would often step up to help me if I asked him to. It was great. The bad side is that I used to over-react over the slightest dirt or misplaced item. I nagged him constantly to put his clothes in the hamper, to not mess up every folded towel in search of the one he prefers using, to pick up his glasses/plates the minute he got up, to not stick his 6-pack of beer in front of the milk to where I had to move it in the beers damp, weak card board carton every single day, to keep his giant shoes in the closet and not in the middle of the floor, and so forth. I was a total witch about it. I mean, who in their right mind wants to live with a nagging, frequently irritated/angry wife?
Four years later, there is not a trace of my old self to be found when it comes to being so uptight over cleaning. I am now much more laid back. I now pick up his shoes without complaining, move the beer as needed, tidy up the messed up towels, ignore the dust on his desk, and whatever else needs doing or not. Its just not important. When he comes home, I want to spend time with him. Good times together without the nagging and witchy-ness.
I spend my time playing with Nathan and doing a decent job with the house. I feel more at peace inside and happier than I have ever been, sans clean house. After all, Nathan and I do not mind it one bit if the house isn’t tidy. The toys on the floor means that we are blessed with a child. The clothes on the couch means that I keep my family dressed in clean clothes. The stuff on the table means that I get busy enjoying being a mom the minute I get home from places. The dishes in the sink means that I keep my family fed. While I would certainly welcome my old energy back any day, for now at least, life is perfect just as it is.