Thursday, March 23, 2006

Domestic Dispute

About a year ago, on Oprah, there was a story about a woman who looked picture-perfect on the outside. Perfectly-coiffed hair, beautiful suits, matching shoes - she seemed totally together. But when a camera crew went into her apartment, they found conditions that were vile. Foul. Sickening. Disgusting.

There was a flat of strawberries that had been sitting out in the open for over a year. There were so many dishes in the sink that they had molded, and bugs were everywhere. Garbage flowed out of the cans and onto the floor. The dogs used one of the bathrooms as their personal restroom - and it hadn't been cleaned in, well, ever. The woman's bed was completely covered with clothes, magazines, newspapers...she couldn't sleep there because of all the stuff.

When the lady had to face the inevitable therapist in Oprah's studio, he pointed out that her failure to clean her apartment - her willingness to let it become almost uninhabitable - was a form of perfectionism. At the time I thought that was the strangest thing I'd ever heard. But Therapist Man explained that the woman had such a high standard in her head, that when she started to feel the apartment's cleanliness slipping away from her, she gave up altogether, completely overwhelmed by a standard she felt she could never achieve.

And then I totally got it. Because that kind of personality? It's me.

Now please do not call in the reserves and drive over here from Madison County (Elise) with your cars loaded down with brooms and mops and Pledge and Comet. There's nothing that severe going on. I'm still loading and unloading the dishwasher on a daily basis, still hanging stuff up in the closet and putting away laundry. But I am feeling really, really overwhelmed by my house. And I'm so overwhelmed that I don't even know where to start. I feel like there has been a toy explosion, and the debris has landed in every single room. I can't stay caught up with laundry, my floors need mopping, my windows need cleaning, my porch needs painting, my pantry needs cleaning out, and on, and on, and on. I think I'll tackle one thing a day, like the kitchen, but I get distracted and then Alex needs me and I end up doing one load of laundry, wiping down the countertops, and throwing up my hands, basically. I make a list, and look at it, and I want to cry. Literally.

It's starting to make me a little crazy. I've hit the metaphorical cleaning wall.

I spent some time this afternoon on the FlyLady website, hoping to find a system or at least get inspired enough to develop a system of my own. So I'm going to try the sink-cleaning thing tonight and see if that sparks any resolve.

In the meantime, if you have a system - aside from spending the $300 a month that cleaning services in this part of the world cost - I wish you'd share it. Keep in mind that I'm not at home most mornings, so any sort of "from 9 until 11 I scour the commodes with boiling water and my homemade ammonia" won't really work for me. I need practical. Really practical.

And please don't tell me that this isn't a big deal and I just need to relax and let it go. I've tried. But I'm not programmed that way. I'm one of those people who is psychologically affected when my surroundings are out of order (ever seen me re-arrange furniture? I am TORMENTED until the arrangement is aesthetically pleasing), and I can't take the house baggage any longer. I just don't know where to start, and more than that, I don't know how to maintain The Land of The Toddler.

So yes, internets - this is my cry for help.

Don't leave me hanging (apparently my ability to make bad laundry puns remains intact even when my house isn't clean, and for that I think we're all quite grateful).


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