Cleaning, Therapy, Life Lessons, and Tortured Metaphors

Self-portrait. Just kidding – I don’t have pierced ears. More importantly, my domicile still isn’t this clean. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

We spent the last few days focused on cleaning after this latest apartment disaster of sorts (the update mentioned at the end of this post. Not to be confused with this other apartment disaster which still hasn’t been fully fixed, but that is another story).

I really hate cleaning. That’s not particularly unique. Many people hate cleaning – it’s hard, tedious, and it is a task that is never really completed because you have to keep doing it. But I really hate cleaning.

I have the terrible combination of:

  1. An extremely high tolerance for messiness.
  2. A tendency to like and collect material things. Essentially, the exact opposite the millennial minimalist trend (Side note: Why is there a website called “Millennial Magazine“? Ugh, I hate millennials and the people who market to them.)
  3. A tendency to fail at organizational systems. As in, I cannot seem to conceive of, maintain, or adapt/upgrade organizational systems to fit the items that need to be organized.
  4. A dust allergy exacerbated by kicking up dust during cleaning.
  5. A small, poorly organized, ill-suited living space that I do not like.
  6. A tendency toward an angry hate spiral (Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half has an amazing post on the hate spiral concept) whenever I start cleaning.

All of this makes cleaning an even worse task than necessary.

During this round of cleaning, perhaps to distract myself from how much I truly hated this task, it occurred to me that cleaning has a lot of in common with therapy. For example:

Life Lesson / Therapy Parallel #1: Progress looks significantly worse before it looks better.

After you remove the big clutter is when you notice all the other crap that was hidden by the big clutter. The apartment actually looked worse, as if I had just spent the last couple hours adding more trash to the apartment rather than trying to clean it. That alone made me want to quit. I didn’t really see this so much during my own experience with individual therapy, mostly because I never quite got past the stage of trying to be kind of likeable. However, I can easily see how this would be the case with couples therapy. We are long-overdue for marriage counseling, and I can already telling that in the initial removal of the clutter, we will kick up far more issues. This is part of why it’s so tempting to just suffocate ourselves under more clutter and pretend like the relationship is fine.

Life Lesson / Therapy Parallel #2: “I Know You’d Like to Think Your Shit Don’t Stink…” (Thanks, Outkast!)

“But lean a little bit closer / See that roses really smell like poo poo poo…” Now I have that song stuck in my head. Image by Josch13 from Pixabay

It would be extremely easy to point fingers at Husband for his bad habits. His organizational systems/skills range from Terrible to Non-Existent. His time management skills range from Non-Existent to Even Worse. His absent-mindedness is responsible for the state of the kitchen, including various kashrut screw-ups, and he’s the one who grew up Orthodox, mind you.

And of course, he thinks his habits are fine and my anti-minimalism habits and my complete lack of organizational systems are what’s to blame for the state of the apartment. Because it’s always easier to smell someone else’s shitty habits and point fingers, rather than, I don’t know, be constipated? Wipe your own butt? Accept your own bodily functions and flush the toilet? That’s the problem with metaphor – at some point, the metaphor falls apart.

Anyway, I have to give Husband credit. Husband did an excellent job cleaning. I remained in cleaning anger hate spiral, hating pretty much everyone and everything on the planet, did a mediocre job of cleaning, and fell asleep early. Husband did not throw this in my face, even though I probably would have if the situation were reversed. Aren’t you glad you’re not married to me?

Life Lesson / Therapy Parallel #3: Hiding Your Issues in the Closet Only Goes So Far

This closet is too small for my self, my clothing, and my various baggage. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

We eventually reached the point of “Just shove all this crap in the closet / bedroom and shut the door”. It worked, in that the room instantly became much cleaner and I could imagine inviting a few friends over for a Shabbat meal that week. I don’t love hosting, and I’m a mediocre chef at best, but the idea of having a Shabbat meal with people other than me & Husband had a certain appeal, especially when it’s been so long.

It did not work in that when I tried to open the closet / bedroom to get a few things out/put things it, the delicate equilibrium shifted and stuff spilled out everywhere.

I feel like the inspiring answer is that we shouldn’t be closeted and repressed. We should let out out our issues and baggage and be open and honest! Even the language and imagery of coming out of the closet feels super relevant since it’s Pride Month, although I have blatantly appropriated here from the gay community. This is also a terrible metaphor since by extension, it implies homosexuality is a mental disorder, as was the American Psychiatric Association (APA) position pre-1973.

The reality though is if you just let out your issues without fixing them, can you realistically expect your friends to come over? Probably not.

Life Lesson / Therapy Parallel #4: Even If You Make Progress, People Will Still Judge You As Inadequate

Eventually, the landlord came over.

[I should mention that as I opened the door to show her in, I realized that I was wearing my absolute rattiest pair of leggings, the ones with holes in the crotch and butt, commando style – because I hadn’t been outside, I was cleaning, and because I had run out of clean underwear and hadn’t gotten around to doing laundry. I was wearing a proper work-appropriate top and bra because NewJob is obsessed with video calls, but nothing below the waist was work appropriate.]

In my eyes and in Husband’s eyes, we were seeing the apartment as compared to the way it looked before, and to us, our apartment looked amazing.

But Landlord was seeing the apartment as compared to how a normal apartment is supposed to look and she was not impressed. Either with the apartment or with me inadvertently showing off my lady parts.

This is a mess. You need to clean up more.

-Landlord (about the apartment, not my crotch)

Landlord will come back in a few weeks to re-inspect and have someone do the repair. I shall make a mental reminder to do laundry / wear underwear.

48 comments

  1. […] I don’t want to sounds like NLS#1. On the contrary! NLS#1 grew up to be an exceptionally competent, skilled adult: impressive full-time career, a talented artist, becoming extremely skilled at many complex home improvement and home dรฉcor projects, well-traveled, conversant in another language and learning another one, successfully convincing the parents / parents-in-law to take care of health/financial matters without pissing them off. In contrast, I…well, you’ve read this blog. Nothing about this blog says competence. […]

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  2. Hahahaha yes! Things really DO get messier before they get neater. Sometimes I don’t even understand my cleaning process, but I give it time and when everything’s in their place, then the space looks much better. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh JYP lol I hardly know where to begin with a reply. I’ll just say this…I, too, loathe analogies. They sound good at first, but like you noticed, if you keep going, then none of it makes any sense.

    Oh, and this part…maybe the metaphor is to just smell your own sh*t. Some of us on this earth don’t even think ours smells at all.

    Please don’t show the landlady your lady garden anymore lol I’m laughing harder than you can imagine right now, hopefully with you.

    Okay. That’s it. I suppose I did have a few things to offer ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t inherently hate metaphor and analogy. Sometimes they make for incredible lines of poetry and prose. But in describing real life, they have flaws, for sure.

      Exactly! Some people don’t even think they shit, or that theirs is all rainbows and glitter and perfume, and it’s not. I can’t believe I forgot the most obvious extension of that flawed metaphor in the first place.

      I’m happy to add some humor to your day! The lady garden is generally kept under wraps in polite company; this was a one time rather mortifying exception!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hilarious! I still have memories that flood back about notes I would include when I sent the rent check to a landlord (everything was snail mail in those days), and how he would come to “inspect” my complaint. It never went well, yet I would always continue the war of wills by writing new notes. Forty years later I’m shaking my head at myself. My man parts were sufficiently covered up,I think. There is that at least. ๐Ÿ˜‰ – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  5. JYP, this is hilarious and I admire your candor. We have a bi-weekly cleaning service which means that much of the clutter gets tossed on the bed while they are here and then gets loaded back onto the floor and other flat surfaces. ๐Ÿ™‚ But at least I have flat surfaces, two of my girlfriends (one a widow and the other married) do not even have flat surfaces available and they both live in large houses than my townhouse.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You always hit the nails straight on the head. You’re like the voice of our generation, or at least you speak more eloquently about these things than I can. The important thing with therapy and the life lessons– following through to the very end. I used to catch myself tempted to backslide into my old ways. I have many old ways, but I’ve shed some of the worst thanks to therapy. Cleaning is a good metaphor, I think. I’m a procrasticleaner, which probably speaks to a psychological issue too. However I diverge from you with the crotchless pants.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that is high praise! I am flattered and honored.

      I love your term “procrasticleaner” – do you mean that you procrastinate on cleaning, or that you use cleaning to procrastinate on doing other things? The latter sounds like a fascinating concept. I think I hate cleaning too much to do this, but there is something so appealing about “productive procrastinating”, where you are doing something of value to avoid the thing you don’t want to do rather than binging on Netflix or something. It’s almost like you’re not procrastinating.

      To be clear, I don’t normally wear crotchless pants. This was a one-time, mortifying exception.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t the coin the term sadly โ˜น๏ธ. But it’s when you go into a mad cleaning spree to avoid something you want to do even less. All of a sudden, it seriously matters that you haven’t mopped the floor in three months, right when you have to make an unpleasant phone call.

        ๐Ÿ‘ I hope you got rid of the pants– better yet, make a dust rag

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I have several pairs of leggings with holes in the crotch region. Why throw away something that’s still mostly in one piece? But it’s been a very long time since I wore a work-appropriate bra.

    I’m not messy and don’t have a lot of stuff, but I have a high tolerance for dirt. Guinea pig-related detritus like hay and poop gets everywhere, and I’ve long since stopped caring. That not caring has expanded out into other kinds of dirt as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hilarious, sad, and too true to life. Fortunately, we own our home or we would probably be evicted. Funny that your complaints about your hubby are somewhat similar to my complaints about my wife. I do most of the cleaning. She’s good at organizing when she does it, but she is so bad at time management that things rarely get organized. Half the time the inside of our house doesn’t look much different from the outside with the cats bringing in loads of dirt, shedding, and the swamp cooler blowing cat hair all over the place creating dust bunnies that are downright dangerous (think of the rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail). We always have boxes all over the floor in the dance room for the cats to play in. We still have a stack of Christmas stuff waiting to be organized and put away. When I do the laundry, my wife throws her underwear in the load, so I’m having to hang up 30 pairs of her underwear on the clothesline, almost three times the number of the rest of the load. She’s got it all figured out. I completely understand where you are coming from on cleaning, and household chores. Covid was been a big boon for our messiness since no one has been out to see us for over a year now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The cats do a great job of taking a room that might have been otherwise clean and just covering it in cat hair. My parents have this sweet, friendly, Himalayan who is just the loveliest, cutest cat, but just look at him and you, the floor, the sofa, will just be completely covered in cat hair.

      Your wife has really figured out the secret to gaming the system!

      Yeah, coronavirus…Guests were a motivator for the minimal “shoving crap in the closet” , but after still no guests (other than the landlord), the motivation disappered.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Multiply your parents’ Himalaya by 7, and imagine? I make my wife coffee every morning, I give her a massage every night, I clean six kitty litter boxes daily, feed and herd the cats, take care of the birds and the boa constrictor, water the plants, I do almost all of the grocery shopping, and I’m forever fixing things. I always get my papers done well before dead lines for conferences, she runs up to the last minute requiring me to help with research, proofing, formatting, etc. Then she wonders why I’m grumpy.

        Oh! BTW if you need a laugh check out the parody I posted on Sunday called Frumpy Man. It’s a silly commentary on growing old and frumpy

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, way to scandalize your landlord!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    I can totally relate! I’m in the middle of rearranging my whole room, and I keep having to stop and take breaks. Like, going down to fetch the vacuum cleaner (a handheld model, nothing huge) required a break. Vacuuming that section of carpet required a break. It’ll hopefully get done eventually!! I loved the metaphorical angle!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It wasn’t on purpose! It was more that I didn’t remember what I was wearing (and more importantly, what I was not wearing) until I had opened the door. And then by that point, I guess I figured play cool.

      Yeah, the taking long breaks in the middle of cleaning is definitely a thing. Good luck with your vacuuming / room rearrangement project!

      Liked by 2 people

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