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:
- An extremely high tolerance for messiness.
- 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.)
- 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.
- A dust allergy exacerbated by kicking up dust during cleaning.
- A small, poorly organized, ill-suited living space that I do not like.
- 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!)
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
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.