Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean? Grief and Everyday Responsiblities

I freely admit I was never a housecleaning fanatic.

With a busy family, a small farm and mountains of paper, pencils and books scattered around I was content if the most obvious dirt was swept up and the sink free of dishes.

But, I DID have a routine.  I DID clean my bathrooms and wash clothes and make beds and vacuum the rugs on a regular basis.

Not anymore.

Even all this time after Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I have not reestablished any kind of rhythm to keeping house, making meals or doing the most basic, necessary chores.

And I don’t really know why.

I’m not overly busy.  I’m not doing other things that keep me away from the necessary things.  

In fact, sometimes I actually sit down for what I think will be a few minutes only to find a couple hours have raced by while I was doing nothing.  That NEVER happened before.

Literally, never.

I was a dynamo from the time I woke in the morning until evening-moving, moving, moving.  I certainly still have plenty I COULD do, but not so much that I WANT to do.

I’ve pondered, “Why?” and only been able to come up with a single answer: Grief is WORK.  And apparently I only have so much energy to divide between what I need to do (grief work) and what I’d like to do (clean my house, etc.).

The hours I spend “doing nothing” are actually hours spent working through feelings, thoughts, spiritual conundrums and rediscovering who I am in light of what has happened.

So I’m learning to cut corners and give myself a break.  Because it doesn’t appear that my get-up-and-go is coming back anytime soon.

Here are some practical things I’ve been doing to make daily life work:

I’ve adjusted my standards.  I have a minimal acceptable standard and apply that to my home and myself instead of trying to live up to “what others want me to do/be”. For me, it means no germy surfaces, clutter free places to sit and eat, wiped down bathrooms and clean clothes for the day.  

Anything over that is a bonus!

I take shortcuts.  Paper goods for meals to cut down on dishes.  Easy menus for dinners (lots of crockpot recipes).  I keep paper towels and cleaner in each bathroom and wipe down when I’m in there for something else instead of making “clean the bathrooms” a separate chore.  

I have baskets to catch wayward items and carry them upstairs all at once or just leave them in the baskets.  I wash clothes but don’t worry if I get them folded.  I bought more underwear and socks so washing isn’t an emergency.

I don’t apologize when someone stops by and things aren’t as tidy as they used to be or I wish they were. 

I won’t waste emotional energy on worrying about what they think.  

And when I find that I’m sitting down, pondering some aspect of loss or life or love, I lean in and do it.  I grab my computer or a journal and write out what’s running through my head.  

Because that’s the more important work right now.  

Messy Edits

Yesterday’s post was a mess for those of you who receive it through email.  

I’m sorry.

What had been a previous draft was tacked onto the bottom of what I wanted to send out so the whole thing was not really how I meant it to be.

But maybe it was how it should have been.

Because that’s where I find myself so often this side of child loss-all the careful editing of words and careful managing of appearances is impossible.   I just don’t have the resources or the energy.  So too often (for my own comfort and probably the comfort of others) the words just tumble out.

A fire hose instead of the gentle trickle I’d rather them be.

That’s why I rely on writing whenever possible.  It gives me a chance to start, stop and revisit what I want to say and how I want to say it.

But yesterday, well, you got the fire hose version.  

There was so much I wanted to say-I wanted to thank Brenda for the portrait and share how having a new picture was truly a balm for my soul-and also to express how I am still unbelievably sad that my son will never grow older.

I intended to blend the two into a seamless post but couldn’t do it so I left it alone for a few hours.  Grief brain kicked in, I forgot about the second bit and just hit “publish”.

So you got the messy version.  The version that lives inside my heart and mind most days.  It’s not pretty and there is a constant battle between hope and helplessness.

I work hard to hold onto hope.  

I keep fighting.  

But it’s messy.

those that wait in hope shall not be ashamed