Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Since my divorce four years ago it has just been me and the cats in a
1600 sq foot house. That’s a lot of house to keep up. Once he was
gone I painted everywhere, which meant moving and cleaning
everything. It all sparkled. Now I do spring cleaning every year but the
general sense of untidiness has been creeping up. This year my
avoidance feels insurmountable. I’ve considered writing a check to
some cleaning service, but it is also the piles of accumulated things
and everything stashed in drawers and closets that is oppressing me. I
don’t want to end up one of those strange old hoarders but I am
feeling very beset.
There’s nothing to do but dive in. Pick the first possible weekend day
for an assault. Get up early, have a cup of caffeine and commit
yourself to a day of achievement. Start by making enough of a mess
that there’s no way to back out of the enterprise. My personal trick is
to make a mess in diagonal places in the house. Then as you trot from
one end to the other you can accomplish small things along the way.
You can work room-by- room or project-by- project. Leave the very tall
projects and baseboards for another day (or pay someone later). Keep
a clipboard handy to make lists of future projects (for yourself or hired
help). Many will occur to you, but they will motivate not frighten.
You’ll be surprised how good you feel once you get going.
That said, don’t overestimate your energy. Have both small and big task options
available to you at all times. Give yourself lots of choices, but also lots
of “outs,” as in, When I finish X I can stop. Have your iPod handy with
good dance music or a book on tape. Have snacks handy – a mix of
healthy food and energy food like chocolate. Take breaks to check
email or even run to the store. When you do stop, have a glass of
something lovely, easy dinner food ready, and a good book or DVD to
settle in with. Then treat yourself to a massage.