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.



Dear Swamped:

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.