For the past several weekends I have been helping a loved one clean their house. You might think, “Oh that is nice of you!”. But I must confess. It has been exhausting. And I hate it.
This person is extremely dear to me, but has been living in relative squallor for the past decade. It is only recently that they have allowed myself and another family member to help. Okay, so we forced our way in. Trust me, it was necessary.
Long story behind it, and I’ll spare you the details. I used to think it was not as bad as those hoarder houses you see on TV, maybe a condensed version of that. Come to find out, I was wrong. It is a hoarder situation.
I know it didn’t get this way overnight. Obviously, this magnitude of mess takes years and years to develop. It got me thinking about how it all came to be, how it ended up like this.
Add 2 cups of denial, mix in some splashes of chronic physical issues, perhaps a pinch or two of depression then bake at 10 years and voila! A mess is born.
When you cannot see the floor or move about your own home, what kind of headspace must that promote? When you cannot fix the problem yourself and must depend on others to do so but have not opened your home in a decade, what sort of inadequacies must that bring up? When pain, loneliness, depression creep in while amongst this environment, where do you go when you are limited physically?
It breaks my heart to think about.
This will take us every weekend for the next year to clean up. Literally. Maybe longer. Probably longer.
I must confess, the selfish part of me is frustrated and resentful. I want to spend my precious time away from my work and responsibilities relaxing, hanging with my kiddos, or cleaning my own chaos of a house. Not scrubbing floors and arguing over throwing away a used kleenex and receipt from 2001. Or trying to get rid of just one pair out of literally hundreds of pairs of shoes.
Sometimes the task seems overwhelmingly unconquerable. Much like it must have seemed for years to this wonderful person. But if not us, then who? If we do not help, it will surely result in injury and worsening health. There are no other options. It must be us.
We have made some progress in the past few weekends, and that makes me happy. It can feel defeating though, when you know how far you have yet to go.
I guess all we can do is keep showing up.
I do derive a quiet joy from hauling trash and donation bags away, from vacuuming a small space of newly exposed carpeting, from secretly tossing a broken item that I know this person will fuss over (NOT important things, I do have SOME assemblance of a heart for sentimental items). Thank goodness for my partner in crime helper, the diplomat. She is the good guy and I am the bad guy. We play our roles well and are falling into them with more ease now. We also have a per diem helper who is handy with house fixins that are beyond our scope. Thank goodness for him.
I know rest is important, and there will be some weekends where weddings or family plans interfere. I really do want to help, but it gives me anxiety to think about pausing for even one weekend. The challenge is just so large.
As we keep moving, I will try to focus on the incredible feeling that completing this task will surely bring, whether that is in 2020 or beyond. This person would do the same for me. I cannot wait for the day where we can move about freely in a clutter-free area. Above all I hope is that completing this work adds peace and comfort to their life.
And just so you know, if you ask what I am doing on the weekend and I answer “I’m sorry, we are busy”, it is not because I don’t want to see you. I surely do. Saturdays are just booked for the foreseeable future.