Living Dirty and Getting Clean

The clutter, chaos, mementos and memories had been sitting stagnant, waiting their turn to be sifted and sorted.

The Garage. I couldn’t put it off forever.

I’ve never been what you would call a tidy person.

Just ask my ex-boyfriend from 15 years ago, who got fed up with my unkempt ways. He was former Navy and I couldn’t keep up, no matter how many times he stressed the significance of folded socks or scolded me for walking outside barefoot and tracking dirt into the living room. One morning, home from my new job on nightshift after graduating nursing school, I tripped over a package sitting in the doorway. It was a bag of cleaning supplies; Windex, Lysol, dish soap etc. I got the hint, and he got the boot. Soon he was living in his own apartment, free to scrub and fold to his military heart’s content.

Like most people, I’d rate myself near the middle of the spectrum between hoarder and clean freak. I sometimes joke that it looks like REI threw up in my living room – especially during a change in season, when skis come in and out and bicycles aren’t yet put away. I always choose sleep over cleaning; it never bothers me to go to bed with dishes still in the sink.

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The cleanestI’ve ever seen my own living room…I think it lasted 3 hours!

 

In recent years, my life, like my house, has been messier than usual.

My prioritization skills went haywire, but are getting back on track, which means my personal well-being and physical surroundings have both been getting a makeover.

Staying clean and organized emotionally are essential to my mental health while recovering from addiction, trauma and co-dependency. Rearranging my home has played an important role as well. I started small. A couple years back, freshly sober, I bought trays to organize and display my jewelry. Such a simple accomplishment, but I remember smiling with pride as I looked over the gift I’d given myself. It had been awhile since I’d had the energy and focus to complete a project like that.

Next came cupboards, junk drawers, the pantry. One area in particular needed more help than I could handle on my own. I’d stopped going there altogether, other than to hurriedly grab an item, averting my eyes from the disarray.

The clutter, chaos, mementos and memories had been sitting stagnant, waiting their turn to be sifted and sorted.

The Garage. I couldn’t put it off forever.

It wasn’t just the vastness of the garage project that bothered me. It wasn’t the act of moving items from one shelf to another or dismantling boxes that made the task so daunting. My garage had become pathological and taking it on has been a major source of anxiety for me. The garage had witnessed and survived too many breakups and held the leftovers of too many losses. Last winter’s ski poles, the star-covered journal my daughter never wrote in, fabric scraps from a decade-old Halloween costume, an unidentifiable metal contraption I think belonged to the camper I once shared with an ex. Perhaps you can relate to that feeling. Procrastination was the safe choice; just toss Dad’s leftover oxygen meter in a random box and shut the door. I sometimes treat health problems or family conflict the same way. I shut the door on the issues, but they gather dust and multiply until I find the tenacity to tackle them. Forgetting doesn’t eliminate the problem. The boxes just grow heavier and the emotional burden does too. Each decision meant a look at the past, and it takes energy and fortitude to endure this. Filtering through my clutter feels like sorting through my soul. Eventually, I was going to run out of room: in my storage space, and in my psyche. I needed “clean the garage” wiped from my to do list, before the summer ended.

My garage was beyond do-it-myself help. It was going to require a professional. Just the thought of standing on the cold cement floor amidst the mayhem was enough to cause heart palpitations. Luckily, I know a stellar resource – Lauren at Casual Uncluttering. I’d found her awhile back through thumbtack.com, which was suggested to me by a coworker when I was looking for a handyman. I didn’t even know professional organizers existed until then.

Lauren helped me when I renovated my daughter’s old bedroom – turned – junkroom into a tidy, organized guest area that I now rent out.

 

Daughter’s Room Turned Guest Room!

I love the outcome of “spring cleaning”. There’s nothing like order and method to calm my nerves. But the details of getting that outcome can be arduous. Emailing Lauren and scheduling the date gave me immediate peace, and when the day came I was ready. She arrived and right away we started separating and labeling items into categories, deeming them necessary, useful, donation-worthy, or garbage. (Can I tell you the utter relief I feel when she confirms a piece of trash is indeed trash, and that there’s no need to for guilt when I toss it in to the can?!)

As we emptied boxes, she shared resources such as who I might call for art restoration, which companies are best at custom shelving, and what animal shelter takes old dog beds (Homeward Pet in Woodinville, WA). Her toolkit includes painter’s tape, sturdy cardboard boxes, fat sharpie markers, a portable garbage can gadget (that I totally covet), and a vehicle to haul away most of the  “To Go” pile that inevitably mounds up as the hours go by. Lauren has a keen eye for space, and a vision for what arrangement might work best, as it relates to a client’s routine and customs.

But Lauren’s qualifications go much further than utilitarian tools and sensible words of advice. She has a special magic that alleviates pressure and pain that can come with these jobs. Her compassionate, yet no-nonsense demeanor settles my nerves and fills me with confidence. The garage I had deemed untouchable became manageable as we moved through it together.

Going through this process reminded me that I don’t have to do life alone. There are times when it’s possible – and advisable – to call for help. Whether that’s sorting picture frames and eliminating dust bunnies, or consulting someone on relationships or careers.

Hiring Lauren’s services feel like a luxury – and I don’t feel guilty indulging. For a long time I held the belief that I “should” be able to accomplish everything on my own, especially when it came to household tasks.

I believed I should be able work full time, parent full time, maintain a clean house, keep a man happy, and pursue my dreams – all without chipping a nail. Anything less was failure. Even though I ended my relationship with the ex-military man, I hung on to the shameful belief that I wasn’t “enough” for a long time. I’ve even carried judgmental and jealous feelings towards others that hired help for themselves. I know better now: these distorted beliefs are false and toxic. No one should feel that asking for help from a friend or a professional is anything other than a wise choice.

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The garage is ¾ done and I’m no longer agonizing over an unmanageable mess. There’s always more to do, but I’m proud of the results. And I’m proud that I stopped procrastinating and gave myself permission to ask for help. I’ll never be perfectly spotless, but my life is so much cleaner these days – inside and out.

 

There’s only a few minor things that I still want organized…. Just a few stacks of boxes in the corner of a room that need sorting through. Does anyone know an accountant who’s willing to work with brand new business owner who’s avoided paperwork and taxes for a year?

Just kidding. Sort of!

Cheers to Clean Living –

Tiffany

Follow me @scrubbedcleanrn

And make sure to check out my website www.recoverandrise.com to learn more about coaching for recovery and radical self love!

 

The Saturday Night I Met Myself

In my drinking days, his being a practical stranger would have been the perfect rationale for me to swipe on some lip-gloss, grab my purse and follow him to the bar.

It’s not that long ago I would have said yes.

“I’m headed to the Train Wreck. Come with! You can’t just sit here on a Saturday Night!”

My girlfriend and I were settled on the couch, brownies in the oven. Leaving Utopia wasn’t an option. I could have made the excuse that I don’t drink, but didn’t bother. He was just a guy renting my guest room for the weekend; we’d probably never see each other again.

In my drinking days, his being a practical stranger would have been the perfect rationale for me to swipe on some lip-gloss, grab my purse and follow him to the bar.

There was an awkward pause after he asked…as though he couldn’t believe we would turn down his offer. How could we be satisfied sitting home, when we could be perched on a barstool next to him, indulging in the drink special of the night?

“Oh, you’re serious? Staying home on a weekend? Well, have a good night.”

We nodded and I said “Drive home safe. Call if you need a ride. Don’t drink too much and drive.”

My own response surprised me.

Who was I?

Where was the girl that would do anything to get numb and avoid reality?Even if it meant ditching her friend for an unattractive, unknown guy and a bar literally called the Train Wreck? Where was the girl who would shove the voice of reason so far down it couldn’t be heard, then walk out the door avoiding every flapping red flag?

What about the girl who by 8pm on a Saturday had already consumed a bottle of wine or some ungodly amount of IPA, but would still jump at the offer to drive everyone to the bar?

I was that girl. The girl who would trade a perfectly nice night at home with my dog and my friend, for a night of so-called adventure; even if it meant risking my safety, sobriety, and sanity. The so-called adventure never came to fruition of course. The most exciting thing that would happen was chatting up a greasy stranger and making plans which I had no intention of following up on, but for an hour or two they’d be my best friend and soul mate while we bullshitted at the bartop.

Eventually I’d realize I was the only one left, and after finagling one more drink out of the bartender, the “adventure” would continue: me driving home drunk, followed by a confusing sense of elation having made it home without getting pulled over. The elation would fade away with the drunkenness, leaving only a pathetic, fuzzy memory of secrets shared with my “new best friend”, a mouth resembling a cat’s litter box, and my self worth replaced with soul eating shame.

Ican still touch those memories.

I can reach back into them and experience the sadness and fear. It’s not a stretch to see myself in hindsight and pinpoint the exact minute a bad decision was made. I have a few lingering regrets and a ton of compassion for the hours I spent with my legs wrapped around a barstool.

But I don’t stay there. I don’t go under so far that it takes my breath and is a struggle to come back. Because while I might remember what she looked like and how she acted; I am in no way her any longer.

On this Saturday night, I realized how true this is. I’m the girl that genuinely feels excited for a night of brownies and SNL. Honestly concerned that someone might drink and drive, I’m the girl that offers to be D.D. (kind of halfheartedly, ‘cuz I’m loving my pajamas and no way do I want to leave my house past 9pm; but I do care enough to pick up if he calls).

I’m the girl that laughs louder and bigger and realer than I ever did drunk; that’s impressed by the new flavor of sparkling water in my fridge, that is grateful to be planted in my recliner with my dog. Not as a consolation prize either – thinking I need a break from all the partying I’ve been doing. This is the grand champion of Saturdays. This is the me that experiences zero FOMO when it comes to others’ weekend plans.

I’m the girl that looks forward to hangover- free, early morning runs and pancakes. That loves herself and her friends and shows it by not trading time with them for random male attention. The girl that doesn’t feel provoked, even when the drink invitation comes in the form of a dare. I’m the girl who does not for one second miss the smell of the inside of a bar; and who considers time spent at the Train Wreck a legitimate risk of becoming exactly that.

I didn’t know I was this girl…..and then suddenly, I did. Glowing gently from the inside, I found myself. I had been here all along.

There was nothing more I needed, and nowhere I needed to go. Nothing to numb, avoid or search for.

“You sure you’re staying home? It could be fun….”

And the girl who is ME answered uncompromisingly:

“Of course I’m staying home, everything I want is here.”

I’m the girl that’s recovered. Recovering. Recovered.

If you had any doubts, I’m living proof. We can and DO recover.

Cheers and Gratitude,

Tiffany

Thank you for reading! If you like what you read here, follow me @scrubbedcleanrn (IG and Twitter) and learn more about how to work with me as your personal Life/Recovery Coach at facebook.com/recoverandrise/

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Thank you for reading! If you like what you read here, follow me @scrubbedcleanrn (IG and Twitter) and learn more about how to work with me as your personal Life/Recovery Coach at facebook.com/recoverandrise/