Clean Sweep


Does a messy, cluttered home (or office) make you anxious and cranky, or is cleaning something you do right before company comes over?

So you might be wondering what on earth this has to do with bipolar and recovery? I’ll try to lead you in as best I can.

Let’s talk first about an office. I was a teacher, so we are basically talking about a classroom. When I went back to work after raising my kids, I didn’t find a job right away, so I subbed. And I was amazed at the filth. The ratio of dirty rooms to clean ones was about 6:1. I’m talking heaps of junk on the teacher’s desk so bad there was no where to write. Papers all over the floor. Dead goldfish on the floor. Microwaves that were too filthy to use. Bowls and cups on the teacher’s desk with mold growing in them. And, whoa, on the cupboards! You open one for some construction paper and were attacked by a pile of stuff that came tumbling down. Refrigerators that should have been condemned. It was bad.

When I got my own classroom I was anal. I enlisted 5 adults and 2 of my kids to help clean out the dirty room the previous teacher had left behind. We took THIRTY black trash bags of stuff out of the room. (I lined them up in the hall and the janitor passed out.) We scrubbed every surface. We brought in clean everything. We went to the supply closet and found some stuff we needed and put it in.

I kept my room clean. There were never stacks of paper on the floor. There were in baskets and out baskets. You could easily find supplies and know how much you had. I cleaned one side of the room every week. I just looked at everything along that wall and cleaned it up. I had fresh bulletin boards. My room was colorful and attractive. My lesson plans were done. My microwave and fridge were immaculate. No messing around. I don’t think I was hypomanic, just feeling “normal” at this point.

Now I have read several studies that say that bipolar people like neatness and not clutter. (I don’t have links to those studies…I’m not a scientific writer.) I think our minds get cluttered enough and it helps to keep things simple. I totally agree with this.

So on to my house. Now please don’t think we are rich because we’re not. But we do have a big house. We have lots of closets, cupboards, and storage. We have 5 bedrooms and 4 baths. (I don’t know what I was thinking…if you have 4 toilets…you must CLEAN 4 toilets.) Right now, we have my husband and I and two adult kids at home. But my husband is a collector. He collects rocks (the rock show!) comics, books, Star Trek stuff, shirts, baseball cards, stamps, and coins. Oops, I forgot board games. He’s got one bedroom and four closets FULL of his stuff. It’s all put away or displayed very neatly, but it has just taken over the house, in my opinion. It really stresses me out. I see a shelf and might want to put four or five books on it so there is room for more later…he’ll put thirty on it. I have to fight for every square inch of space that’s mine.

I’d really bitch and complain more about this if he wasn’t such a good husband, father, and provider. And nurse. He has taken care of me through this latest massive depression.

Now he will clean out cupboards and closets and purge stuff, but it’s never the spaces I want cleaned. For example, we have a big laundry room with lots of cupboards. And they are filled to the gills. I can’t figure out what is in there. I’ve asked him to purge in there but he’s not interested. He says he “needs” everything in that room.

Our kitchen is not bad. Since that is “my” space, he loves to go in those cupboards and clean. I can’t tell you how often he’s held up a platter and said “When did we last use this?” I pick up stuff at garage sales I like, such as glasses or unique plates. I guess that’s what I collect. He is quick to point out if anything seems too crowded.

Thank god we have the bathroom we do. We each have our own sink, cupboard, and medicine chest. I clean mine regularly and just have the basics in there. Lots of empty space. It’s my bipolar brain. I have about ten items of make-up. Only what I actually use every day. If I’m going somewhere special I just put more on.

My clothes closet is interesting. I go through it about every three months and get rid of stuff. I never save anything hoping I will get smaller or worrying that I will get bigger. If I don’t like it and it doesn’t fit today, out it goes. I’m trying to really simplify there. I read another blog where a woman had 30 pieces of clothing including shoes and purses. And she worked at a job!

I did get hypomanic a few years back. I cleaned everything in the house. Every cupboard, every baseboard, every shutter. I did touch up painting everywhere. It was amazing. I scrubbed like crazy. And you know, years later I still see the results from that today. Many areas still look pretty good from that burst of energy.

As far as cleaning goes now, I will confess I have a cleaning person. She is the mother of one of my former students. I worked in a very low income school and this works out great as she needs the money and I need the help. She goes directly from our home to the grocery store and gets the weekly groceries for her family. I’m not going to mess with that.

When company comes over, we have to do three things: 1) clean off the kitchen counters as everyone deposits everything on there all week 2) clean up the den as that is where I have my “nest” and it can look like a pit 3) check the downstairs bathroom. If we do that we’re good. Guests never go upstairs. We don’t make beds in this house, so although it’s not dirty up there, it can look messy.

So when you come over, give us a half hour to clean up. If you want food, give us a day. That’s a whole other deal!

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