[UfYH note: some discussion of abuse]
Now, I admit that I cry about success stories on a near-daily basis (shut up, I’m emotional), but this came through on Facebook, and it was practically the first thing I saw when I got up this morning, and I’m still processing it, and still tearing up (mostly with happiness!) every time I re-read it. Anonymized at the writer’s request. It’s long, but so, so worth it.
Dear UFYH Lady,
Please feel free to share this on your site if you like, but please omit my real name. I would post the pictures I have, but we live in on the property my husband manages, and the employees would instantly recognize the apartment if they stumbled upon this site and I would die of heartache if I accidentally shamed him with my bullshit.
This is the tale of how I learned to stop avoiding shit and love vinegar. For reference, I have an anxiety disorder, PTSD and depression that I manage with therapy; as well as a chronic illness that causes constant pain and unpredictable times of very extreme pain that I manage with diet and stress management. Weirdly, the physical and psychological things aren’t what kept me from cleaning, at least not as majorly as the issue that I’m about to talk about. I see those limitations more as scenery in the background than major points of interest in my life.
I was alerted to the existence of your blog via friends about four months ago and started reading it out of curiosity. I never planned on taking any of it to heart because I had long ago resigned myself to being one of the Messy People. I mostly just enjoyed the stories people told, but something I always rolled my eyes at was “MAKE YOUR BED!” It just seemed so arbitrary. Even made me a little angry.
Angry? Why is making your bed making me angry? I didn’t know it at the time but here’s the deal—I, like many of your readers, grew up in a filthy house. I don’t mention this because I feel it makes me a special snowflake, but because it informs about my initial frame of mind and because I know many of your readers came from similar (or much worse) situations. Anyway, filthy house, yes. Fruit flies were just something that came with a home as far as I knew, right? What’s a hamper? What are bedsheets? I could go on but you can imagine.
Cleaning was done in marathons, of course, and only done right before the Grandparents would come to visit. This would usually be a three day screaming fest with lots of hitting by adults and crying by kids. So cleaning would mayyyybe happen twice a year and it was always nerve-wracking and terrifying.
So, this brings me back to ‘angry about makin’ beds.’ I was perplexed by these little pangs of anger. It took me a stupid long time to see that I was associating cleaning with those old, bad feelings. To me, if something was being cleaned it meant something was wrong and something bad was about to happen. Of course I was avoiding cleaning, it made me panicky and feel like shit!
Once all the dots were connected, I simply got up and made my bed. Whatever, it’s stupid, but I’ve never done it before so why not give it a try? Pushing 30 and making my bed for the first time, cool. And that’s all I did. Make my bed. Later in the day I walked into my room and it looked…wrong. I noticed that this nice, clean bed was encircled by a massive shit tornado of crap. One of these things is not like the other. I swept (hah) it out of my mind and went back to wasting my time on the computer. A few days later is when I saw it…The Invisible Corner being discussed on your site. That’s silly, how can someone not see what’s right in front of them? Why, just take my living room for instan…oh. Oh. OH. OH GAWD WHERE DID ALL THIS SHIT COME FROM???!!!! When did I have KFC?????? Everything immediately clicked into place.
And thus began the end of Shitstorm Slumdump. I didn’t know where to start, so I started at my new bastion of unfucked—the bedroom with its (still) neatly made bed. That fucking bed was like a seed that took root and sent out roots all throughout my life, up-sprouting as it went. I bought a hamper for the first time in my life. I bought vinegar and baking soda. I already had a steam mop that was shiny new in its box after a year that finally got to see use. I continued making my bed.
It took three months and a lot of fuck ups (tip: if you’re doing a deep clean of a filthy room start wiping/dusting going from top to bottom of the room, walls, counters, baseboards then floor. That way once you get to the floor you don’t have to go back and clean it when you wipe crumbs onto it when wiping something higher up) and a lot of backsliding and a lot of working out my complicated emotions about cleaning. I had to basically give myself permission to feel good about any tiny bit of cleaning I did. I stopped myself from marathoning. I cleaned as I went. I threw myself tiny parties in my head for wiping down a mirror or something like that.
I have a wonderful husband who was very cleanly before we married, quietly accepted the state of things once we got married, and picked right back up and pitched in without me asking once I got my shit together. It’s as if the six years of a nightmarish shitscape never happened. He never once complained. I am half convinced he is literally an angel and fully convinced I won the husband lottery.
The other day I learned that the vent hood above the stove not only exists but needs cleaning every once in a while. It took half a bottle of dish soap, four sets of latex gloves, boiling a GREEN vent hood filter in baking soda and water until it was shiny again and lots of noxious grease fumes but as I showered Satan’s ass grease off of me I finally realized my house was clean. Like CLEAN clean. Martha Stewart could pop over and whimper at my lack of decorating skills but not bat an eye at how nice and clean it is here. In the delirium of shower steam and rotten vent grease fumes I realized maybe I should write and thank the jerk who gently nudged me into this state of new found adultishness (hint: it’s you).
I didn’t go into your blog looking for it to change my life, but it totally did. Not only do I get to give myself and my husband a beautiful home, but I inadvertently fixed a pretty major emotional issue I had unknowingly carried around with me forever. Your frank but sincere way of saying things with idiot-proof instructions are just what I needed. That stupid fucking bed is still made, by the way.
Words fail to really tell you what this all means to me. All my sincerest thanks.