Is Cleaning Better Than Therapy?

If you are a regular reader of mine, you know the following:

a.) I am an obsessive clean freak.

b.) I had hypnotherapy 18 months ago to curb–not cure–the obsession.

c.) I want to be buried with my dust buster.

But because of hypnotherapy, I no longer meltdown when I see crumbs. I can walk past them and they no longer taunt me. Plus, now I have cleaning ladies once a week. If I didn’t I would never leave the house and my tots would not survive. I would be strapped to my vacuum all day while they played with knives.

However, since we sold our Brooklyn apartment and had all our stuff moved out here, the boxes, even though out of sight, have been driving me mad. Just knowing they are there and full of “stuff”–stuff we haven’t used in 18 months–is enough to send me back to hypnotherapy. Not only that, but we are in a rental house where in less than two years we have accumulated enough to warrant another moving van when our new house is ready.

The clutter is mentally draining.  I get so cranky thinking about going through all the closets and the boxes and getting rid of stuff. It’s like the world’s worst term paper hanging over your head. And when I have little snippets of time (like when the kids nap) I think, “Well, what’s the point in starting, since they will wake up and then what?” It’s a procrastination tool I use frequently.

So a few weekends ago, I was in uber b-tch mood. I think it’s because the clutter was infiltrating my cells. Phil took the kids to the playground and told me to do something to snap out of my mood. I had 45 minutes. Not nearly enough time to clean out an entire house. But guess what? I started. And by the time he got home I had filled 3 garbage bags full of clothes to donate. What’s even better is the mood it put me in. I was downright giddy.  Confirmation for Phil that he married a neurotic.

Since I’m a person of extremes I couldn’t stop. I got on a manic roll. Over the next week I cleaned out every closet. I even scrubbed all the shelves. I did it even when I had small snippets of time. I realized you can accomplish a lot more than you think when you just dive in and stop procrastinating. I went through at least 12 of the boxes, piling up more stuff for donations and garbage. It was better than any drug or drink I’ve ever had. Well, almost.

The high lasted well after I finished the projects. Like two weeks longer. I honestly think that getting rid of the clutter also got rid of clutter in my brain. I felt less scattered, and far less miserable and blah. It was a remarkable undertaking with extraordinary results.

Of course now I’m back down from the high. But in the back of my mind I know there are more boxes waiting. So as my clutter starts to build up in my head, I know if I just unpack a box or organize a shelf I will probably feel better than drinking that bottle of wine in its entirety.

It’s like the revelation I had when I wrote The Mom Mystique. I need that sense of accomplishment that goes beyond child-rearing. Cleaning isn’t intellectually stimulating but the results strangely felt the same.

Now when we move in and are perfectly unpacked and organized I may need another “project” to tackle. But that is months away. Plus, I found a new therapist so maybe she can help me get to a happy place without filling up 8 garbage bags.

One of my favorite expressions from the days when I hosted Simple Solutions reports still rings true:

“Get rid of the mess, get rid of the stress.” Amen.

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