Nope, compulsive tidiness is not a problem at my house. Especially not these days.
I should admit, I started this blog before Jer’s accident, but I wanted to finish it and get it posted, so tweaked and updated it here and there to make it more relevant.
In my fantasy life, everything in my house is clean, tidy and organized. It’s cozy, warm and inviting and I can invite friends to stop by for tea and cookie’s without a qualm. In my fantasy life.
In my real life, my housekeeping has been mediocre at best over the years, sliding into embarrassingly lax at times when I just want to give up, knowing the end result is still a case of putting lipstick on a pig (no insult meant to pigs).
Our house is small, poorly laid-out (entirely our own fault since we planned and built it ourselves 😂 in 1999-2001), and shabby inside and out largely due to lack of upkeep after Jerry’s 2009 traumatic brain injury. Arthritis, fibro and outside interests have also played a part.
Before his TBI, we had all sorts of updates and remodels planned, with our meager budget based entirely on Jer’s proven ability to do much of the work himself.
After the TBI, years passed with Jer insistent that as he healed, his skills would return. Some have, for which I’m grateful. Too many others … haven’t.
So we live with linoleum that was meant to be beautiful wood floors, and a kitchen that was never completely finished and would better fit the current fad for “tiny homes” (it seems our amateur home-designer skills didn’t take the width of countertops, ovens and refrigerators into account in our square footage).
The exterior hasn’t been repainted since 2001. We did finally hire out the job of replacing our front porch and steps last summer – mainly because it was becoming unsafe.
Anyway, back on the topic of keeping house.
I tend to go through fits of cleaning, where the bathrooms get sanitized top to bottom and the bedroom is clean and organized.
I choose these rooms to keep clean because they are most likely to actually stay tidier without too much angst. Jerry has very little impact upstairs, for example, since (even before his accident), he would come up to bed around 11:00 pm and head straight back downstairs as soon as he awakened at around 4:00 am. For now, of course, he doesn’t come up at all.
I would feel like I’d accomplished something for a few days at a time, but mostly I ended up depressed and overwhelmed because there is no way to stay ahead of my husband’s hoarding-like tendencies.
Tendencies, btw, which I was aware of before we married, but naively chocked up to his being busy with work and a typically messy life-long bachelor. *Apologies here to my 50-year-old nephew, John, who keeps a lovely bachelor home he has every right to be proud of.
Why am I bringing this up today? Well, with Jer hobbled to his recliner/lift chair, I’ve finally had the freedom to wade into the kitchen and even (gasp) make a dent in the living room
It’s not really Jer’s fault, and I DO remember that most of the time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the everyday reality. The severe TBI Jerry suffered in 2009 caused a lot of problems, with changes to his personality being only one aspect.
Another side affect of the TBI is referred to as an “inability to initiate”; meaning that even with a written list and the best of intentions, he often doesn’t follow through with plans.
This can include little things like emptying the trash or vacuuming the living room, or things of more consequence like remembering to call and make a doctor appointment – or follow through with his PT routine.
One behavior that drives me bonkers is Jerry’s anxiety over any sort of change. I completely understand it’s an after-affect of the TBI, and it’s sad that it so thoroughly put the skids on our plans to travel after he retired (in 2007).
But it also affects everyday life in a way I hadn’t expected. If something, be it furniture, pots and pans (clean OR dirty), a book, or even a piece of paper, sits in one place for more than a couple of days – it now belongs there and relocating it can create anxiety and anger. Even if he WANTS to change something, he finds it stressful.
I fear Jerry will be appalled when he finally gets his foot under him steadily enough to make it to the kitchen. I cleaned it – and not everything is where he last had it. Even the burnt-on crumbs on the range top had to go. Really, they did. I’m just hoping Jer hadn’t named them. 😟
Please understand, I’m not bashing Jer. I love him. These TBI-generated quirks, although frustrating, are part of our new reality since 2009. 🤷🏼♀️
We seriously need to replace our flooring and carpeting (there have been way too many puppies, dogs, dirty boots and spills over the past 25 years and spot-cleaning can only do so much), but there’s no way that can happen without moving ALL the furniture, which means cleaning and clearing and emptying.
At our age and general health, that’s just not going to happen. We don’t have family in Alaska to turn to for help, so we periodically vacuum, sweep and mop and pretend it’s not … awful.
Hey, on the bright side, this past week, I managed to give away Jer’s beloved old recliner (there was definitely not room for two!) and I sold the huge coat rack, er … I mean treadmill. Yay! There is room now for Jer to practice walking on crutches!
On the other hand, my Winnebago, which Jer spends maybe two weeks a year in (a few days here, a few days there), is pristine. I’m almost obsessive about keeping it clean. I think it’s because I have control of that environment, where I have a lot less control at home.
I sure hope Jerry is recovered enough by May to be safely independent. I’m going to be SO sad if I have to forego dog sports trials and camping this summer.
2 thoughts on “Compulsive Tidiness”
You are an inspiration to many of us, who may be in slightly different circumstances–but we GET you. I hope you get your summer as you would like it.
I’m so sorry. Sometimes life just sucks rocks.
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