Not to worry, I didn't go postal or anything, but I did do something almost as unheard of...
Actually, more than cleaning, I picked things up, threw things away, and dealt with the numerous piles of crap that I've been avoiding for the past few months.
But I do think that I learned a few things during my "deal with it day" so I figured I'd share my brilliant insights.
Insight number one:
If you want things to get done, you must set aside time to do them.
OK. Now, I realize that this fits into the category of the excruciatingly obvious, but for some reason it's a lesson that, despite my forty-some-odd years on this planet, I have yet to learn. I seem to carry around the ridiculous notion that if I were just a "better person," things like cleaning, and picking up etc would just somehow magically do themselves.
The other thing I did was to refuse to hurry. Generally, when I'm tackling something unpleasant, I just want it to be over with as soon as possible. So the entire time I'm doing it I'm pushing myself to move faster. When I didn't let myself do that yesterday, I discovered that the tasks aren't nearly as onerous as the hurrying is.
Insight number two:
Unpleasant tasks don't become any less loathsome when you avoid them...
in fact, they generally become worse because not only do you have the task itself to deal with, you've got all of the wasted mental energy tied up in avoiding it.
I think I should have this one tattooed to my forehead... well, actually, I'd need to come up with more concise wording before that would work, but you know what I mean.
Anyhow, during my deal with it day, I didn't let myself weasel out of all of those things that I generally like to avoid. And really, snaking the drain and committing to the OBGYN weren't nearly as bad as the knot in my stomach that was caused by avoiding them.
Insight number three:
Clutter is really just postponed decisions.
OK, to be fair, this is not really my own insight, it's one I got from the television show, Neat, which I used to watch on HGTV back when I still had cable. Because, you know, it's sooooo much more fun to lay on the couch and look at other people's messy houses than it is to deal with your own! Anyhow, the host of Neat is a woman named Hellen Buttigieg, a professional organizer and life coach, who I found to be just brimming with insightful revelations regarding the psychology of clutter, and this was one of the things she said over and over.
AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!! Just make a decision already!!!
But you know, most of the decisions that I avoid like the plague, simply don't matter that much. And as the song goes: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
Insight number four:
Perfectionism will get you nowhere.
Back when I still had a "real job" I had the most fabulous and wonderful assistant ever. We worked together for over 10 years, and that girl knew me WAAAAAY too well. One day we were chatting about housework and I remarked that I hated vacuuming more than any other task.
She was incredulous, so I explained that it really wasn't vacuuming per se that I hated, but rather the three hours that it took to do the entire house. Once again, she was incredulous. So we chatted a bit more on the subject and then she said "Oh, I see what your problem is. You're suffering from vacuum perfection syndrome. Perhaps you need different levels of vacuuming... you know... just do the visible areas every week and save the moving the furniture part for spring cleaning."
Hmmmm... did I mention she was brilliant? I mean she was totally right, and the older I get, the more I realize that all of my perfectionistic tendencies are really just another form of procrastination.
I'm not sure I completely understand the psychology behind this one, but it's certainly true that I can set off to clean the bathroom and 6 hours later I'm still scrubbing the same tiny section of grout. Clearly, in the broad scheme of things, it makes more sense to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
And the other thing I did was to refuse to beat myself up for being a slob in the first place. I think this goes along with the "genetic flaw" theory of slovenliness, but really, cleaning is so much more pleasant when you're not standing behind yourself with a whip the entire time.
Insight number five:
Clean house or dirty, you're still the same stupid person.
So as I dealt with shit yesterday, I noticed a very interesting issue repeating itself over and over. I'd pick up all of the dirty laundry... except for two pairs of socks that I just couldn't bring myself to deal with. I did all of the dishes, except for one casserole dish that I just had to let sit in the sink and soak. I winnowed the "deal with it" pile down to two little insignificant things, but then couldn't quite manage to tackle those last tasks.
Hmmmmm... what is this, some sort of completion anxiety?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that deep down, some part of me has a fear of not being a slob. I think it's similar to the fear I had about losing weight, or quitting my job or any of the other myriad of changes I've undertaken. I mean, these are things that I REALLY wanted, but what I didn't want to do was to face the fact that there was something I was getting out of the status quo. I mean, I think on some level there can be something really comfortable about being stuck in whatever it is that you're used to being stuck in.
I guess having something that's "wrong" in my life serves a purpose. It allows me to blame all of my "yucky" emotions on the thing that's "wrong," rather than having to come face to face with the raw feelings.
I mean, shit... I lost 40 pounds, and have kept it off for 10+ years now... and while that's great, it didn't actually solve all of my problems. And I saved my money, adopted a frugal lifestyle so now I don't have to work... but surprisingly enough, that didn't mean that I suddenly morphed into a carefree being filled with nothing but bliss and happiness.
I guess, perhaps it's the same with the whole neat and tidy thing. I mean, I made myself pick up those last pairs of socks, and I washed the last casserole dish, and finished those last two things in the "deal with it" pile. And it feels great... but there's also a bit of a let down. I haven't somehow altered the essential core of my being and become one of those "perfect people" that I always imagined my childhood friends to be.
Perhaps this is what happens to people who win the lottery. I've heard over and over stories about somebody who strikes it rich, and then ends up more miserable than they were before. But I guess the truth is that we are not the sum total of our money, or our accomplishments, or our "neat and tidiness." We simply are who we are, and I think learning to accept that is the real trick.
I do think I'll try to have "deal with it day" a tad bit more often though!