I used to have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and mess, of any kind, would send me into a terrifying rage. The fights I would get into with my brothers and sister were apocalyptic, and they could be over the smallest thing, like leaving their shoes on when they came inside the house after I’d vacuumed.
It went beyond that though. I literally couldn’t handle it when something was even the slightest bit off, say, a bottle of shampoo in the bathroom cupboard wasn’t facing the right way, or the bag in a box of cereal was left wide open instead of being folded down, or if one of the posters on my bedroom wall wasn’t exactly aligned with the poster next to it. I couldn’t do anything else unless I made what was wrong right.
While most teenagers did teenagery things after school, I could be found at home, vacuuming and smoothing creases out of my bed covers. At the time, untidiness felt like a matter of life and death. I wasn’t a homemaker back then, however. I was a girl trapped with an illness that robbed her of any kind of normality.
In the past few years, I’ve became more ‘comfortable’ around untidiness. I’ve been able to leave dirty clothes in corners, walk past piles of breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes, look into a mirror smeared with the residue of hell only knows what…and walk away without feeling like a terrible person.
Why could I do this? Well, there’s few reasons. Much of the time, it was because I was too depressed and weighted down with fatigue that I didn’t have the strength, or the care in me to clean effectively. Other times it was because I prioritized my writing over making our home shine. I never envisaged myself as someone who would call herself a homemaker, and actually be HAPPY about it.
This lasted until the 31st of December 2017 when I went into ‘nesting mode’ and spent a week de-cluttering the apartment. Then I did make our home shine.
When I realised how content it made me feel to have glasses nicely stacked in the cupboard, to have the floor clean of dust balls, to have a sink free of dishes and debris from taco night, I knew I was a homemaker and I knew I was happy about it.
When I had OCD, tidying never left me feeling content for more than a few minutes. But now, today, living the role of a homemaker makes me feel fulfilled. I’m brighter in myself and and fizzing with energy. Ironically, I also write better – and more – now too.
I’ve developed little tidying routines throughout the day, to make sure I don’t fall behind. Cleaning the kitchen and the living room early in the morning, before I start my work, gives me clarity and focus.
Making use of my time by, say, unloading the dishwasher while the kettle is boiling helps me feel effective and satisfied.
Doing a sweep of the rest of the house before Sebastian and Little Tyra come home, means we’re happier as a family too, because Tyra has space to run around (though I have surrendered to the fact that keeping a four year old’s bedroom tidy isn’t always realistic) and Sebastian doesn’t have to come home from his job to another job.
For the first time in my life, I actually get excited at the prospect of buying new shelves for our overflow of books, or getting rid of the depressing mustard colour on the walls in the hall, or having a shower in a bathtub that isn’t cluttered with empty shampoo bottles.
Nowadays I don’t just throw stuff on top of old stuff in the pantry because I need to do something more important. I’m practical and vigilant and know what needs to stay and what needs to go. I rarely used the words ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ anymore.
I find peacefulness in putting away and storing our food. Pouring a packet of pasta into a clip top jar, and lining it up next to the rice and lentils in the pantry is soothing in ways I never could have imagined.
And there’s something so gratifying about popping open a jar to take out a spoonful of sugar for my tea, or pouring cranberry juice from a beautiful glass bottle instead of a carton. These little changes make me slow down and think about what I’m doing and what I’m putting into my body. It makes me feel grounded. It makes me feel like I finally have my shit together.
I’ve been paying attention to what my star sign (Virgo) has to say about cleaning and decoration of the home. Since living in Sweden, I’ve developed a love obsession with the colour white – especially in the kitchen – and wasn’t surprised to read that Virgos favour using white, black and grey in their homes.
Most of what we have left now in the kitchen after my de-cluttering, is white and grey with wooden additions. Having my collection of clear quartz on the windowsill, and white candles in an iron candle holder (thrifted!) are essential to helping me feel peaceful. The pale walls and wooden table make it feel like we have the outdoors inside, which is also essential to feeling peaceful and positive.
I love organisation (another Virgo trait) and being able to function in this way without the weight of OCD is so refreshing and freeing. I feel like I’ve found balance in my life, the balance I’ve never had before, the balance I’ve been searching for.