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Housekeeping: an Update

Last month, I was the kind of person who had  a panic attack when I saw pet hair on the sofa. I used to have to vacuum the apartment and all of our furniture on a daily basis to avoid the panic attacks. A glob of toothpaste in the bathroom sink would make my stomach lurch. A coffee ring on the counter made my eyes itch. It was exhausting and it was awful.

Last week, I went five days, five whole days, without vacuuming. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. No one died. No one caught a disease. No one even really noticed. We all just lived with it. Yes, at the end of five days things were pretty hairy but I didn’t mind because I knew that in a few more days the whole apartment would be perfectly beautifully exquisitely sparkling clean.

I just don’t stress out about the chores anymore. I no longer feel like I have to drop everything I’m doing to clean the house right now because it’s getting dirty and ifitgetsdirtywewillalldie. Now I look at the hairy sofa, or the coffee rings in the kitchen sink, and smile because a wonderful lady is coming over on Monday and she’ll take care of it me.

And it’s not that I have completely let everything go and the poor woman has to clean a filthy rathole every other week. No, no. We’re still doing the dishes every day, wiping down the counters, doing the laundry, cleaning the litter box, putting away the crap that piles up daily, balancing the checkbook, cooking, grocery shopping, recycling, walking dogs, watering plants, vacuuming every few (five!) days or so, we’re still doing all that. But what we don’t get around to? That stuff doesn’t make me want to kill myself anymore.

Also? I’ve started spending a little time every day just … relaxing. I’ve been spending more time with family. We’re running again. I did yoga this month! Twice! Last week when the weather was warm, I spent a whole hour before sunset one night stretched out on the balcony, my head nestled between the little dogs in their bed, watching the birds at the feeder. It. was. heavenly. This woman has saved my life.

Perfectly Perfect Perfect

When we moved from Hells Kitchen to Harlem I was working eleven hours a week and Mike was unemployed and on Spring break from school. We were able to spend the better part of every day cleaning, unpacking, decorating, nesting, and we were all settled in a matter of weeks. It was fantastic. But this time I’ve been at work every day and Mike’s had to do most of the heavy lifting without me.  Me, who likes to do everything myself because I want everything to be perfectly perfect perfect.

This has been the source of several very high energy moments in the past couple of weeks. Mike is very patient and very laid back, and I am the Tazmanian Devil. We signed our lease on a Monday but by Tuesday I’d spent four days decorating the apartment in my mind and making long lists of everything that needed to be cleaned.

One morning as Mike was driving me to the office, we had a huge fight.  Except it wasn’t really a fight. Calling it a fight implies yelling and screaming, and that’s not our style.  Anyway, immediately after lecturing Michael on how I won’t be able to live in the apartment until the bathrooms have been scrubbed inside and out, I started telling him that I thought it would be fabulous to decorate said bathrooms with all gold vintage decor.  He made a face at me and said he thought that was the most horrible idea I’d ever come up with ever.

Except not really. What he said was, “That will look really tacky,” but what I heard was, “That is the most horrible idea you’ve ever come up with ever. Also, you are fat and ugly.”

When he dropped me at work I was nearly in tears. I was also on my way to being late for work, so I couldn’t sit in the car and talk about how I was feeling. Instead I had to sit in my office and stew about it.  And stew I did, for a nice long while. Then I texted him:

“I love you. I want for this to be a fun and happy time for us.  I want to feel like you accept me and like my ideas. It’s crushing when you think my ideas are stupid. You’re my best friend and when you think my ideas are stupid it’s really painful. So far you’ve hated every idea I have and I’m starting to feel like this is your apartment, not ours.”

Don’t you love how dramatic I am? It’s so awful it’s funny, right? “So far you’ve hated every idea I have…” Straight out of Days of Our Lives, the generic suburban version.

He texted back:

“All I’m doing is cleaning. I understand how you feel. I’m sorry. I don’t want to feel the same – like you want to make this your apartment, and all I do is scrubbing and hauling. The good news is that we are not in a huge hurry. I want us to work together to make a home. I respect your ideas, and I know we can make this work.”

I took a deep breath. Why was I so angry? I mean, seriously. Sixties gold décor in the eighties-era bathroom with the clamshell sink. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I called my mother and my girlfriends, some of the most brilliant and wonderful women I know. “What should I doooooo?????” I whined. They all three said the same thing. They pointed out that we both had valid points and we’d both expressed a desire to work through the situation.  They said we were ahead of the game. They offered help, advice, encouragement, and comfort.  They made me laugh. And Kim gave me complete instructions for how to wash out my filthy dishwasher, something I otherwise would not, for the life of me, have known how to do.

I wasn’t angry that Mike didn’t like my ideas. I was angry because he was doing it all without me. I felt like I was missing out on everything.  All the cleaning, all the moving, all the furniture-arranging.  He thought he was getting a big chore out of the way, but I felt like I was being cheated of an opportunity to nest – something I’d been aching to do since August. Meanwhile, here he is, spending his days scrubbing and hauling while I yammer on about curtains and throw pillows and give lectures on how to clean the toilet. No wonder he didn’t have the patience to talk about gold vintage décor.

When we finally got another chance to talk, we realized that we were both aiming for the same thing – a fabulous little home we’ll love for the next two to five years, depending on how long it takes us to save up for a house.  Once we figured that out, we were able to talk about all of the things that needed to get done, his priorities and mine, and I realized that moving comes before decorating and maybe my evenings were better spent scrubbing the filthy toilet instead of shopping online. Which, of course, was what I really wanted to be doing anyway.  After all, there is nothing in the world like a freshly scrubbed toilet.