A Clean House

Once in a blue, life hits a rhythm when it clearly becomes time to take stock and purge the people and possessions that no longer give back. I feel this in my literal house: the impulse to empty every kitchen shelf and cabinet onto a tarp in the middle of the floor, throw out half of it, scrub everything clean, and reorganize smarter and more efficiently now that we’ve lived here for a bit and we’re not just desperately sticking things wherever in a rush to liberate our lives from cardboard moving boxes. My closet feels overstuffed with clothes I don’t wear, a pessimistic insurance policy in case I get fatter or a whimsical hope that I’ll take off the rest of the grief-weight and want to don the old denim mini in a moment of ill-advised nostalgia. Stored in labeled bins, crammed on hangers, piled haphazardly in scarcely accessible cabinets, waiting in baskets for a final destination–I want it all out, to feel a little lighter, more streamlined, less choked by the congestion.

Image: Eva Girl via The Opulent Poppy

I’m also in a really strange place with friends, shedding relationships like a molting bird, some of it circumstantial, some of it by choice. I can feel the tectonic plates of life moving beneath my feet, which is a frightening and disorienting sensation, and this summer feels decidedly like the end of something, a vestibule between major phases. There’s the motherhood piece and the year spent stockpiling progeny in Colorado and now New Jersey, the friends that have drifted away as we round the bend of five grueling years trying to conceive while they celebrate toddlers’ birthdays and preschool graduations with their children, absorbed by parenthood and its natural social circle, a million miles away from us. My best friend since childhood is moving far away–no small matter since she is basically my sister and her children my nieces amid so few healthy attachments to my family. Leaving my position at the middle school where I’ve worked for the past ten years distances me from a cozy gaggle of girls, the loss of proximity and the undeniable impact of that no matter how much we vow to “keep in touch!” And then there are the friends I’m choosing to shed because they just don’t serve me; because they are inconsiderate and self-involved or profoundly incompatible, perhaps relegated to light acquaintances for the sake of maintaining peace and sidestepping some toxic blowout. It feels really lonely–a solitary boat still lingering in the harbor, having cut ties with some and watched others set sail for grander adventures–and that makes it tough to resist the urge to cling to things that are already gone.

But if I dig down deep into my intuition, what I find is that I think my life is reorganizing to clear space for the next big thing: in career (for sure) as a high school teacher, *elsewhere* (most crucially) as an expectant and then new mother, and the bonds of camaraderie to be cultivated in each of those unexplored spheres. Mostly, it’s exciting to imagine the reordering of priorities away from the taxing and tiresome navigation of friendships to put family at the center once and for all. I can find the courage to face this because there are a few things I know with certainty: (1) my marriage remains solid even through trauma; (2) I’m blessed with a handful of really wonderful friends despite the challenging schedules and miles between us, and (3) no matter what happens in this life, I can always rely on myself. So I’m trying to put my Buddhist hat on, ride out the shift, watch these things float away like little carbonated bubbles without grasping and clutching in fear.


23 thoughts on “A Clean House

  1. This is beautiful, and I love how you talk about all the bits and pieces that go into getting ready for a new piece/stage of life. I especially love the part about your closet being a ‘pessimistic insurance policy’.

    Can very much relate to the feeling of all the plates of life shifting and trying to figure it all out – this piece really hits home for me. Thank you so much for sharing.


  2. Excellent description. I am in a similar place so your words are particularly poignant. It’s so difficult to watch important, even critical, relationships change due to distance or circumstance – we’re at an age where we know that no number of “we’ll keep in touch”, “things won’t change” etc will change the fact that it WILL change. It’ll never quite be the same. But, onward and upward!!


    • I know, even despite the best of intentions, the distance has its way with relationships, but the empty spaces make way for new things 🙂 You, darling, will literally have your hands full any minute, so onward and upward indeed!


    • Hi, and thanks for swinging through! Yes, mental de-cluttering is at the top of my list, which is why I go to yoga class three times a week.


  3. Sounds like you’ve taken inventory, increased your acceptance of things outside yourself, grown in gratitude, and committed to that which is most important to you. Good advice for us all.


  4. Thanks for your beautifully written blog. I can relate to so much of what you’re talking about and it makes me feel a lot less alone.


  5. Ahhh, a good purging, physical and mental, difficult and purifying. It sounds like you’re in a good place!

    Interestingly, I purged a few relationships in the past that are now coming back, stronger and better. Very unexpected! Makes me think: Life is long.


  6. I love this post. I think we can either mourn the ending (or the lessening) of a relationship, or we can see the cleaning up of a life as a way to make order and make room. I like your viewpoint on it.


    • Funny thing is that I wrote this because a friend really hurt my feelings this weekend, and I had to write about this whole thing in order to discover my viewpoint!


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  8. This is a beautiful post. I’m so glad Mel shared it. As a middle school teacher who hopes to move to high school soon I look forward to following you–I hope the change is a good one and you revel in your new career.

    Abiding with you during this time of “shedding.” I know that feeling, though I love how you likened it to a tectonic shifting. Beautiful metaphor and so apt.


    • What’s motivating the change to high school for you? I was so conflicted when I requested the move because I have had a great experience in middle school, truly, despite the way people wrinkle their faces in horror when I tell them the age I teach! Heading into it, I’m equal parts scared and excited.


  9. here from the round up. I know that feeling of wanting to lighten and clear space. It is bracing. I just wish I could remember how it feels when I have the urge to acquire more things to compensate for….something.


    • Thanks for stopping by to comment 🙂 I’m sure I’m guilty of that urge to accumulate too. Otherwise, how could I have come to own 8 vases…literally, when I reorganized my kitchen this week, I set four aside for goodwill! But it just feels so good to unload stuff now.


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