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My mom and I don’t get along. It’s complicated and not something I want to discuss. Suffice it to say, I don’t necessarily want to find commonalities between us, but I found one today.

Whenever I’m feeling stressed, I like to clean. My mom was an obsessive cleaner while I was growing up, vacuuming the house everyday. When she had us kids clean our rooms, she insisted we dust the baseboards, which I always thought was pointless because they never looked dirty to me.

My house is not the cleanest one around. Dog and cat hair scuttle around the corners and the bathrooms could probably use freshening up more often, but when I get free time, I prefer to use it for writing, making art, or reading. Cleaning is not my priority. I don’t want my gravestone to read, “She died with a clean house.”

Except when I’m feeling stressed. Then I tend to sweep and dust and vacuum and wash dishes and rearrange furniture. My mom told me when I was younger that she liked to clean because it gave her a sense of control over her surroundings. That’s one thing cleaning does for me when life throws wrenches under my feet. Not only does it give me a modicum of control over some aspect of my life, it also allows me to move around, which brings my stress level down.

Cleaning does another thing for me. It allows my creativity to percolate. When I’m working on a creative problem, if I get stuck and get moving, either by walking or cleaning, a solution will present itself.

While I may claim not to like cleaning, it serves several good purposes in my life, including one that apparently rubbed off my mom.