Category Archives: cleaning

Two Types of Flashbacks

The last time I was cleaning 5 days a week (my goal) except for dishes/food clean up was last month. On the 15th, I wrote this blog saying, “I’m doing it!” and started waking up in full panic: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole thing. When I have a full, emotional flashback, it’s a two-week readjustment, but not a cleaning flashback. Those take longer, about 4 weeks.

What I’ve done successfully, is to make the routines, at least a minimum of them just habit. So, for the past 4 weeks, I’ve done some laundry, but haven’t put it away consistently. Done some dishes every day, but rarely are all of them done, etc. There aren’t 4 weeks of accumulated laundry and dishes to do. I haven’t gotten much sleep and my stress levels are up, but I’ve dealt with it.

My challenge is to either 1)Try and add to what I can do in the “bad times.” or 2)Lengthen the period when I can clean. The problem with either and this challenge is that if I notice what I’m doing — the panic starts.

I’m really sick of fighting this stuff! I’m in my 60s — I am honestly, truly tired of being affected by things which happened in my childhood. But they gave me PTSD and all of it, the mess to hide in and the other events or adaptations I made to protect myself, are all wrapped together as my flashback. Push on any piece too hard and there I go down the flashback rabbit hole.

The only difference is that when I’m pushed emotionally, I have a successful route I forged back. From something like the movie thing, it takes a day or two. If someone attacks me? It takes two full weeks.

I don’t have such a mechanism for the panic attacks/cleaning flashbacks. What I originally did with the emotional ones was to recreate my growth, one step at a time away from the painful place I used to live. I haven’t managed anything except the very first steps away from the panic/stress.

  1. I understand the root of the panic.
  2. I also understand that the reason it was and is so hard to fight is that when it occurs, I’m in full fight/flight panic mode.
  3. I have realized that the only way I know which might work is to habitualize the cleaning.

That’s worked to some extent or the other.

What hasn’t worked? Finding a way to notice that I’m cleaning and not go into a full-blown panic attack/flashback.


There’s hope. Until I typed what’s above and remembered what I’d done for the emotional attacks, I’d forgotten that I ritualized the steps away from the bad old days. I did that for years until my therapist said, “Do you really have to recreate each step, one after the other these days? Next time, see if you can’t condense some of it.” And I could!

So, hope exists. But it took me 20 years or so to heal enough that I could conceive of  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on the cleaning/panic is about 18 months more than I want to spend….

But, of course, the being dictating the rate I can go isn’t my conscious, adult brain, but that wounded little girl, whose body remembers all the trauma. She and the body run the roadways and determine how much I can do and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back, be patient, and wait. It sometimes feels as if I’m a passenger on an electric train. I got on, the doors closed and locked. All I can do is patiently wait until it stops!

trolley

 

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Spring Cleaning — and Not

It’s spring so I did my annual search — looking for spring cleaning lists. I’m always trying to find things I may have forgotten.

Of course, there always are things I haven’t done, but many I do get done without a reminder. Fridge shelves get pulled, about 1 a week. We have bins on the doors and I just started doing these, again. Did the bottom bin last week. The next bin up the door will get cleaned this week. I’ll just keep going: bottom to top on the door bins, then top to bottom on the shelves, then do it again… Means the fridge is never ever completely clean top to bottom, but it also means that it never is a disaster everywhere either!  The only big problem with this is that the overall fridge doesn’t get wiped down. I do behind the bins and shelves I’m removing, but not otherwise. I guess I should add a week of just doing the rest of the door or large cavity after I get the shelves done? The freezer, on the other hand, only gets cleaned about once a year.

Another aspect people recommend as part of spring cleaning are pieces I clean as a part of the walls, windows, doors, floors, and ceilings: that is, things attached to those places. When the curtains become part of the window and you wash the window, you also put the curtains through the dryer to remove dust and clean the hardware at the same time. Again, my goal isn’t to have an immaculate house, but a house which doesn’t need marathon cleaning.

So I try and deep clean a few items every week so I don’t have to deep clean a lot of things at once. True of everything from bedding to yard work. (Works better for the bedding than the yard work, can’t pick up leaves midwinter, no matter how much you may want to!)

When I do this regularly, the house gets cleaner. Actually, it works too well and leans on the PTSD, so it gets done in fits & starts, like everything else. That said, it used to be that I only really decluttered and did maintenance cleaning in fits and starts.  These days, I regularly cull and declutter a bit and do maintenance cleaning almost all the time. I deep clean a little more regularly than I ever have. So progress, just slow.

More nibbling!

broom-cartoon

5/24: Started the reorganization required by the bathroom construction. That isn’t complete, and won’t be, until the constuction is entirely finished. Also started the cull/clean/reorganization of the pantry.

Philosophy of Clean

It seems to me that there are “truisms” about cleaning. Some of these I’ve discussed:

  1. Clutter is usually made of “stuff.”
  2. “Stuff” is frequently made up of pieces you can pick up with your hand.
  3. Hard surfaces are easier to clean than soft ones.
  4. The only way to get an area clean and keep it that way is to keep cleaning.

My new one is related to #4. That people who manage to get and keep areas clean don’t see cluttered or untidy as acceptable.

For someone in their 60s who’s trying to learn to live differently, that last piece is not easy. Even when I clean regularly, I just don’t have that muscle. I’m so used to mess and clutter that I often just don’t see it.

This creates an all-too familiar situation for me: that I clean/cull an area and within a week or so, it’s a mess again.

I noticed this because of yard work. I’ve been working on raking out the beds, specifically, the bulb bed. For weeks I’ve had piles of leaves in the yard. I’ve been pulling them up and taking them to the dump, when I can get to the dump, at a rate of about 8 bags a trip. The piles aren’t there forever, and I finally have one more trip and that’s it to finish picking up those leaves. (It will be 4 trips when I finish.)

I’ve restricted myself. I’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning out the leaves in the other areas, and piling the leaves into neat piles. If I keep it up, it will still be another month or so before I manage to clean up most of the yard. This is an acre and I’ve never done this before; we’ve lived here 20+ years. Lots of dried leaves!

My neighbor’s yard always looks neat. Both of them work on it, instead of one person. And, whatever yard work they do is entirely cleaned up, before they quit. It occurred to me that there are some reasons for this: they have more storage than I do (a garage and a basement) also, they ALWAYS clean up and put away whatever accumulated mess and tools before they quit.

Also, in this neighborhood, we almost all have wood piles. There’s a neighbor who has a wood-fired, exterior furnace, with large wood sheds, as you might imagine. His wood piles, even when it’s a grapple load, are rarely messy. The wood is almost always cut to size and stacked in the sheds. The neighbors with a garage and basement have a small pile of wood for power outages, it’s tidy. Us? We have the end of two cords in a pile in front of the porch — which just looks messy.

The difference is that the large pile and the mess is something we live with, and the others won’t, for whatever reason.

I’ve been pecking away at that pile, a log or two here or there. I’m very aware of my weakened elbow and the potential for permanent injury if I’m not careful. Otherwise, I would have tackled it long since . . . .

But my observations are what got me to item #5.

5.  Keeping an area clean requires the attitude that a hodge podge isn’t visually acceptable.

J

My Spring Cleaning

Well, so far, what have I done?

  • Kitchen: cabinet fronts on the stove side and counters, except the 3′ x 10′ peninsula. I need to tackle inside the cabinets etc. or the appliances next.
  • Cleaned the out of season blanket storage basket. Cleaned (ran thru the dryer on air) the blankets which had been stored there and not used to remove any accumulated dust. Need to wash/get dry cleaned the blankets which were used and store them too. I’m not prepared to do that today, so I’ll “air” them as well, until I clean them.
  • The entire laundry room floor was cleaned (the machines were moved.) This had a lot to do with the fact that we got a new to us dryer, but it’s something I rarely do. I normally just clean the area we walk on. The alien ecosystem that exists behind the washer and dryer is normally left untouched, far too much! (Probably should be cleaned quarterly or so?)
  • I have been slowly but surely removing items from the porch and sweeping the revealed space. When it’s cleared enough, I have this delusion I may power wash it, but don’t hold your breath!
  • I have been raking/bagging leaves, pulling rotwood, and twigs for kindling for weeks. It will take me at least as long as I’ve worked on it again to finish the job — at the rate I’m going. It’s getting done, but slowly.
  • I cleaned the part of the closet where the hat boxes had been.

clean-wordpress-database

So, it goes. Nibble, nibble, nibble.

5/7: Finished raking the bulb bed. Scrubbed at cooked on spots, etc. both the stew pot and the largest mixing bowl. Swept the deck/platform, more of the porch and the front stoop.

Using What You Have & What Works

We have a large lot with a lot of trees. The trees dump a lot of pine cones, acorns and oak leaves on the property. Clean up requires much work, and a large volume of space to gather the leaves, cones, acorns, and compost same or haul them to the town’s leaf  or brush pile.

Because I am on a “clean up” jag, I’ve been working on the yard. I have no panic attack issues (that I know of) with the garden.

We only have 2 plastic trash barrels. They’re too big to go into my car. I have a few smaller metal trash cans, but they too would likely have to be put on their sides, and would probably leak leaves, etc. into my car. The better idea seems to be to bag up the leaves and take them to the dump that way. The leaf paper bags work, but are expensive and wasteful.

Because I’m not all that tall, hauling trash barrels and/or full leaf bags gets to be comic for everyone other than me, as the bags are nearly my size. They’re difficult to deal with, full.

Accordingly, we went looking for easier ways to haul the assorted leaves, twigs, etc.  DH brought home one of these:large concrete tub

It’s a concrete mixing tub. After using it a while, it cracked on the corner, so he bought another. It also cracked on the corner, but both are still usable, so we use them, cracks and all!

Last fall, we bit the bullet and bought a package of reusuable plastic bags. These are also made for construction. They’re called “Demo Bags” and we bought them with the idea that we’d use them over & over, for yard waste. So far that works!

The bags fit over the ends of the tubs. It’s not a loose fit, but it’s do-able.

I can push the contents of the tub right into the bag. This was completely unexpected, and welcome — it makes the job much easier!

The bags are big enough for me, especially with my “iffy” elbow that I don’t fill them, but put 1-3 tubs of leaves in them, about 1/2 the bag’s worth. I can then lift them without a problem.

I have a place to put away the tubs, but don’t have one for the previously used bags, yet. That’s the only glitch about this “system”. I’m using what we already had (the tubs), getting the yard cleaned up fairly efficiently, and I’ve cut down the amount of money spent on single-use supplies.

Definitely a win!

(The used bags are being stored right next to where the tubs are stored when they’re empty. Hurrah!)

 

Stress Fest

So, the “I’ve won” post? Well, it triggered me, of course. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, full panic attacks: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole bit, every night since.  The trauma had to work itself out somewhere, ‘eh?

So, the only thing I know to fight this is well, there’s 2 things:

  1.  Stop doing whatever it is which is making me stressed.
  2. Go to sleep so late that I literally sleep through this. Works when it isn’t a full blown panic attack like these have been, and works sometimes with them.

So, I’ve been binge reading, playing games online, watching youtube, because any or all of those will keep me up/engaged way past being simply “tired” till I get to exhausted. Exhausted is the only way I can sleep through a full panic attack. Or, if I don’t sleep through it, I’ll wake up, roll over and go back to sleep.

Otherwise? All that adrenaline dumped into my system causes me to be instantly awake, really awake. When this first started, I woke up full-blown attack, ONE HOUR after I’d gone to sleep.

Several hours later, when I finally went to sleep again, I was so tired I slept through the night.

The first option, stopping what I was doing that caused the panic? Well that’s dishes, laundry, making the bed, and cleaning the bathroom counter. I haven’t entirely stopped, but I slowed down. The dishes aren’t all done now when I go to bed. The laundry isn’t all downstairs either in the washer or dryer, etc. I stopped being on top of it — I’ve let it slide, but I haven’t quit entirely — that’s the best I can do right now.

And that’s good enough — it has to be good enough because it’s all I can do.

Don’t know what I’m referring to? Here.

 

Good Enough

Well, the three areas I want to keep clean, bathroom counter, the dishes and the laundry are all being worked on, daily, which is new. It isn’t always perfect, in fact I’d say it’s rarely perfect, but I have a large backlog of laundry to get through, the bathroom is still a construction zone, and the kitchen, although cleaner, isn’t where I want it to be, ultimately. That said? I’m going to say I’ve done what I set out to do.

Why? Because I know I can and probably would keep pushing the goal line out, looking for perfection, rather than giving myself credit for what I HAVE done. It’s a characteristic of mine that whatever I do is never enough, fast enough, complete enough, or in short good enough.

(Hello abuser!)

So, I’m going to declare a victory instead. And add something new. I want to start making the bed, daily. All of this is really simplistic and easy, if you don’t have panic attacks in a clean and ordered space. I’d really love it if someone could just come up with a drug or a switch they could flip somehow and it would just go away. No panic. No guilt. No “not good enoughs”. Because then I could set a goal and just X off the steps in between as I got them done.

I’d give one whole heck of a lot to have that work! But after 50+ years of fighting myself I know it doesn’t. I can get all caught up in trying to make the perfect plan. I can get all caught up in all the things I haven’t done. I can get all caught up in whatever flavor of not being perfect/good  enough fits, this time. Or, I can do a dramatic push and work and work and work — and then find a reason to sabotage myself, because internally I am freaking out/panicking.

So — I won’t do that this time.

It’s not perfect. I don’t care. It’s getting done, most of the time. It’s better than it has ever been — and that has to be good enough, because I know that if it isn’t either I’ll never get there OR I’ll freak out/panic.

So. I’ve won!

J