First Tidy After The Storm...

By Lucy Harbron - 18:21

My flat falls first. I notice the mound of clothes growing and growing with each day, each extra hour wasted away with wet hair post-shower scrolling through TikTok when I said I’d do X and Y and Z. I put coats on chairs and sit down before making the 5 steps to the hook. I become thankful for my massive cutlery collection as I forget to load the dishwasher again, too tired to collect the 4 glasses from my room. I’m aware of the disarray before I’m ever acceptingly aware of my mood, bullying myself over books by my bedside, I’m only just starting to see that the two come hand in hand. Tossing clothes on the floor at the end of the night, I say I’ll do it the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Until I did it today.

I lay in bed till 10 rolling my brain over weekend to-do lists, planning breakfasts, counting up coffee budgets. When I stand up, heaviness isn’t the first thing on my mind. I notice my skin in the mirror and think it looks beautiful and the happy thought makes the pile of clothes I trip on seem like an inconvenience rather than something that sucks my life force. I decide to ignore it momentarily, underlining momentarily as I make coffee in my favourite mug and mindlessly wipe down the countertops while I wait for halloumi to fry. I did step one without realising. When my brain clocks it the mental pat on the back feels like the first kind touch in weeks. I eat itching for more, turn off the TV with the last mouthful, ask google to play the radio as a sign of better times and decide to follow suit.

I think the kitchen is always a great first step. The sleek, shine of a freshly Dettol wiped surface is instant gratification, unlike the abstraction of dusted wood. The smell of bleach in the air works as a stimulant pushing you into further corners as the kitchen blurs into the living room. After 2 weeks, I wipe up incense residue and bin burnt-out candles, flooding my mind with soft daydreams of Saturday afternoons walks to pick up new supplies and a rose latte, cling to it as a reward I may or may not take.

Swapping wipe to cloth, the sparkling kitchen wills me to go on. I sing along to Taylor Swift now as I search for polish in the kitchen cupboard I keep stocked of empty ones, never quite getting far enough to sort it out. Dusting is a good measure, asking only for as much or as little as you want to give. You could move every object in your home and rid of the ring around it. Take every earring from your trinket tray and dust off each corner. Wipe your way around the maze of skirting boards or give a shelf a once over and call it a day. I find a middle ground, simply shuffling plant pots side to side, lightly brushing frames but making no real effort for corners or backs of things, not today.

(To be frank, for a moment, I’m writing this as a way to avoid the next step, which logically would be dusting my bedroom. But packed full of bits and bobs that make the act a nightmare, I’m practising creative avoidance…)

clean after depression

In the process of dusting, I’m confronted by the dying leaves of my neglect. Drooped and browning, for weeks I’ve been giving nothing but an occasional spritz. As the song switches, I muster up the energy to wet a cloth and wipe leaf by leaf, mentally apologising to the plants and I guess to myself as well. I water from the base like my mother told me to do and hope their joy comes back too.

Hoovering is the hardest part. As a child I’d cry when a hoover came towards me, terrified by the loud whirring voice that threatened to suck up my toes as my dad laughed. The fear changed into annoyance as I grew up and I’m still left wondering why they haven’t made them silent yet. When so much of my fuel relies on music and pleasant sound chosen by me, it’s always counter-productive in the act of mood-boosting. In my old flat, when I eventually caved to the activity, I’d carry my speaker in one hand and hold the handle in the other; a delicate balancing act between Henry the hoover and some man telling me stories about Jimi Hendrix. Today I resign to simply ticking it off the list, hyping myself up to press the power button and racing around the room, only caring about my favourite standing spots and giving the rest a lazy once over. It’s good enough, I feel some dopamine release.

From where I sit now, propped up on an unmade bed to franticly write this idea that came to me in that very act of hoovering, the pile of clothes hasn’t moved. Containing the outfit I’ve been wearing on repeat, the loungewear trousers I live in, and 3 different degrees of jumper put on and thrown off in an attempt to figure out the weather, it feels a bit like a diary of the last couple of weeks lack of self-esteem. Lazy and sloppy, its presence is back to feel confrontational as my now-awake eyes see flaws in my skin again, scurrying past the mirror quick. I know I should change my bedding, I know I’m doing my books a disservice leaving them strewn on the floor, I know my plants here need feeding too, and I think I’ll probably do it still.

Clinging on with final fingertips gripping to the daydream of light breezes and sweet drinks, maybe the clouds are rolling in again and maybe the jobs will be left undone. Throwing strops about the flux of life between tidiness and mess, clean dishes and dirty dishes and always having to decide on meals to eat that will, in turn, make plates mucky again, the roll of days feels exhausting still. But at least now I have a tidy kitchen, and I still think maybe I’ll manage to tackle the bedroom.

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