regaining cleaning momentum after illness

I did promise a post about deep cleaning my bedroom, didn’t I? But sometimes (many times) things can’t just be easy. As I was writing this post in the week after my July 4th break, I developed what looked like a strong allergic reaction rash. After it didn’t subside over the weekend, I saw my doctor and was diagnosed with Shingles. Apparently anyone who’s had chicken pox has a chance of developing Shingles because the virus stays dormant in your system until it reactivates during a time of compromised immune response. Did you know that stress can compromise your immune system? I suspect my body was extra susceptible because it’s been trying to heal from surgery for over a year now. Also, did you know that the chicken pox virus lives in your spinal nerves which is why it can be so painful when it reactivates? I had no idea. I also learned that it usually reactivates in one nerve and, since your spinal nerves come out on either the left or right side of your spine and provide sensation to the front and back of that side of the body, that’s why the rash only shows up on one side but wraps around the body from back to front. Anyway, I was pretty wiped out and writing a blog post was low on my list of Things to Spend Energy On. But I’m slowly gaining energy back and wanted to finish this post. So back to the bedroom.

How did you spend your July 4th break, if you got one? I had almost the entire week off by using vacation time coupled with a business holiday. My goals were to get through a lot of laundry (including putting it away) and get my bedroom sorted and cleaned. I didn’t want to just stuff things into drawers. I wanted to make sure the drawers contained things I wanted so I would have a home for certain items like clothing and art supplies.

I also moved a bunch of boxes that were blocking my hanging rods so I could actually put away and then access my clothes that needed to be hung up. It’s sort of a door-less closet in the hallway outside of my bedroom. I tried to keep in mind that my goal was my bedroom and the laundry. I needed access to that closet because it’s essentially an extension of my bedroom and it’s integral to putting away and using clothing, but cleaning the hallway was not my goal. So I moved the boxes without getting sidetracked by what was in them.

Using Dana White’s decluttering tactics, I headed to my bedroom with a donation box and a trash bag. I started with my clothing drawers so I’d have a place to put away laundry. I could then keep up a cycle of folding/putting away laundry and cleaning my room while waiting for the next dryer load to finish. This also allowed me to decide what type of clothing goes in which drawers and to use those drawers as a limit for keeping clothing. For example, I have two full size drawers dedicated to foldable shirts (dress shirts and top layers like cardigans get hung up). When I put away laundry, I keep adding foldable shirts until the two drawers are full. When I try to put away a foldable shirt and discover both drawers are full, I can either decide to make room by letting go of a shirt already in the drawer or I can decide to let go of the shirt I’m holding. This is called the One In, One Out rule. I never really got it before now. Letting go can be by donation or trash, but it has to be in a way that leaves my house. (That is just an example because I haven’t actually filled up the two drawers yet. But it’s close.)

There’s one exception to the One In, One Out rule and to the Donation Box, Trash Bag tools. This is my own departure from Dana’s method. I am allowing myself to keep clothing that is too small provided 1) I would want to wear it tomorrow if it fit and 2) I realistically think I will ever be that size. (I’m never going to be an extra small, not that I own any XS clothing.) I box up clothing of the same size range, label the box with the size range inside, and tape the box shut. It will go into storage, and I can open it when I’ve reached the size written on the box. I have a fair amount of good condition or never worn clothing that are too small right now. Since I’m actively losing weight to improve my health, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to keep these. It certainly isn’t a financially sound decision to let them go because I can’t afford to buy another wardrobe for each significant drop in size. Not spending that money and having a selection of clothes I already love is worth the storage space these boxes will take (which isn’t a lot). Since I dress more according to what I like than to what is “in fashion,” I’m not worried about the ridiculous “it won’t be in fashion by the time you lose weight” argument some people make against keeping clothes. It shocks me a little that some people would actually get rid of a wardrobe they like because it isn’t in fashion. Or did they not actually like it in the first place and they only bought it because it was in fashion? I have no idea. My mind doesn’t work that way. I usually buy clothing for one of two reasons. Either I really truly like that individual item of clothing irrespective of anyone else’s opinion, or I just need something that fits and I can’t find anything I love so I have to settle for what’s available.

I’m actually in a quandary about that last one right now. My mother is in town and offered me a shirt she bought for me. I wasn’t certain if I should accept it because I wasn’t a fan of the pattern, but she suggested I try it and give it back to her if I didn’t like it. I wore it to work yesterday and realized that the material and cut are very flattering in my opinion, but I still don’t like the pattern on the fabric. My partner told me it looked like an old lady shirt. So now I don’t know if I should keep the shirt because it fits well and does a good job of covering up my lumpy bits or if I should give it back because I don’t like the pattern or detailing and it doesn’t match a style I would choose for myself. Essentially, it’s that second category of why I would buy an item of clothing. It’s something that fits even though it isn’t something I love so I’m considering settling for it because it’s available. And let’s be honest… when you’re fat and not wealthy, sometimes having something that fits properly is the best you can hope for. If the other choice is something you love but doesn’t fit, well that doesn’t cover your ass when you’re choosing clothes for work. Pun intended. But I’m at a point where I already own items that fit even if I don’t love them. Should I be bringing even more of them into my house? I guess I’m working myself up to a “No” answer, but it’s so hard to turn away something that’s useful and free. Let it go. Just let it go.

Back to the room. I decluttered clothing drawers, art drawers, electronics drawers, jewelry containers and exercise equipment. And more and more. There was so much stuff in my room. I did end up having to put bathroom items into a box just because I couldn’t make a lot of trips upstairs without wearing myself out. I ended up with at least five big black trash bags (already gone in the trash pickup) and several donation boxes for clothing, jewelry and miscellaneous (not gone yet). I got through most of the laundry. Whatever I couldn’t finish was put into my laundry sorting containers which reside in my bedroom. That way they’re at least in the right place for being done in a future load. I also asked my partner where they would use a laundry basket upstairs, put our large laundry basket there, and asked that they put any laundry they would like me to wash into one of these spots. On Sundays I drag the basket downstairs and wash whatever is in it.

I will admit that getting sick put a bit of a crimp in my developing cleaning habits. Not only was I starting the day already worn down, but my endurance for activity was drastically reduced. A few minutes being active would leave me out of breath and fatigued. For a few days, walking upstairs to use the bathroom was the most activity I could handle. Forget standing at the sink to wash dishes. By the end of the first week, I did my best to start walking my dogs with my partner again. It had to be flat and about half the distance we’d normally do, and I’d still be hyperventilating by the end. I’m now in week three and am finally feeling like I’m getting my energy back. I’m sort of at a frustrating point because my mind is speeding back up and wants to be where I was pre-Shingles, but my body can’t keep up yet. I’m trying to prioritize the chores that are most important to me, decide just how much needs to be accomplished to call the chore “finished for now,” and find the most efficient way of getting things done.

Where am I at almost-post-illness? Well, my dishes are mostly washed every few days, but I have three cookie sheets I can’t bring myself to wash after I do everything else. They don’t require a lot of effort; they’re just not that important. My counter top dishwasher has come in handy since I only need to rinse dishes and utensils before letting the machine do the work. Then I just have the bigger stuff to wash. I’ve only done laundry when my partner needed clean clothes for work. Since I was working from home until yesterday, I haven’t gone through as much laundry as normal. I’ve allowed a small pile of clothing to develop in my bedroom because it’s what I wore while communicable and it needs to be washed in hot water. Most of my clothing is washed in cold because I sort by clothing type not color, so I had to keep this set separate. I also had to keep it away from my partner who’d never had chicken pox (but is now vaccinated). Now that I’m no longer communicable, I need to get that pile washed and put away. I did have the energy to cut up all of the cardboard boxes piled in the downstairs hallway. It took me two days to finish, but it’s a huge difference. They were starting to spill over into the living room and the dogs’ water bowl was in danger of being covered by a boxalanche. And for the first time in at least a year, we can actually access the downstairs bathroom to make repairs. After I stacked the flat cardboard, my partner helped me take it to a local recycling drop.

All-in-all, I’m in a better place cleaning-wise than I was before I got sick. I just need to pick up the amount of laundry I wash each week and get those cookie sheets washed. Then I’ll be back on track. Maybe my body was trying to tell me that this is what happens when you keep pushing and pushing without a break. Or it’s just coincidence and I shouldn’t read anything into it. But I should probably still learn how to pace myself. 🙂

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