At our last family meeting it was decided that Kali and Alida's bedroom would be the next on our "deep clean" list! With trepidation, I put it on the calendar! Strategically, knowing my mother's love for housecleaning, we scheduled it for a day during one of their stints at Tangly Woods. That, my friends, was a VERY wise decision. I was walking out to the front room with my camera yesterday morning to take some "first stage" photos and thinking how much different this day would feel without her help - both tangible assistance and moral support. The light was streaming through the pass-through and I was so pleased that the picture I took gave her a rather angelic look! My sentiments exactly!!
I am quite certain the girls' bedroom has never gotten this kind of treatment since it became a bedroom (it started as our living room in 2005!). The level of filth was impressive and topped by far the previous two rooms. It was a more massive undertaking so I was quite clear that I was going to need not just Mom but Jason's help (again for both tangible and moral support). You see Alida was very interested in doing this (she, in fact, was the one who brought it to the family meeting) but when the day dawned she was much more interested in lounging or frumping on the futon, in her little mattress cave. And that, of course, made Terah want to do the same. It just seemed to be one of those days where they were bickering more than playing well together.
Enter my dad, the other lifesaver in the day, who played with Terah at a few key stints when all the rest of us were deeply engaged in the cleaning project (except maybe Alida) and Terah really wanted to go upstairs. Upstairs, around here, seems to be where the fun happens! And, to Alida's credit, all during Terah's nap I heard giggles coming from the front room where she was going through her clothes and when I stepped out of my "work bubble" for a moment my mom warned me that she was getting rid of clothes left and right. The rocking chair had a massive pile when I came out to review her decisions. Maybe it's rubbing off on her just a tad after all!
So I'm getting ahead of myself. The day started with a quick jog to the end of the road and back for me and Jason. A great way to start off such a day, especially as I think that was the only fresh air I got all day. Then it was high time to get some loads of laundry underway so we started pulling covers off girls who were in the process of waking up! And then to carting out all of their stuff. We had agreed to pull out everything with two exceptions - we would leave the bookshelf installed on the wall and we would not take the frame of the bunk bed apart, just remove mattresses and plywood and clean it in place. Everything else had to go! This part is mostly the fun part or at least the easy part...
Then once empty, we started from top to bottom. Jason took the fan, as he is well aware that he does great at tedious jobs that others (me) get easily frustrated by. I took to the ceiling and walls and then we both worked at windows and Kali joined in on some of the trim work. It was lunchtime before I did the finishing touches on the floor. Once again the room smelled like a different place. That is, possibly, one of the nicest surprises in the process. And it is not smelling good from any particular cleaning product as all we are using is a little vinegar in the water. Once we had the room cleaned, Kali and I worked for awhile on cleaning all the furniture pieces in preparation for putting the room back together. At this point, it was time for a much needed break so I got lunch on and attempted to gather my courage for the harder phases of this projects. No big decisions had been made yet but it was about time to dive into the questions of what goes back in the room, what goes elsewhere, what is given away, what is thrown away, what is recycled, what is re-purposed, etc...
I took my "cleaning hat" off for awhile after lunch to get Terah a nap and work for CJP for a few hours. During that time, as mentioned before, Mom went through clothes with Alida and Kali went through her dresser drawers. By the nap's end, they were done with their clothing and had done a great job paring down. So time to reload dressers. They had both successfully freed up a few drawers thus sealing their desk's fate - to no longer dwell at Tangly Woods! Yay, one large furniture piece less, gaining them a nice amount of extra floor space!
While it felt like we were making good progress all afternoon (Jason took a few hours in the afternoon to work on the new garden fence while we worked at the sorting and deliberating process), by dinner time I was nothing short of a mess! There was still doll things all over the guest room, random things all over the back kitchen, Kali's things covering the expanded dining room table, all their books all over the floor of our bedroom and a smattering of other things in the kitchen and in various other locations. I was not mad at anyone in particular, but kind of fed up with us humans in general. I had a little mini-meltdown and rant as we sat down to enjoy another break and a delicious dinner made by mom for us (we likely would have eaten popcorn for dinner downstairs had I been in charge).
It just blows my mind sometimes. It's a crazy-making exercise but I do this sometimes anyway: I think about how much of my life would be freed up if I did not have to spend any time accumulating stuff, cleaning stuff, sorting stuff, giving away stuff, organizing stuff, moving stuff around, convincing kids to not be attached of stuff, getting myself to get unattached to stuff I feel sentimental about, fixing stuff, deliberating if it is a reasonable time to acquire some new stuff, determining if the stuff is worn out enough to throw away or good enough to send to a thrift store, pondering how much stuff we have, arguing about our stuff, etc... Stuff, stuff, stuff! Yes, I was pining for our little one room cabin in the woods that we hope to retire in!!
The rant and the food helped, and then we were back at it. It would be a lie to say that we finished completely but we got everything back in the room that needed to be for the day. Jason once again stepped in to be my hero - making the two bunk beds (I really can hardly stand to make bunk beds, which means the girls' bedding is not washed very often!). I worked on random piles of this and that and was once again impressed with the willingness to acknowledge that it was hard but to get rid of excess things. Alida kept noting what a bad day this was but it also seemed like she was enjoying the look and feel of their "new" space. And we ended the day all being in good spirits, which is saying something (especially since it was about 11 p.m. when we called it a day).
Another surprise for me of the day was that I've always thought of Alida as being more of the pack rat. Well, it was Kali who had really accumulated stuff in that space, in large part because it was hers for years before Alida joined her. She had stuff tucked away in drawers, under her mattress, and on various shelves. As of this morning, Mom helped go through the last of the "jointly owned" items (the doll stuff) and what remains is mostly Kali's. And she did a good job of getting rid of SOME things, but she did have to have me take some pictures of her with some of her silly things that she had to "have a moment with" before parting ways. I'm hoping by day's end we'll have our dining room table back but I'm not banking on that AND having my room floor back as I imagine going through all the books will take some time.
So after a morning out for breakfast for me alone with three wonderful friends and coming back to kiddos in good spirits and the piles slowing diminishing, I feel mostly recovered. I'm still pondering my/our relationship to stuff and will be throughout this whole year as we take stock of it all, but I come away from this 3rd room still feeling like the process is 100% worth it. For the health of our space and air quality if for nothing else. But also to create more physical space in our home, which for me at least also opens up more mental and emotional space. I do hope to keep working at attending to the emotional aspects of this process for all of us. For me, this room held a lot of Nora's things and so I felt lots of tugs as I held up outfits that she wore or bottles we tried to feed her from. Stuff is not just stuff, but it tends to serve as a key to some of our memories. I don't feel like I necessarily was as present to Alida's needs yesterday as I could have been, so feel grateful for the few moments that Jason sat and hugged her on the floor, while I held up item after item for her to choose it's destiny. I think that helped immensely. And by the end she was being silly and happy in their room, and trying to get herself inserted into my photos. When she saw this one she said, "put it on the blog!"