May 9, 2018

By Angela Kelly

Spring has sprung! Everything is green and blooming with sweet smells and perfect weather, at least here in California. I’ve taken about a week off social media to spring clean my house and my life, getting all of the projects that pile up sorted, finished and tucked away. I registered my daughter for Transitional Kindergarten, which involves as many forms, doctor visits and shots as enlisting to join the first human colony on Mars. I’m getting forms ready for our taxes, sorting out various insurance issues, and scheduling the dental appointments for my small army. They’re all things that are easy to push into the to-do pile that rolls into one giant snowball of anxiety. I have found the best thing to do for my anxiety, along with exercising, is to sit down and start knocking down the to-do list. 

Along with spring cleaning comes the act of letting go of all the things that have been accumulating, which is a lot in a relatively small house with three kids. Letting go of things can be hard. So hard. Why do you think there are storage facilities everywhere, episodes of Hoarders, and awesome books on de-cluttering (for example, Marie Kondo’s “The Magic Art of Tidying Up”)? Letting go of things used to be challenging for me, but that changed out of necessity during our family-wide Clostridium difficile (C. diff) outbreak. I couldn’t throw out rugs I had obsessed over and pinned on Pinterest for months fast enough. Out went the monogrammed Pottery Barn Anywhere Chairs. Every stuffed animal (except for Lamby and Unicorn, who enjoyed long, luxurious bleach soaks) met their demise. Baby blankets, clothes, knick-knacks—if it couldn’t be cleaned in bleach—away they went in contractor bags to the dump. 

This year, post-C. diff, I had a much easier time letting go. I didn’t feel the need to save outgrown baby clothes for posterity. I take pictures of outstanding homework feats and artwork (I do save a few art projects; I’m not a complete monster), then dispose of them. But the feeling of needing to save things due to emotional attachment is mostly gone. I don’t keep things out of guilt or obligation. The tidier my home is, the more time I have to write, make memories with my family, see friends, run, and enjoy the life I am blessed to have returned to. 

This year, spring cleaning hasn’t just been limited to my task list and home. It has also been letting go of rituals and fears that served a purpose during my family’s outbreak. I won’t say that I’m back to normal, because what is normal anyway? I am a new normal. But my new normal now involves not bleaching the whole house every day and not obsessing over everything I touch. I went running at the beach and used a public restroom. I held a baby (who are more often than not C. diff carriers). These are BIG changes for me.

This year has also meant letting go of people. I have grieved the loss of my grandmother, who raised me after my mother’s death. I am learning what the landscape of my life looks like without her on the other end of the phone. I am letting go of relationships that no longer enrich either party and releasing past resentments, anger, hurt and fears. 

Letting go of some of the habits that evolved during C. diff has been challenging, but it has let me get back to LIVING my life. Letting go of the obsessions and compulsions has not meant letting go of all the things I have learned. The strength, empathy, friendships and deep relationship with God that I have gained remain.  This year a thorough cleaning has left me looking ahead, excited for the future and enjoying every moment of health and happiness that life sends my way. 

Read more from Angela Kelly at www.gutsymother.com.

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