There is something refreshing about a clean, organized space. We feel better when the pieces of our lives are prepped and polished. Magazines that depict tidy places fly off the shelf and strategies to improve curb appeal sell to those who understand the value of neat. We want to appear all put together, but more importantly, we want to be all together.
Ending up clean doesn’t just happen by osmosis. It requires preparation, a plan, cleaning supplies, and what they used to call elbow grease (effort=work). To realize a healthy space starts with a desire and a commitment to do what it takes to complete the job.
Before we began, we had to ask ourselves what the purpose of the purge and polish was.
Why was it important to keep our lives clear of clutter and toxins? Couldn’t we continue to exist in chaos yet remain sober? In part, we looked to those around us who had gone through the effort to cleanse and organize and witnessed first-hand the value the process delivered to them. In short, we wanted what they had and chose to try to duplicate the results in our own lives.
We can confidently say that our decision to claim our space thoroughly was the turning point in our recovery and our lives.
Looking back, we made a bit of a project plan to follow that allowed us to gauge our progress. We share the format used in hopes that others commit to sane and sanitized surroundings:
In most of the tasks we have tackled in our lives, mental preparation was the first and vital step. We started with our “why” (which we touched on above). We reassured ourselves of the benefits that would be found on the other side of our energies. We then set a mental picture of the final offering. We were honest with ourselves, setting the expectation that a thorough cleanse would take time and would most likely involve discomfort and some pain (physical or mental; pain is pain).
The worst part about cleaning a closet is that two rooms get much messier. That’s right; we appeared worse off at the start. The dust flies, and the shit piles up. We see our stuff for what it is: valuable or dispensable. Does it make us better or worse? If done right, this is where we begin a move to true, right health. This is where we make good decisions about what stays in our lives and what gets gone. Is this relationship healthy or unhealthy?
Does this phone number have worth, or is it a trigger? Does this T-shirt represent a positive or a negative? Is this character trait serving me well or hurting me?
We can't get to clean if we keep the crap.
The declutter is anything but fun but absolutely necessary to streamline our souls. The unnecessary and harmful toxins must be disposed of – not placed in storage but put directly in the dumpster.
We will never see the beauty of the new if the old is blocking our view.
Once the clutter is gone, we can dust off what is left. We are taking time to inventory what makes us us. This is also the time to investigate the dark, dirty corners and, for the first time, use our cleaning supplies (the tools we picked up in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous) so that the dusty debris does not quickly return to cover our valuables.
We could be funny and mean at the same time. We can be loving yet hurtful simultaneously. Our generosity could come at a price our family pays. We may be so driven that we drive out valued relationships. We could be sacrificing health for wealth. We are sometimes so right that it is wrong.
Cleaning is a sign of respect. We can't respect what we don’t know. Understanding what surrounds us, aligned with self-discovery, separates us from relapse. Indeed, a clean house will support a clean lifestyle where dirt will attract devastation and death.
The deep clean
While we had our lives unpacked and remained committed to the process, we took the time to deep clean. For us, the scrub was to thoroughly work through the 12 steps of recovery with another alcoholic. Using the big book as the frame, we intensely brushed through our past and present. We mended what needed mending, repaired the repairable, and restored what we could.
We left no detail untouched as there was no better time to invest in our future health and happiness.
Identified, cleaned, and polished, it was time to put the pieces of our uncluttered lives back into some semblance of order. It was time to properly place our Honesty, Hope, Faith, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Love, Discipline, Perseverance, Awareness, and Service appropriately for maximum use in this world.
We were ready for company. We presented to ourselves and those around us that we held respect for our gifts. We felt better about our collection and hardly noticed the void left by what we had discarded. We took the time to sit back and admire the result of our commitment.
We call ongoing maintenance of all things' health “the spritz,” as once a cleanse has been completed; it takes a quick short burst to restore a shine. There is no need, if we stay on top of the inventory, to have to go through the pain of a deep clean ever again.
We stay clean by spending time with ourselves and asking others to hold us accountable through one-on-one connection and meeting settings. We continue to accumulate the tools required to remain appropriately arranged. We keep up, so we won't need to catch up.
So, have a plan. Be intentional about keeping one’s house in order. Set boundaries. Then, enjoy the space. Be grateful for the assets and be free of the liabilities. Simple – simple.
Today is as good as any to start a clean up!
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a sober.coffee podcast #33 titled "Cleaning House" in Sobriety (Mentally, Emotionally & Physically)”…The session dropped on 11/17/2021….Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.