Monday, December 27, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough...

...the Tough Get Cleaning!

Over the past couple years, I've developed an interesting way of dealing with the chaos in my life. I never intentionally started this habit; it just sorta happened. The more out-of-control circumstances get in my life, the more I have this need to clean and organize things in my house. You see, I have this totally insatiable tiny little, almost non-existent need to be in control. And when there are things I can't control, I get a little twitchy. I tried reciting the Serenity Prayer:



"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference."

But after the recitation, I was still all mad-like about the things I couldn't control. I tried changing it up a bit.

"God grant me the courage to change the things I can;
the ultimate power to change the things I supposedly can't;
and well, basically grant me control of everything. Amen."

However, God apparently doesn't work that way.

So, when I can't get control of some major things going on in my life, I go to town cleaning out my linen closet, kitchen cabinets, underwear drawers, the refrigerator, and even (gag) the boys' room. It gives me a sense of peace. I feel like I've accomplished something when I no longer have to shove stuff in the closet, slam the door closed before the stuff falls out, and tape the door shut. When the rest of my life is chaos and mess, at least I can look in my cabinet and know that my Tupperware is conveniently stacked and easy to get to. Seeing the towels neatly folded in my closet give me a sense of calm.

(Speaking of my linen closet. I had an absurd amount of hotel toiletries. I mean, how many tiny bottles of cheap shampoo can one person use? And that's the thing! I never even use them. I take them from my hotel room, stock-pile them at home like some precious collection, and let them just sit there. Why? Why do I do this? It's not like I'm going to pack them for my next trip somewhere. Why would I do that when I know I'm going to get a fresh supply of new miniature bottles? Seriously, this is what took up one whole shelf in my closet...



I tossed an entire garbage bag filled with this stuff. Of course, a few days after I tossed all this stuff, I needed to bring the boys shampoo and soap in the hospital. Stinkin' Murphy's Law! Anyway, back to my story...)

I was thinking about adding "Drink More" to my list of new year's resolutions, but I suppose I should stick with cleaning. Its calming effect is as good as a glass of wine, plus it's free. In fact, last week, I weeded six bags of clothes and other items out of my closet and I donated them to Wings. So my need to create order out of chaos is a win-win all around. I have a clean closet, Wings got some donations for their resale shop, the money those items will earn will help the women and children in Wings' safe house, and mostly, I was able to get a grip on my swirling emotions in a healthy way.

Now I'll end with my new and improved, new and improved Serenity Prayer.

"God, I know you'll always give me the tools I need to handle whatever comes my way. But please put a stop to the chaos in my life before I start alphabetizing my cans of soup. Amen."

30 comments:

kelly w said...

again, with the murphy's law thing (!), several local battered womens shelters in the memphis area collect those miniature hotel/sample size toiletries to put in kits for the women and their families. next time, you might be able to find a charity to accept all those freebies! my MOPS group collects them 1x/year and puts them in all those free bags you get as "free bag with purchase". its a small thing we can do to help out! again, sorry to be telling you this AFTER you threw away a garbage bag full (but, at least you'll know for next time!)

pastrytiff said...

something to consider instead of throwing away small bottles of stuff - donate it to the USO for use in care packages, or even give to a homeless shelter

Donna said...

I wish I was like you. When things go wrong I turn to playing games on the computer and eating junk foods.
I guess I will just try the cleaning thing to see if it really would work for me.
I save all those little bottles of shampoo and soap too.
I bring them home and give them to my brother...LOL

Love your new prayer too.

Cristie and girls said...

Hey Dawn! I don't comment very often, but I just thought I would give you a little idea about what to do with those HUNDREDS of shampoo and travel sized bottles. We, too, end up with a ton, so we end up taking them to the USO. I don't know if they have one in the airport there, but they do here in WA. The USO always uses them for the military men and women who come through and are in need of them. Just thought it would be a better idea rather then throwing them away!!
Hope you're doing well!!
-Amanda Ro.

Mum-me said...

I think millions of housewives the world over turn to excessive cleaning when they are upset or worried. I know I do. It's a good use for all that nervous energy. I am always amazed at how clean the house is after I've had a big fight with my husband. If you come over one day and the house is a mess you can assume things are going okay.

Glenda said...

I think cleaning is a very calming activity too. Fortunately, though, I only need calming every couple of months.... :-)

Next time you get a collection of hotel toiletries, you might want to donate them to your local women's shelter, or YMCA or YWCA. (FYI, old cell phones can be donated to Verizon, and they clean them up, repair them, and donate them to abused women in shelters.)

Mary said...

This is so timely. I too am struggling with the serenity prayer. My take on it is, grant me the serenity to accept that there ARE thing I cannot change. Still working on that, because I am a control freak.

You hang in there, and know that people all over the world are sending you good wishes and hugs.

Donna said...

I've seen lots of women deal with stress by cleaning house. Unfortunately, nothing motivates me to clean house. I'm going to try and get with flylady.com again and hope this time it lasts for longer than three weeks.

Amanda said...

Can you please come to my house next? We can trade. When I get stressed I bake. Once you're done organizing, I'll come bake your family some yummy stuff while you organize my house. Deal?

Kim said...

Next time you collect all of the hotel toiletries, donate them to your local women's shelter. (or any homeless shelter) They love to have that stuff so that they can give their residents their own toiletries.

I really need to do what you did. Maybe I'll have some clean closets before the new year!

Sharon said...

Dawn, amid the chaos of your life you haven't lost your sense of humor! I predict 2011 will be a banner year for you, things will all turn out fine and just think...you have a lot of interesting new material for another book! Sending hugs and prayers your way you are a strong, independent woman.

heyteach said...

Dawn,
Next time you find a stockpile of tiny soaps and shampoos take them to your local homeless shelter. If I was closer I totally would have taken the whole garbage bag. My friends and I make dinner twice a year for the shelter and I gather them from everyone up until I go. They give them to the residents since they are already individually portioned.
Glad to hear you are cleaning, I do the same thing. Right now I am packing and I have the garbage people on speed dial so they can keep doing extra pick ups for all the crap I have acquired in ten years....

Frau Mahlzahn said...

I guess sometimes it's just hard to accept that God only puts as much on your plate as you're able to take...

I'm sending good thoughts your direction!

So long,
Corinna

Robin said...

I do the same thing because it makes me feel the same way! It's good to know I'm not alone. :) It definitely has it's benefits and really is much better than drowning your troubles another way. (though a glass of wine sure does feel good too)

V1nce said...

My brother collects all those bottles of stuff and has cases of soaps, shampoos and conditioner. Yet he's going bald, smells - go figure the irony.

My prayer if I had one would be: Dear Lord please let those that are before me never see the strings they're attached to so I can continue to pull them to keep my sanity.

Michelle Hoad said...

I have the cleaning disease also. When I can't control the chaos in my life, I can at least control the chaos in my closet. There's a huge amount of chaos in my life right now, so my house is REALLY clean.

Mel said...

The USO thing is a great idea!! I do the same thing with the OCD cleaning and orginizing. Only problem I have is once I try to make things orginized, I realize I need to go buy new containers for things, and lable makers, and , and and..LOL , So then once I have shoppers regret, I start all over. LOLOL.

jessica said...

I did the same thing when I found out my (ex)husband was cheating on me and I kicked him out. The two or three weeks following that I couldn't cope, wasn't able to go out (three kids at home) to cope, and couldn't lose control with the kids there. So I cleaned. My house had NEVER been that clean. It's a nice safe effective way to handle stress. It keeps your mind off of the things you don't want to think about or can't deal with. :) Hang in there!!

Chris said...

I'm a cleaner too. It started when I was a teenager and my dad and mother were both ill with cancer. I couldn't do much, but I could keep the house clean. I rallied the troops (the four younger siblings) and we kept the house spotless for months on end. Cleaning is very therapeutic!!

Suburban Correspondent said...

The cleaning makes so much sense - it gives you something to focus on that you can control while other things are spinning wildly out of control. I totally get it.

Missi said...

I understand about being a collector of hotel shampoos/conditioners. I decided to clean out my bathroom drawers/cabinets last summer. I was stunned at everything I had "collected". I kept a few bottles of shampoo/conditioner for those rare times the kids use the last of the shampoo & don't tell me or when my daughter spends the night w/ a friend. I decided I would keep one small box of samples & when it's full I HAVE to use something out of the box. Also to get rid of the shampoos I did keep I took out all large bottles in the shower & we had to use up the little ones. I also donated a big box full to the local womens shelter.

I sure wish I cleaned when I was stressed. It's pretty sad when I tell the kids we need to clean the house & they ask "who is coming over?"

Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) said...

If only I dealt with my problems through cleaning. I am seriously jealous.

Jennifer Magreevy said...

I second what Kelly said above: donate those small toiletries to women's/kids shelters. They are always looking for travel-sized things they can give out...and they do want/need kids stuff as well!

WeaselMomma said...

I love your final version of the serenity prayer and am available for a drink in the New year. ;)

Ruth said...

I do the exact same thing...you should see me whip my house into shape. My hubby knows that when the whole house is spanky clean, to stay the heck OUT of my way!! LOL

Rachel said...

you had a caboodle in there!!! i was just thinking the other day, how much i wished i had back the caboodle i had in high school! do they still sell those?

Sherry said...

I was thinking the same thing as many others here. My husband brings home lots of soaps and shampoos from travels. I think giving them to a shelter or something would be a great idea. I never have an urge to clean. Which makes for a messy household. I wish I would catch the cleaning/organizing bug!

Praying for all of you.

Trevor Allen said...

Oh geez. I never realized how much of a control freak I am until I came down to Peru! I'm more a control freak when it comes to working in the kitchen and just relationships in general. You could read Matthew 6:25-34! It is such a beautiful picture of how God provides and how we don't need to worry!

Amy said...

love your blog...I am so stealing your super fabulous twist to the serenity prayer! Well, jeez... stealing someone's prayer is probably not a good idea.

Kimberly said...

Love the improved serenity prayer. I may need to type that one up and put it in my office :)

Happy New Year!

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