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The Happiness That Springs From a Clean House

Some time ago I read the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is a 12-month guide to finding satisfaction and happiness in life. Well, after I finished it, I did not feel happy but just flat out angry. The only take-away I really grasped was basically if I can complete a task in less than a minute, get up and do it now. This strategy really works in several ways including that I do not forget the task as I have jumped and completed it and I do feel happy. I can strike that job off my “To Do” list.

The remainder of the book focused (in my mind) on cleaning: closets, shelves, storage rooms, and, in fact, the entire house. And, of course, cleaning house spills over into cleaning up the office or classroom or company vehicle or maybe even setting things straight in a public area. Cleaning, it seems, is contagious and catches the cleaner on fire to do more and more and more. The only remedy is more cleaning. Cleaning, also, is supposed to make me happy. Bah! was my initial reaction to such nonsense. If the happiest I can ever become is cleaning, well, happiness is pretty over-rated.

Deciding to give this project a second chance, today I tested this happiness theory. With my husband off on a trip, I had the time, energy, and determination to delve into a much-needed housecleaning. I started before the sun popped up and I even skipped reading the morning paper. With coffee in hand, I began the happiness cleaning. I chose the guestroom as it would be the easiest and the fastest. With garbage bags, mops, dusters, and cleaning fluids, I launched myself into a flurry of activity. I moved furniture, dusted, tossed, rearranged shelves, and, by golly, I felt better.

I moved to my son’s room, following the same routine other than the tossing part. After all his junk is his junk. I just needed to feel good, not destroy his serenity. Primarily his room is full of dog hair from a short-haired dog who sheds year-round in heaps and gobs. This hairy mess is disgusting and a bit overwhelming unless you have a strong stomach and fierce resolve. From there I moved to the office to the storage room, to bedrooms, and then the living room. The kitchen received meticulous scrubbing as did the bathrooms. Windows came next and I washed them inside and out with thoroughness and delight. Hard to believe that this cleaning gig was bringing me such joy.

I then attacked the yard with vigor and vim. I mowed, watered the bad spots, and dug dandelions and other obnoxious weeds. I loaded bags of junk into the pick-up for a dump run with a separate pile for donation. In-between jobs I munched on delicious leftovers and plenty of water and ice tea, and by 6pm – twelve hours later – things were sparkling. I guess there is some wisdom in housecleaning and yard work. While I am currently exhausted, I can glance around my house and feel pretty proud, plus I know that come tomorrow I will actually be able to find things as the closets have been organized and my desk actually has bits of open-space. Or perhaps in the morning I will kick myself for throwing out treasures as I dig through my reorganized chaos and then remember why this happiness thing had made me so mad!