Monday, July 12, 2010

Cleanliness is Next to... Happiness

Spent several days this weekend cleaning.

Not just dusting, vacuuming, or doing the dishes (although I did that too), but the Big Cleaning. As in meticulously going through the mountains of paperwork, photos, and personal items of Craig's that have been accumulating in all corners of the house.

My house is both a prison and a shrine.

On the one hand, it is an homage to our love and our life together. I can feel Craig here. I can see Craig here. Our home is full of memories of him and of us in every corner. There are momentos everywhere, photos filling the bookshelves, notes scattered in hidden corners throughout.

But I went away for a few days to visit family and friends and came back to the feeling of suffocation.

It was the first time I have been away from home since the accident and I cannot even begin to describe how it felt to walk in the door. It was as if an enormous duffel bag of misery was hefted back onto my shoulders. I literally felt myself slump as I walked in the door.

I love our things and I love our memories, but I needed to reclaim my home so it could be a sanctuary and a safe haven once again.

So I started with the office. It used to be my room. Yes, me and Craig each had 'our rooms' - his the workout room, mine the office. Two of our personal secrets to a good marriage: Having separate corners to retreat to and separate bathrooms (nothing makes me happier than no toothepaste gunk in the sink and being able to line up hair products over every available inch of counter space). Since the accident I have literally been chucking every document, momento, photo, whatever into that room. Most of them I couldn't bear to look at but knew I would still need so I threw them into the office rather haphazardly and closed the door so I wouldn't have to look at it.

Boxes and boxes and boxes to give away to the Salvation Army. Bursting garbage bags of old papers. All of it finally gone and my office meticulous, organized, and functional again. The pain of going through it was horrendous. I had to check every paper, every book just in case there was something of significance, however small. Particularly painful were the notebooks filled with his notes from work and school. There is something about seeing his writing... it is almost like bringing him back to life. Thank God for the friend who helped me with much of it, constantly reminding me that these things were not the memories I truly needed - the more significant momentos like his love letters were.

But still, I choked up. I cried. I sobbed. I panicked. I was wrecked with guilt over shredding the things he had worked so hard on. How do you enshrine a person's accomplishments? All of these things were things he cared about. Yet, there were just too many to hold on to.

I have a box of letters and cards, a box of items from the funeral, a box of photos, a box for his parents, a box for his friends, and of course the box from the accident with the items I pulled from the car. I kept the important paperwork and files, framed up the pictures I like best, put only his most precious books back on the bookshelf. Of course there are still many other things floating around - his clothes, his shoes (millions), his workout equipment and skates, and his bathroom. And dozens of other little things I am bound to run into here and there.

But for now I have relief.

The office, the big obstacle, is out of the way. Functional. Useful. Clean.

I have reclaimed a small corner of my life.

And it feels so good.


  1. I'm happy for you, Emily. I smile at your relief, glad that you have found some for the moment.

  2. I can't imagine how hard that was, but I am so glad you were able to reclaim that part of your home for yourself. You are right, the memories, the momentos etc are so important, but there can't be too much, in every space you go, that you feel overwhelmed at every turn. I know Craig is on your mind all the time, and you don't need 'extras' putting more on you than you can handle. I am so proud of you for taking that much needed step.