“Clean your room, Baby Jesus is coming.” These words were uttered by my mother every year before Christmas. And every year I’d begrudgingly tidy up, but somewhere in the back of my CCD-educated mind, a little voice was screaming back “This is not a Commandment and Jesus never gave a sermon about cleaning under your bed!”
It may not have been Biblical, but it was traditional, at least for our family. I don’t quite know how many generations back this “clean up or Baby Jesus, who was born in a manger on a bed of straw with farm animals breathing on him – which is actually how swine flu became a thing – is going to judge how badly you’ve let your room go” tradition went, but I know my great-grandmother was the inspiration for my mother’s annual demand.
To be fair to all involved, including the Baby Jesus, cleaning your room isn’t an unreasonable request. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, or so the saying goes, and it may just have been too literal an interpretation of that axiom. I can see how Santa Claus might put me on his naughty list for stashing junk in the closet. I just always thought it was a bit funny that Baby Jesus was going to care about my bedroom. In his position, I’d be more worried about where the donkey was going to relieve itself.
Christmas wasn’t the only holiday to receive this treatment. Every Easter I was told “clean your room, Jesus is coming.” He was no longer a baby of course, and he wasn’t being born, but rather resurrecting himself. Yet somehow in between imprinting the Shroud of Turin and moving that ginormous boulder out of his way, Jesus was going to have time to be disappointed in how messy my room had gotten since he was an infant, roughly 4 months prior.
As you may have gathered by this point my family is Catholic. I’m Catholic. I believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and Mary and the Saints and the Pope and miracles and everything. But as a child, I just really, really hated cleaning. Not even the Son of God could motivate me to push a vacuum with a happy heart.
Somewhere along the line, things changed. Not long after I stopped hearing about how I had to clean up for Jesus, actually. Whereas the cleaning I’d done as a child I’d classify as “resentful cleaning,” cleaning as a teen shifted to “optimistic cleaning.” Don’t get me wrong, I still hated it, but it was usually attached to some sort of motivating factor – e.g. I could have a few friends sleep over if I cleaned the house first. I would have been on my hands and knees scrubbing grout with a toothbrush and felt okay about it as long as it meant I got to watch The State in the den alone with a guy.
Then I became a mother, and cleaning went from “optimistic cleaning” to “paranoid cleaning.” As in, IF I DON’T SCRUB THIS THING RIGHT NOW MY CHILD WILL GET EBOLA. DON’T YOU KNOW IT’S COLD AND FLU SEASON? HAVE YOU EVER ACTUALLY SEEN LEPROSY? DON’T GET ME STARTED ON SWINE FLU.
When I’m not “paranoid cleaning,” I’m “mindlessly cleaning.” That is to say I’m dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing and disinfecting without actually thinking about the task at hand. My mind is on a million other thoughts at once. Motherhood. Work. Did I take my vitamins today? Will I die if I accidentally took them twice? When was the last time I actually did cardio, like, on purpose? Will I ever have time to meditate? If I don’t meditate will I eventually explode? Why do my cats insist on sitting in front of the vacuum? When was the last time I ate anything? Have I had anything to drink today? And did I take my vitamins?
Mindlessly cleaning gets the job done 99% of the time, though I may not be fully conscious of what I’m doing at any given moment.
Recently I’ve added a new form of cleaning to my repertoire. I like to call it “rage cleaning.” Rage cleaning sprung up from “rage purging,” and rage purging has its roots in “passive-aggressive purging.”
Passive-aggressive purging was my perfectly rational response to someone making a comment about how unruly my laundry pile was getting, for example. I’d put away my laundry and then tear apart my closet, deciding I hated 80% of my clothes and donating it all to charity, leaving me with very little to wear. But on the plus side, my laundry pile wouldn’t get big again. Passive-aggressive purging is something I still do from time to time, usually when I have PMS.
Rage-purging takes this concept to a whole new level.
I recently had my bathroom floor redone. It was ugly old linoleum, and I picked out a different not ugly, not old linoleum. Pretty simple, apart from the fact that it’s a very small bathroom with tight angles. However, the contractor had an arsenal of tools at his disposal to ensure he got it right. He didn’t get it right. He didn’t get it right twice. 1.5 days into the 4 day saga (which ended with a nice floor, but also grout, spackle and caulk all over my carpet, taps and toilet, and molding literally split apart by a pneumatic nail gun that’s the equivalent of taking an atomic bomb to a knife fight), rage-purging happened.
We have a local cat and dog shelter/rescue that has an enormous garage sale twice a year. So two times a year you can bring all of your unwanted stuff to them and they will help feed cats and dogs with the proceeds. This is an amazing deal for someone like me who can never pass up the chance to help an animal. If it means I get to lighten my material load in the process, all the better.
And so it was that a couple days ago said shelter received 1/2 of my Christmas decorations, 75% of my fall decorations, 1/3 of my books and a significant assortment of random things like jewelry trees, unopened boxes of Christmas cards, 75% of my handbags, scarves, jewelry itself and a ton of toys my son has grown out of. Rage purging was productive. Rage purging felt good.
But I reached a point where I could really only purge so much – and was starting to arbitrarily throw away things with fairly significant sentimental value – so I switched to rage cleaning. Hell hath no fury like a woman with a vacuum and a toilet brush who’s really pissed off. I’ve done a lot of rage cleaning in the past few days. I have even – no joke – scrubbed the walls.
Rage cleaning is a pretty good way to let off steam and considerably better than beating a contractor over the head with a pneumatic nail gun. And as an added bonus, if this keeps up, the Baby Jesus will be really happy with my bedroom this year.