As a kid – and let’s be honest, even now – I never had a tidy room for more than a day. I hate doing the dishes and I hate folding laundry. And you can forget about actual scrubbing and sweeping. It’s just not fun, and my clothes are easier to find spread out on the floor than folded in a drawer anyway.
But living in a messy environment stresses me out.
Coming home to a sink full of bowls with oatmeal stuck to them makes me feel defeated. When I turn the corner to see an unmade bed with wrinkly, clean clothes in chaotic piles on every surface including the floor, I can’t help but criticize my self-worth. I attempt to ignore the pile of dirty laundry that has accumulated in the two weeks it has taken me to do that last load while I turn on the shower. Surely, the place where I clean myself is clean, right? A clump of hair I had stuck to the wall during my last shower falls into the tub and joins a mass down the drain that will soon clog it. How am I allowed to even be a person?
So I begrudgingly clean and scrub and sweep and wipe until my apartment is habitable again. And somewhere in the process, the act of cleaning actually makes me feel better, too because I’m doing something kind for myself.
I like to think of self-care as treating yourself to the things you would want to treat your best friend to — an hour-long bubble bath, a hike on a sunny day, a sincere compliment or coming home to a clean apartment. Each activity fulfills a physical, emotional or mental need and the act of allowing yourself the time and space for that activity is an expression of self-love.
When my place is looking a little (or a lot) messy, I talk about the tasks ahead like they’re things a friend needs my help with.
If it will make Rachel feel better, I’ll do the dishes. I’ll fold the laundry and put it away. I’ll do anything it takes because I care about her.
My apartment doesn’t need to look like a Pottery Barn catalog, but taking care of it is a way of taking care of myself so it’s worth the effort.