Tag Archives: Mental Health

Pandemic of cleaning

If you’re vacuuming more or organizing closets or wiping down door knobs and switchplates, you might be stressed out.

Well, you might be using Lysol wipes like they’re a hot commodity because of CDC guidelines for avoiding COVID-19, but you get my point, right? Some people go into cleaning mode when they’re anxious.

Cleaning is a real response. A study published in Current Biology found a link between anxiety and obsessive cleaning. It’s an effective response, too, because your carpet or closet or door is clean you’re done. If you’re only wringing your hands in worry, all you’ll get is tight shoulders and a headache.

So it is for my Beloved and me in our new condo where we’re sheltering in place. The first thing we do when we move into any new place is clean; even without CVOID-19, we’re not fans of other people’s germy dirt. One reason we chose this particular piece of real estate is because it’s part of rental program; lake lovers can vacation here during the summer when we’re enjoying southern Wisconsin’s temperate climes. To avoid horrible online reviews of how dirty this place is, cleaning is even more imperative so we’ve spent our first few weeks here obsessively cleaning all the weird things in a house you tend to overlook when you’ve lived there a while. It’s just a bonus that all this cleaning helps dissipate anxiety about skyrocketing infection rates and plunging stock portfolios.

If you’re looking for ways to turn your anxiety into purposeful effort here are a few things to clean that are not as obvious as the junk drawer or your bedroom closet:

  • Molding: Before anything was moved in, we washed the walls and molding first to prepare surfaces for the painter. The tops of the window and door molding were covered in years of dust! Also overlooked, the shelves above the hanging rod in closets.
  • bathroom vent

    Bathroom fan vent

    Bathroom vents: This is typically the most disgusting thing in a hotel room, and they’re not that difficult to clean. Remove the cover and scrub it in soapy water. Run some compressed air in the vent.

  • Dryer vent: This might be a whole afternoon project if your dryer is already in place. We installed a new dryer, so it was easy to run compressed air through the house vent. My Beloved also used the air compresser on the vent in the dryer (when the dryer was still outside, waiting to be installed). 

 

  • room vent

    Room vent

    Furnace and air conditioning vents: You’ll probably need a screwdriver to remove these. Scrub the vent, and clean the duct. My Beloved spraypainted the ceiling vents from the bathrooms because they were a little rusty (he performed this messy project in the garage). They look better than new now.

  • Furnace filter: Have you changed yours recently? These filter the air and you need that more than ever right now.

 

stovetop vent

Stove fan filters

  • Vent screens above your stovetop: These are greasy and gross, but ours are removable. I just ran them through the dishwasher. 
  • Ceiling fan: Are you sensing a theme here? If it’s a fan or a vent, it’s probably dirty. Get out a ladder and proceed with dusting it or, if it’s really gross, use soapy water.
  • Refrigerator coils: Yes, this means moving the refrigerator so you can get behind it. Air compressor to the rescue again (I think you could use a vacuum, too. Don’t depend on Minnesota Transplant for this one; best to google how-tos). We don’t think ours had ever been cleaned. My Beloved also removed the grate beneath the refrigerator door and washed it in the bathtub.
  • Kitchen appliances: When was the last time you washed the rotating plate in the microwave? The inside of your oven? How about your blender buttons (tip: cotton swabs)? If vinegar isn’t too dear to you right now, run some through your coffee maker (and then make a few pots with water only or you’ll ruin your morning java).
  • Kitchen garbage can: When was the last time this thing saw soapy water? And if it’s stored in a cabinet? Yeah, it’s probably revolting back there in the dark. Remove everything, vacuum up the coffee grounds and dried peas, and scrub thoroughly.
  • Air conditioner: A professional offered to do this for $400, which was too steep a price for us so my Beloved used his own power washer. Be sure you turn off the power before you try this trick.

cupboard cleaning

  • Cabinets: The knobs on your cabinets are probably disgusting but you’re blind to it. Look closely. Gross. Fill a new pail with soapy water and get scrubbing. If you’re really enterprising, remove the cabinet doors and knobs, sand them down and re-stain them (that’s what my dad is doing with his extra time these days). My Beloved doesn’t have a workspace like Dad, so he used a product called Restor-A-Finish. Just rub it right into the wood and let it soak in. Our cabinets had been so neglected, it took two coats.
  •  The deck: The power washer got another workout on the tile on the deck. Careful! Slippery when wet.
  • Window screens: Windexing the windows, that’s obvious. Removing the screens and hauling them into the shower, now that’s special. My Beloved used a scrub brush and dishwashing liquid.
  • Door bell: Lysol wipe and a Q-tip should do the trick. While you’re out there, look up? Got any bugs in your front light?

Have I missed anything? What strange element of your surroundings is now sparkling because of your anxious elbow grease?

Whatever will be, will be; or whatever was, was; forget about it

When I read recently in Amy Poehler’s memoir Yes Please that one of the acts her improv troupe performed began with asking an audience member about his day and then acting out how his dreams might look, I thought that made sense. My dreams are mostly nonsensical recombinations of my day. I only wish Amy Poehler was involved because I might laugh more in my sleep.

Instead, I woke up (I typed work up first — how Freudian) the other morning in a cold sweat. Actually, it was a hot sweat. A tiny hot flash. I had been dreaming about being editor in chief of the University Chronicle, which I was once, 30 years ago when I was a fifth-year senior at college. In my dream, I had completely missed publishing the first issue of the fall term. I was in charge, and I missed the reporters meeting, I missed editing any of the stories, I missed laying out the pages. Everything. Poof. Just forgot. I showed up for the second issue, suddenly mortified I had blanked on the first issue. This is terrible, absolutely terrible, I thought. I blew it completely.

I vaguely recall the ads were still published. That’s how it was in the newspaper biz at the time. The news side had nothing to do with selling or creating ads. I would just show up on the appointed afternoon, and the ads would be designed and placed on the pages. Big white holes between the ads would be waiting for our stellar news copy to fill them.

The ads must go on. Without or without the news, I guess. (Sort of like my Facebook newsfeed some days.)

Where did that flashback come from? I’ve read that dreams like that are metaphors for one’s current life. When I was editor of the college paper, there was a lot of deadline pressure and a lot of stress managing people (they mostly managed themselves, let’s be honest, but I was stressed about it in any case). Something about my current life had my subconscious reliving that pressure and stress. And failing miserably, I guess, since I missed an entire issue of the paper.

My life is a less pressure packed nowadays. Or maybe I’m just more accepting about my ability to control anything. But I guess I need to bring my subconscious up to speed.

Note to subconscious: You’re not as important as you might think. Whatever you miss that seems so urgent and earth-shattering is probably not that important either.

Que sera sera.

Driven to distraction: How to hitch a ride back to Focus Town

Such a crazy day today, and my brain is overflowing. Like tollway by my little village undergoing construction for more lanes, I need more neural pathways to keep track of everything.

I am normally a focused thinker. I wish I could take credit for it, but like my low cholesterol, we can probably attribute this to genetics or good parenting in childhood.

Today was a different story. While juggling house guests, a photo organizing job, a list of things to do that was as long as my arm (and I’m the sort of person whose wrists hang out of my “long” sleeves) and a bunch of errands for my Beloved, I was keeping my eye on my virtual connections because my book was featured in the daily newspaper nearest my hometown. Thanks to that exposure, “The Percussionist’s Wife” climbed to No. 72 among Kindle’s Memoirs & Biographies about Women (No. 1 in that category? Julie Andrews’ “Home: A Memoir of My Early Years”).

Arcane minutia? Maybe, but it’s exciting stuff for a first-time author.

That’s all front burner stuff. Meanwhile, in the background, I’m sorting through ideas for my second book. More on that later. Much later. Can’t concentrate right now. Trying to build back-burner neural pathways.

How to get it all done?

Must stay focused, must stay focused, must stay focused.

That’s my first tip: Mantras. Several times today, I forced myself to remember the next three things to do by chanting them: Finish invoice, feed dog, load of laundry …

(Talk about minutia.)

Tip No. 2: Lists. I actually wrote down my to-do list three times today.

Can’t forget. Can’t forget. Can’t forget.

And No. 3: Run. I was taking steps two at a time more than once today. And the lawn never got mowed so fast.

Be mindful, be mindful, be mindful.