Friday, March 23, 2012

The therapeutic value of cleaning

Tonight I will make my third trip to Nashville in a week to assist my mother and be with my father in his time of dying.  His eleven-month battle with cancer is winding down.  Of all members of our family, my physical proximity to my parents is the closest, only three hours away, so it is relatively easy for me to zoom on down the interstate on short notice.  
I had gotten home yesterday after a few days of being there while my dad was transitioning from the hospital to being at home with hospice care.   

With a few quiet hours on my hands today, I decided to take on my kitchen.  It had been a little bit neglected due to periods of being gone and then home for only a short time.  There really is not much to my little 1950's kitchen.  It is only about 10' x 10', and everything about it is quite simple and clean-lined.  The best features are the windows that face both north and east, looking out over the farm fields, pond, and woods.  It gets wonderful light!

Cleaning is good therapy for me.  It gets me up and moving.  Scrubbing the walls, cabinets and floors can cause me to work up a good sweat.  In the process of cleaning, we throw out things that are no longer needed, wanted or useful, even though some of them may be difficult to part with--  a process in many ways akin to the letting go that comes with grief.  

We make things seem shiny and new, which allows us to see them in a different way.  Anything that clarifies one's perspective or challenges the way we look at things has therapeutic value.  

Tending a house prompts us to appreciate the beauty that is right in front of us.  The red bud tree across the yard has bloomed during my absence, and the countryside is greening right before my eyes.  There is so much new and renewed life bursting forth at this time of year, a sharp contrast to the waning of my dad's life.

 Taking a step back from our normal point-of-view changes how and what we see.  My usual view of the sink is from hovering over it, looking down into it.  By stepping back, I notice how the faucet and the old cabinet hardware glimmer in the early afternoon light.

In going through the process of losing someone we love, we develop a heightened awareness and appreciation of the ones we love who are still with us.  Pyewacket has missed me dearly this week, it seems.  She has not strayed very far from wherever I am at any given moment, including supervising as I mopped the kitchen floor.

While I have lost any ability to control what goes on with my dad's health, I do have the ability to control  what goes on in my own space.   Cleaning helps me to generate a sense of control in some small, but meaningful, ways.  I also rest assured and comforted that when I walk back in through my door, regardless of what happens, this kitchen will be a fresh and welcoming sight.

Until next time...


  1. I wish you comfort and quiet calm as you go to say goodbye. "Parting is such sweet sorrow" are the words I am hearing. I have only been by the bedside of my Grandma and Grandpa as they passed. It actually was a beautiful closeness we shared in those moments. Your kitty is the cutest thing. I do appreciate the value you have for homekeeping. I feel the same way. I just cleaned my refrigerator this week...I always forget to scrub the inside and I think it may have been a couple yrs. since I have. It feels so 'new' again. Your view from your cottage kitchen windows is worth more than gold.

  2. Anne, It must b a relief to be close enough to go back and forth and a blessing for your poor mum to have you with her. I don;t know what to say other than I am sorry you have to go through this. I hope that your remaining days with your dad are peaceful and full of love and that he feels comfort both physically and spiritutally.


  3. You are so right a rejuvenation of sorts and things are looking quite peaceful at your place.

  4. Oh Anne, I am so sorry to hear about your dad. I am glad that you are able to share so freely via this medium... it is good & healthy.

    Reading about the therapeutic value of cleaning, I recall many times in my own life, where chaos endured & the only thing I could grab ahold of & control, was the space I occupied. Super scrubbing clean cleaning! & purging... it calms me too.

    May your dad's final days be peaceful...

  5. Thinking of you and your family,


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