Thursday, August 23, 2012

How To Handle Tough Cleaning Jobs And Existential Horror

We all have that hard cleaning project we never seem to tackle, the one that becomes emblematic of the lack of control we have over our lives. Maybe it's a dusty attic filled with old documents. Maybe it's a garage cluttered with yard toys. The job hangs over our heads, like mortality itself. It becomes more difficult as the mess piles up and our brief time on this planet slowly but noticeably slips away. But by following these simple steps you can put an end to the to-do item that's been bugging you!

1. Plan a week, not a day. The job is going to take serious work, and it's almost impossible to find a six-hour bloc in your schedule, even on a weekend. Plus you hate the thought of killing an entire Saturday morning, when you normally relax on the edge of your bed staring at some souvenirs on your dresser and wondering when you last felt anything, even pain. Instead pick a week, and promise yourself you will do one or two small parts of the project every single day. Wake up early, or pick an hour just before dinner, and do it. It will be satisfying to know you're making steady progress toward one of the very few life goals you will ever reach.

2. Split the project into smaller projects. Before your "project week" begins, sit down with a piece of paper and write a list of all the mini-tasks that make it up. Then sort them so that as you complete each step it makes the next step simpler. For example, you know that you have to pick up boxes off the floor before you can sweep. And you know you have to load the boxes with clutter, before picking them up. Just like you know you need to go back to college if you ever hope to get a raise, but until you get more money you have no hope of going to college. So the only thing to do in that situation is go out to a T.G.I. Friday's every night and drink until the bartender refuses to serve you. When you're done with your list, make sure you do the absolute easiest step first. Because then you won't fail again.

3. Give yourself little rewards along the way. As you complete each task, find a way to celebrate. Watch your favorite program, or take a walk to your favorite thinking spot and just sit there, relaxing and trying to imagine what it will feel like to be really and finally dead. Encourage yourself. If you don't, who will? Especially since we are all completely alone. No one can ever really communicate or understand.

4. If you get sidetracked, don't give up. You might skip one of your workdays, because of an emergency, or because you forget. These things happen. You're not even really in control of your own mind - the thoughts glide through it like strange ghosts, fighting each other over matters you'll never be able to know, because your identity itself is an illusion. Instead of getting upset, add another day at the end of your plan, or try to find an extra hour in the schedule. You can do it!

5. When you're finished, don't start crying uncontrollably, because there's nothing else. Instead plan a really big project. Why not stain your deck, or learn about landscaping and tackle those flowerbeds? There are plenty of things to do, while you wait for the end that comes to us all. The possibilities are... well, not limitless, but you'll find something. And it'll help a little.


  1. Excellent advice, most folks are stuck in tharn mode at the very idea of cleaning anything. A friend and I were discussing her dread of cleaning bathrooms, so I wrote an essay about how much I actually enjoy cleaning bathrooms, link below. I know I'm a freak of nature for my cleaning fetish, but my wife LOVES IT. Once again, thanks for your always-awesome POV.

  2. I always find a cooking project to be a worthwhile, and distracting endeavor. Nothing brightens the day like a warm, buttery, freshly-baked scone to mask the cold and bitter taste of the ashes of futility upon which I regularly sup. :)


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