Sunday, 7 February 2010

Spring cleaning

It is a little early, I know, but there is something about the low late-Winter sun shining through the windows that triggers a cleaning frenzy in me.

I have always been very conscious of not wanting to turn the house into a shrine to R. There is a lady in our village who hasn't changed a thing in her husband's office since he died 20 years ago. While I acknowledge that she may gain comfort from this, I think it would ultimately have the opposite effect on me - keeping me stuck at an early stage of my grief and not allowing me to move forward. I want my house to be a home, not a museum.

In some respects I was 'lucky' in that I spent 3 nights at the hospital with R, while his family stayed at our house. This meant that they had to change the sheets on our bed while I wasn't there. At the time this didn't matter as we were all expecting him to come home again, so when I spent my first night at home alone, it was in a bed with freshly-laundered sheets. Would it have been a comfort to have had the scent of him there with me as I slept? Possibly. I don't know, but I survived without it. And at least I didn't have the dilemma of when to wash them!

As I was cleaning the bedroom yesterday morning, I suddenly had the urge to move the furniture around.
The room had essentially frozen in the configuration it was in on the day R died: the furniture was in exactly the same position, the same pictures on the walls, ornaments on the dressing table, ...

So I changed it.

Different duvet cover, swapped the pictures for some others that hadn't yet found a home, removed a chair, moved some other bits and pieces and bought myself some flowers.
It was nothing dramatic - it's a bit girlier than before, that's all - but there was something very symbolic about changing the way the room looked.

And the last thing I did before leaving the room was to take a deep breath and remove R's dressing gown from the hook where it has remained for the last 18 months.


  1. i've always liked cleaning. with two dogs and lots of winter rain i vacuum every other day but i do the once a week cleaning with lemon floor/counter top whatever i need to get the job done. i've always been this way. not OCD about it, i just do it to keep ahead of dirt.

    i don't know if i'm lucky or sad but i moved to be close to my daughter the day of my husband's funeral. our circumstances are vastly different. i have changed the furniture five times in the last almost year, more from trying to make my work tables and quilt frame fit so that i can still walk around. when i unpacked i put his toothbrush in the cup beside mine and his hairbrush beside mine, and his razor where he usually kept it in other bathrooms.

    i don't know right now if 20 years from now his toothbrush will still be there or his hairbrush. tomorrow and Tuesday will the the one year for me so i'm sort of drifting in this dream world where i think i'll make it but i'm so sad that he won't be here to see it.

    having said that, i am completely happy for you that you've changed things around. i love rearranging rooms. i'm glad you moved the furniture. new sheets maybe even. something bright. something you really like. and when the air is warm enough, throw open the windows and breathe it in deeply. you are an inspiration.

  2. You are an inspiration. I've been thinking about this lately and as I read your post, I could feel a sense of relief and peace come over me. Maybe it's getting to be time to make some changes. It sounds like it is a positive change for you, and I have a feeling I'll feel the same when I get the courage. It won't be long now; I can feel it coming. Thank you for your inspiration. And it's so great to have you back blogging. I've missed reading your perspective on this journey.

  3. @WnS: It sounds as though we both have a need for a feeling of order in our lives, as the only way to make sense of this disaster that has struck us. But there will always be objects which, to other people, are meaningless but for us are so filled with the essence of the person we love that they are essential to our well-being.
    For me it is a little pile of stones that we collected on various beaches. We would pick up pebbles that caught our eye, argue their relative merits and, at the end of the day, one or two new ones would be added to the collection. I have these dotted around the house, others I carry with me in my bag and I had one in my pocket at R's funeral. I don't know why, but picking one up and holding it for a while gives me a greater sense of his presence than almost anything else in the house.
    Yet they are just stones.

    Thinking of you today with love as you pass this milestone. J xxx

    @Debbie: We are all taking this journey at our own pace. If there is one thing that I have learned from it is that you can't force the pace. But if you feel that the time is right, the hard part is making the first step. Thereafter it does get easier. I can honestly say that when I have made changes, I haven't regretted them.
    There are so many things that are still far too difficult to tackle though. But that is OK, I will get there in the end. As will you. xxx

  4. That sounds like progress. It's hard to move things around, but there's a real sense of relief when you do.

  5. And as for that pile of stones -- well, I'm totally with you about those.

    Although speaking as a geologist, I would say that, wouldn't I?

  6. Ha! The stones!
    I have a friend whose husband is a geologist, and his rock collection takes up serious real estate in their house.
    I keep telling him that they managed outside quite happily for millions of years, but he won't take the hint...