Feast your eyes on the charming Vivian. Viv for short. She’s a stunner in an understated, not trying too hard kind of way, don’t you think? We are already quite fond of her.
Viv came to join our family last week after years of heavy hand-me-down uprights, a cheap grocery store vacuum that choked on blonde fur balls (though I must say few vacs are suited to swallow the quantity of hair a family of four girls produce) and months of no vacuum at all.
We’d borrowed, swept and hand-picked mess from the rugs and hardwoods. Michael and I talked in detail about our ideal mess-sucker and then finally last week, with some unexpected funds on a happy Wednesday, headed to our local, family-owned vacuum shop.
We tested Viv on cotton strands and walnut shells. We oohed and ahhhed over her ability to eat the mess in just one pass. I tested her weight to see if I could carry her easily up our long, steep flight of stairs.
J told us how great she was, that Viv was definitely “the one.”
Then we bit the bullet and brought her home.
The first few days Viv lived in our entry, greeting visitors with a sweet smile and how-do-you-do. The reason for her prominent position? There was simply no room for her in our closet — the place we determined she’d be living.
A few weeks ago, dear friends and I talked about how many clothes we have in our closets, specifically how much we keep. (I’ve been known to hold onto some notoriously ancient items.) One friend, who clearly thinks much more highly of my organizational skills than she ought, said something like, “You probably know exactly what you have in there because I bet you’ve got such an organized closet.”
Two other friends, who’d witnessed the horror that is our master closet in the last year nearly talked over each other. “No, no, it’s really not organized.”
Oh, to be known.
And they could have said, not just the closet, but this whole bedroom of ours has born no resemblance to organized. For the last year at least, bags of school work, unhung art and piles of dry cleaning have lived not only in the closet but in the room’s furthest corners.
In this room, laundry baskets of clean and folded clothes sit among piles of yesterday’s jeans.
Dust bunnies and enough feathers to clothe a flock of molting birds threaten to stage a coup and break free from under the bed.
Finally, last week I could take it no longer. After a month of weekends away, during which I embraced a free-wheeling, love the zoo you’re in ethic, Type A me returned from her travels and finally unpacked her bags. She began diving into the chaos full-bore, and once she put her hands to the mess, the highly-wound woman started to unravel.
Each night for several days upon my return, I angrily entered our bedroom, kicking shirts and socks to the corners, after doing all I could to master the mess in the rest of the house all day, and told Michael I cannot live this way anymore. Each night, I huffed and complained, got ready for bed and crawled under the covers, grumbling and grunting about how there’s not enough time in the day, and I can’t stand this bedroom, I just can’t stand it.
About this time, Viv entered our lives.
Amidst all the vacuuming of ceiling fans with the angled brush attachment and sucking small particles from along the edges of the room and creating lines across the bedroom carpets, we got inspired.
One night after my huffing and puffing, Michael spoke.
“I’m going to start pulling stuff out and cleaning the bedroom on Saturday. And while we’re at it — it might be kind of crazy — but I think maybe we should rearrange the room.”
For some (like my mother-in-law), rearranging furniture is a form of stress release. To those of my ilk, moving furniture is something akin to shuffling parts of your skin around and seeing how you like it.
When I find an arrangement that works, I stay put.
Something in me was just desperate enough, though, that I said yes. And topped it off with, “I’ll even give any change three weeks before I decide I can’t stand it.”
I was certainly prepared for “can’t stand it.”
Saturday afternoon I returned from my morning event to see one proud family, a very full vacuum and a beautiful room.
The bed between two windows. The armoire moved to the other corner. The light that now streamed in, un-swallowed. The space for our armchair to be a reading, lounging place and not just a clothes and reading material catch-all.
Bag upon bag in the hallway were ready for sorting, and that’s where I came in. But it didn’t undo me. It didn’t swallow me up.
I did my thing. And Michael did his. Viv moved to a lovely little spot in the closet.
Over the weekend, Michael built a simple triangular table to fill the gap behind the bed (now holding a lamp, wire basket of books, bowls for jewelry and pocket stuff and a place for our water, if you’re interested).
Small things, all. But somehow nothing about this shift feels small.
This room I so recently detested has become the new family gathering place. The room where the girls want to read and do homework and chat. The place where I breathe deeply and where huffing about just doesn’t fit.
There’s something so frightening to me about knowing I’ve got loads of stuff in all the corners. Pushed to the side. Covered up. Avoided.
And then that freedom of pulling it out, looking at it, realizing it’s not nearly so terrifying in real life as in my imagined reality.
Then how about the beauty of seeing things differently when we move them into a different light or place? Or the good of having family and friends who say, I see your stuff. And I see past your stuff. And I even see you with your stuff. And I love you.
Last Friday, I poured out my heart — and my anxieties and overwhelm — to my friends. The ones who’ve seen my physical mess and my spiritual and emotional messes, too.
I cried and spoke up high in my throat, and they sat with me, put their hands on my head, my back. Prayed with me.
They didn’t pick up all the pieces, but they stayed with me — my junk all laid out in the room. They didn’t run for the corners or hide away. They said yes to life and light and hope, and a part of me agreed that laying down control wouldn’t be so bad as moving my skin around.
Though we don’t always know what getting our hands into it means, could it be that the very act of beginning to unearth what we’re afraid of, bringing it out from the darkness and holding onto the Hope that there is something better — could that be a huge part of the point, after all?
And when the light comes streaming in on these imperfect beautiful places, might we even be able to exhale thanks?