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How I Conquered My ‘Room of Shame’

messy office

On January 2nd, I proudly told everyone who would listen that the office in our house was finally clean and organized. The response I got every single time was, “You have an office?” No one in my life, even people who feel as at home in my house as they do in their own, knew about that room, and there is a good reason for that. It was my room of shame.

Whenever I wanted the rest of my house to look nice for guests, I put everything in the office–and I never took it out. The door was always closed. My kids loved my room of shame. There were countless treasures in there for them to find as they dug through unopened mail and gifts to be returned and every purse I ever used that then became too filled with toys and applesauce squeezies to carry around anymore. It was such a source of stress for me that even now, in its clean state, whenever I walk by and see the open door, my heart skips a beat because someone might see–oh wait, now it is OK.

At 11:30 p.m. on January 1, 2015, after more than 12 hours of cleaning, I told my husband that I was heading into the office. When he asked me why, I called back, “because I finally can.” Accomplishing this feat sent me into a spiral of New Year’s resolutions. I decided that every day I would clean one area of the house. Not an entire room like I did before–I mean, I’m not crazy–just reasonable things like the bathroom cabinets one day. All of the kitchen cabinets the next. And just wait until I get to making all of my photo albums! As I went to sleep that night on the high of being able to find a few not deposited checks (yep, that happened), I had visions of my perfectly organized house dancing in my head.

The next day, my daughter asked me for hummus and carrots. I told her I was all out. She then asked me for peanut butter on bread. I didn’t have any of that either. My son chimed in asking me for an apple. Nope. Since when did these kids get so healthy? Then, when it was time to get dressed, I directed everyone to the unfolded (but clean) laundry on the floor of my room. Soon I started to come down off my high. I realized that I now had to go to the grocery store instead of clean the bathroom cabinets. Laundry was going to have to come before my albums.

So what did that mean for all of my glorious resolutions? Not three days into the New Year and I was already a failure. That feeling of failing can drag you down into a place where you can’t do anything. I started to feel overwhelmed and unmotivated.

And then, I did something revolutionary. I gave myself a break. I folded my laundry and considered that a success. The next day, I didn’t have time for my normal workout. Instead of being upset about that and just skipping it, I did a shortened version and was proud of myself. A week later, when I still had not gone to the grocery store, I ordered groceries online and gave myself a pat on the back.

I created a new resolution. To be kind to myself. To celebrate every win, no matter how small. To give myself permission to relax for a few minutes without feeling guilty. To pick up dinner when I am too exhausted to cook and to pack tonight’s leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch when I have no creativity. I realized that I love my family and my job and my friends and I want to do everything I can for them. But this is my life and I can’t wait 16 years until my kids are in college or however many years until I retire to take care of myself.

I still want to work towards the items on my original resolution list, but it’s OK if I don’t do it today because I also had to run to the dry cleaner and I didn’t want to skip Zumba. I deserve to Zumba and I should be able to dance to Pitbull without feeling guilty about buying a school treat instead of baking it. I deserve kindness from myself and permission to take care of me along with everyone else.

Maybe the bathroom cabinets will be a project for January 1, 2016. Either way, 2015 is going to be a good year.

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