Scrubbing Clean

My husband and I just bought our first house together in Los Angeles.

We’re so happy.

He asked me yesterday if it felt like home yet.

I paused, considered, and said yes.

I wondered about that. Our offer on the house was accepted months ago. We just got the keys last week. The house is a mess and needs lots of work. It’s dirty, tattered, and not yet beautiful. We haven’t even moved in.

But it has good bones and great soul, and both of us can sense that.

Yet I realized today that that is not why it feels like home.

It feels like home because I’m scrubbing it clean.

I’m peeling wall paper. Scrubbing the insides of cabinets. Removing layers of dust and cobwebs.

I’m spackling holes, repairing splintered wood, and replacing ineffective hardware.

We’re buffing out pet stains on the hardwood floors, replacing broken pieces of everything, and raking the yard clean, pass by pass. We’re painting. Grouting. Replacing. Resolving.

I love this work. I love cleaning. I love turning something shabby into something beautiful.

My favorite aisles at Home Depot are the cleaning supply aisle and the organization aisle. I love the possibility of cleanliness and order.

My house feels like home because I’m bringing cleanliness and order to it. Tending to it, really. I am getting to know it inside and out, square-inch by square-inch. There are no secrets between my house and me. I’ve witnessed her dirtiest corners and most broken pieces. I’ve lovingly scrubbed her, swept her, and patched her up.

I love tending to things.

I especially love tending to relationships. I know many of us do.

I notice and I care when something is dirty, broken, or out of place in my relationships. I pay attention to the corners that need dusting, the surfaces that need wiping clean, and the broken pieces that need repairing.

Sometimes I get lazy and my relationships grow dusty or even grimy. But I always return to them, tend to them, and restore them.

I have this best friend who sometimes texts me and says, “You feel really distant today. Is everything ok?” Or I’ll text her and say, “Is everything good between us? Something feels off.”

It’s important, I think, to check in with each other.

Humans hide disrepair so much better than houses do.

My mom and I always leave each other saying, “All is well.” It’s our way of saying to each other that even if we bicker or disagree with each other, our house is in order and our home is clean.

My dad and I often check in, “Are we good?” If not, we always address it.

Sometimes I’m nervous when I tend to relationships. There is always a chance that I’ll feel vulnerable, guilty, or, quite frankly, like I’ve been a bad friend.

But it always feels so good when the corners of my relationships are swept and scrubbed clean.

Sometimes I save my relationship cleaning for the weekend, and sometimes I wish I could hire someone else to do my relationship dirty-work.

But neither of those ever seems to work in the long run.

Have you ever had the experience, by the way, that your house is really clean and beautiful and then you move out or rearrange a room and realize that you’ve actually been living in filth?

Sometimes relationships are like that, right?

I always appreciate it, therefore, when my loved ones let me know that I need to tend to them. My relationships, all combined, comprise so much of who I am.

And I really want to feel I’m at home.

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose