Well, my body held up well today. After 3 hours of cleaning our neighbour’s kitchen this morning, it’s not doing as badly as I had feared. With arthritis in the back, hips, knees, toes and hands, all of which were heavily involved in the cleaning spree, I had my doubts that I’d be able to walk out of that house unaided! But although I was definitely exhausted, I was surprised to discover that I still had enough stamina left to take a shower and change my clothes. That would have been impossible a couple of months ago! It’s wondrous to me to have so much more energy, stamina and mobility these days!
The house belongs to our 90+ year old neighbours. They had to move into a nursing home unexpectedly just before Christmas. I mentioned them earlier in a blog about Comforting Clutter. It has been a very long exhausting chore getting that house ready for sale. Their daughter and several grandsons have helped when able, but they’re all from out of town, work full time, and/or have family and health issues of their own that have made it difficult for them to do what’s been needed to be done. And so we’ve often had to wait in between their sporadic visits because of the uncertainty of who wants what and what to do with all of the unsorted, unmarked stuff.
But it’s all done now. Everything’s been cleaned out and found a new home, either with one of them, or at the local women’s shelters and charity second-hand stores, or in our basement for temporary storage, or in the garbage heap on Monday mornings. From a home where every nook and cranny was jam-packed with stuff to an empty house where the silence bounces off the scuff marks on the walls, it’s been quite a journey. Frustrating and arduous at times, raw and sad the rest of the time.
Today as we pulled out the appliances and scrubbed out long-neglected corners, I couldn’t help but reflect on old age, and the sadness of crumbling bodies and fading minds – and the growing dilemma that our aging boomer population faces as more and more of us creep ever closer to the point where we’re not going to be able to clean our own clutter or scrub out the various soon-to-be-unreachable patches of our own homes.
For me, the most troubling dilemma has to do with the reality that I was never able to have children, or grandchildren. My husband is 15 years older than I am, and so I don’t know who, if anyone, will be there for me when the time comes. I don’t know if there will be anyone to take any interest in my clutter, much less care enough to want to scrub out my grubby corners. I can’t dwell on that for any length of time, because there are too many seeds of despair inside of that line of thinking. So I have to stay focused on here and now, on what I DO have, which is a healthy reservoir of stamina and ability, and a healthy husband who still thrives on staying busy, and focus also on what I CAN do NOW to minimize the clutter and number of corners that will need our brooms and attention in the years yet to come.
We’ve been tossing around the idea of moving. We saw a house we both like. It’s significantly smaller than this house, but it’s all on one floor (with a finished basement), an attached garage and a huge beautiful lot. We would have to downsize in terms of clutter, but we would end up with a house that would be easier to maintain, a beautiful big yard that would provide us with space and opportunities that we don’t have right now and some beautiful walking paths within walking distance (right now, we have to drive to get just about anywhere). We’re already talking about buying the backyard swing we’ve both been hankering for, and growing fruit trees and a vegetable garden…and the outdoor clothesline which our current townhouse bylaws don’t allow us to have here.
Although it would not be an easy move for us in many ways, the benefits are beginning to outweigh the difficulties. And after seeing firsthand what happens to corners and ceilings after years of neglect by people who simply haven’t been able to bend down or reach up to clean them, I’m even more interested in a lifestyle change that will make it easier for us – and our corners – to stay healthy and bright as long as possible as we grow older.
From an old Sunday School song I used to sing as a child:
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar;
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are. (Ina D. Ogdon, 1913)
“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.” (St Augustine)