I've been away and wanted to post about my positive experience.
I spent two weeks with my family at my father in law's house. My husband and his siblings wanted to have a weekend celebration for their father, who turned 80. My husband and I decided to make a vacation out of it and get there a couple weeks before the event so that the kids would have time with their grandfather.
a bit of background: My mother in law died in 1997, at the age of 48. She had an aggressive cancer and it was only 8 months from diagnosis to death. When she died, the two older boys were grown & out of the house, but the younger kids were 17 and 15. The 15 year old (the only girl out of 4) took over the role of her mom, cooking and cleaning for the whole family while also going to school, babysitting and doing a paper route. When she went to college, her brother stayed behind, attending college sporadically, getting into all kinds of mischief, including, I believe, setting up a robbery of his own house. (What kind of thief breaks into a house, leaving nothing disturbed but knows EXACTLY where to find the 2 most expensive pieces of heirloom jewelry? And how did this thief know about a computer in the basement and why did he decide to open the computer and remove a particular chip instead of simply stealing the computer?) For the next decade or so, he and my father-in-law lived like bachelors. The house, as you can imagine fell to ruin, much of it, untouched since my mother in law's death. Every time we visited for holidays etc. I would be desperate to clean, but would not even know where to start and everything I saw just lead to another thing that needed to be fixed... on top of that, my little brother in law, in his 20s, was supposed to be helping around the house with cleaning and chores as part of 'rent' and anytime i attempted to do anything, by father in law would get angry at HIM because it was supposed to be his job to clean. The kitchen would be waste high in garbage and recycling, but no one would tell me how to get into the garage (separate from the house, under a code) to take it out because it was my brother in law's job to take it out. He, of course, was never home, and the chaos, garbage piled up. I would get SO depressed there. My husband didn't seem to notice or care and neither did the other men in the family. They sat in front of the TV watching various series on DVD. His sister would try to clean up, but she has a high stress/demanding job in another city and cannot be there for more than 2 days and (understandably) would rather spend time with her dad than clean a hopeless mess). usually after 2 days, my soul would be crushed and I would give up too.
The brother moved out a few years ago, but it was still difficult for me to clean up while there because i had an infant, then a toddler, then and infant AND a toddler. I would manage to get the kitchen and the bathrooms clean, but couldn't do much else. To top it off: there is a cat. My husband AND my daughter have severe cat allergy. I have to dose my daughter with Benedryl, Zyrtec, Flovent (inhaler) AND Albuterol for wheezing. The albuterol makes her hyper and angry and violent. She punches and kicks and gets really angry and I can see in her eyes when she gets like that that she is even afraid of herself. She has given me a fat lip and bloody nose while we've been there while on albuterol.
So this time I made a decision before we went there. I was going to clean that house. And... try to fix anything that I could fix. I decided I could not put up with living in filth and I refuse to subject my children to it. At first, my husband would take the girls somewhere with my father in law and I would make up some excuse to stay home so I could clean. Anytime he saw me cleaning he would tell me to stop ("no! that is not necessary! Sit down and have a drink!") and i would back off for a while. But finally I thought, f*ck it. I am cleaning this house and i refuse to stop. It is work that HAS to be done and someone's got to do it and that someone is me. before DH's siblings arrived I was cleaning out the bedrooms where they were going to sleep. There was enough cat hair stuck to the drapes to make 3 large sweaters plus spider eggs, dust bunnies - ok dust rhinoceroses - and everything was covered in 2 cm of dust. Oh yeah: and clutter. papers, books, change... wrappers, clothes... you name it. All over the floor. My father in law kept telling me to stop cleaning, that all they needed to do was put sheets on the beds. well... all the bedding was covered in cat hair, there was ONE pillow (for a family of four) the rooms were filthy and one room had been a sewing room, so there were dozens of pins and needles on the floor and other sharp dangerous sewing materials within reach of the 2 year old & 10 month old that would be in there. Over the next week I scrubbed the kitchen floor, I washed the living room drapes (who knew? they are white!) Scrubbed the food-splatter marks off the dining room wall. cut dead branches off the plants. DUSTED the plants. washed all the couch cushion covers, vacuumed and dusted everywhere cleaned the laundry room in the basement because there was not one surface that was not filthy and I could not take our clothes out of the washer and put them into the dryer without touching something that would leave grime on myself or the clothes. I scrubbed the rust and paint and grime off the sink down there til it shone like a silver Christmas ball. Took the crumpled clothes and towels that had been on the floor YEARS and put them through the wash and folded them. I vacuumed the steps to the basement that had been caked in cobwebs, cat litter, dust etc.... many other little projects... Everyone was astounded. Everyone was happy. My brothers in law and my husband trimmed some trees in the yard and before they put the ladder away I went around the house with it and washed all the windows. went inside and while my husband and sister in law prepared a huge birthday dinner I cleaned the INSIDE of the windows. The result was amazing, and I opened ALL of the curtains and let the light in. It is a totally different house now. When I came inside from cleaning the windows, my father in law, who had previously been so upset/embarrassed about my cleaning frenzy stood up and said simply, "Thank you very much." and I almost cried.
I didn't get everything done that I wanted to, but have a list for our next trip. This time, I will insist that DH help!!!
For me, this was a huge lesson in doing things a chunk at a time, something every day and also just learning to not let myself feel hopeless. I have felt all year like my life was not in my own control and this showed me that I can really make a difference - not just for me - if I use my strength and make changes.
Hyperfocus? Maybe a little. But I DID recognize the things I could manage and things that would just be ridiculous, and only took on the projects that I knew I could handle. How many times in my life have i started something only to realize halfway through that i couldn't finish it because it was simply too much??
Anyway - feeling happy and ready to take on my second year in this city. Determined to be happy. determined to stop feeling overwhelmed & worthless.
Hope y'all are well!