Photo by Jason Berg
Over the weekend, we took everything out of our bedroom except the bed and one dresser. We took the blinds off the windows and removed the over-the-door hooks, loaded with sweatshirts and robes. The throw rugs are gone. Even all the dust bunnies have been vacuumed up.
<Insert enormous, contented sigh here.>
I would love to have a bedroom with just a bed in it—a peaceful, monk-like sanctuary for rest and clear thoughts.
Unfortunately, this wide open, airy reality can’t be a permanent one. We removed and cleaned everything in preparation to paint all the trim. Our house is almost 100 years old, so there’s lots of molding around the windows, large baseboards, beveled doors and a picture rail where the walls meet the ceiling. Since I moved into the house, all that bedroom trim has been dark green. Jason and I have always wanted to paint it white, but we put off what we knew would be a big job, requiring many coats of paint.
When we’re done painting, we have to face all the stuff we removed from the room. It didn’t magically disappear. It was pushed into closets and stacked temporarily in the girls’ bedrooms. Sure, we can get rid of lots of it, and maybe keep some of it in the basement (ACK—the basement is another story). But we still need some of our stuff in our bedroom.
In the meantime, though, I find I’ve been spending lots of time lying on the bed, petting Maeve and looking out the naked windows at the leaves budding on the old black walnut tree.
The rooms of self: some are clean, some are cluttered
I think the rooms of a home are a perfect metaphor for self. For me, the rooms work sort of like this: The kitchen is the part of me that nurtures and gives, and uses my hands to love others. The dining room represents my love for community and hospitality—for sharing what I have with others. The living room is the room of my intellect, where I read and listen, converse and think about ideas.
And the bedroom? That’s my private space. Yes, it represents intimacy in my marriage. But it’s private in other ways. Private thoughts and emotions, private fears, and even private messes reside there. This is the door that automatically gets closed when company comes to the house. It’s the room that embarrasses and annoys, as well as comforts and offers rest. It’s the place where I can be utterly myself.
We each have our reasons for closing doors. When it comes to my physical bedroom, not the metaphoric one, it’s pretty much always a mess. One of my last-minute house cleaning tricks before company comes involves taking all the random things from the living room and dining room that I don’t know quite what to do with, and hiding them in the bedroom. As you can imagine, over time we’ve amassed quite a collection of…stuff.
Cleaning out the bedroom on Saturday (OK, it’s time for me to admit Jason did all that work, good man that he is) was not just a matter of moving a few pieces of furniture, a book and some slippers. Our bedroom was a true wreck. In addition to the one laundry basket full of…what?…there was another one packed with lone socks, the girls’ outgrown clothes, and various items of clothing in need of hand-washing. My stack of half-read books and old New Yorkers had grown into a toppling pile on the floor by the bed, mixed in with some used tissues and dust bunnies.
I should probably stop sharing the details now, before I lose all of my friends. (And Mom, you can stop cringing now.)
How much inner spring cleaning is realistic?
I don’t want to over-extend the metaphor, but I’m tempted to say something more about our private-public spaces, and our desire to hide stuff behind close doors so we can present a bright, clean face. And I’m tempted to say something about spring cleaning—how all that junk can be moved around and temporarily organized. Some of it can even be gotten rid of. But there are those things we need, that are just a part of us. A completely empty room is not a very useful or interesting one—at least not long-term, to someone like me.
I can be refreshed by spending some time in a completely empty bedroom, but it’s not a realistic approach to my life, and who I am. A private space is a good thing. And if I face some of the junk, and really deal with it, maybe I’ll feel good about leaving the bedroom door open a bit more often.