cleaning house


I took apart the 1000 piece puzzle that sat on my living room coffee table for the past six months.

It took weeks to put the puzzle together, in early January,  with the help of the members of my household.  Obsessively I would sit in the mornings finding similar colored pieces and patterns in the hopes of finding a piece to fit in the gaping holes.    An hour would pass me by as I studied them again and again hoping to fill things in.

The puzzle came to symbolize my life.  I yearned to piece it together, to fill in the gaps and make sense of it all.  I looked for patterns and straight edges to create my four borders and sorted similar colors together to see how they fit.   Every piece had its place.


I used to spend a lot of my time scrutinizing individual pieces; wondering where they would go?   When it came down to the last few I couldn’t fathom what was missing or how they fit in. Where did these come from? 

But after stepping way and changing my point of view, the pieces finally fit in ways I had never considered.  Sometimes life has a way of doing this to us; throwing us for a loop where we begin to wonder why am I here?  What is my purpose?  How do I fit in?  I had lost sight of the big picture and was centered on individual pieces; insignificant things that really are placeholders or bridges to connect dissimilar ideas or people.

For years I rejected individual pieces of my life that didn’t seem to belong.  But I’ve realized all things have a place and meaning; the building blocks for the picture I am creating and constantly changing.  I ponder the framed masterpiece my kids will see in the end; post mortem.  I imagine my obituary slideshow with my music playlist in the funeral parlor.  I don’t wish for my kids to be maudlin and sad, I want them to celebrate the life we shared; to remember.


This is why I snap pictures and scrapbook.  I long for my kids to see their stories, to read them when I no longer am here to remind them.  The albums my mother created may have mold but they are my prized possessions.  When we emptied her home the furniture, household goods and clothes were given away; the trophies and accolades of my childhood thrown in trash bins.  They had collected dust like neglected art in a mausoleum.  Only the framed photographs, albums and fine china remained in my possession.  They fit in four boxes, two of them still in my garage storage.  The china displays in my dining room; used when I entertain large groups of people.  My mother was known for her hospitality and it is this that I inherited from her.

Yesterday summer finally arrived in my household as I broke apart my puzzle and mixed the pieces up in its box.  I hesitated as I dismantled a small corner; thinking I could still put it back together again.  It took me fifteen minutes to dislodge one thousand pieces and when I placed the cover on the box and shook it for good measure, it was done.

My school year schedules and busy weekends concluded this past weekend with the fourth of July.  My volunteer commitments are on hiatus for the next few weeks.  I do not come home from work to place another hat upon my head.  These long, hot, days of summer, are now my own.  My slate is clean.


Gone are the summers with planned excursions, academic workbooks or summer camp commitments.  This year is different.

I am allowing us time in our nothing box to relax and find spontaneity in the little things.

I began to clean house and without prompting, my three sons looked at the calendar to do their assigned chores.  Five hours of work were accomplished in one; the five occupants contributing their fair share.  Slowly our house repairs are being fixed; piece by excruciating piece.  My patience has waned thin on this home front but Rome wasn’t build in a day.  Our house is our living masterpiece; the puzzle that continues to need maintenance.  My floor is jagged and needs to be filled in.  But I must build one piece at a time, day-by-day, year-after-year.  In the grand scheme of life, my floor is a minor detail.  If the picture of my home is taken; it is the occupants in the home that matter,  The floor is unseen.

  • I continually learn to accept the pieces of my life; the good and the bad.
  • I consistently work to dismantle the clutter; filing and storing things for access.
  • I actively create open space to make room for new things.

The busywork is done and summer has arrived.  My house is clean.


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