Episode 131: How Cleaning Your House and Addiction Are Related

Cleaning. Organizing. Decluttering. These are three words that helped me when I loved someone suffering from addiction.

Around midnight, when he promised to come home after work, but the front door still had not opened, I peeked into my children’s rooms to see them sleeping peacefully. I took a few more steps down the hallway to the linen closet.

Instead of worrying about where he was, for the last 4 hours, I decided to do something I had been putting off for months: organize my linen closet. I had purchased a new mattress and the old sheets no longer fit.

Slowly opening the creaky door, I let out a big sigh and admired my hard work.

Order. Everything in its correct place.

When life felt so out of control, I knew I could always open my linen closet and see pretty baskets and bins carefully labeled, crisp white towels folded and stacked and sheets organized according to mattress size.

Martha Stewart would be proud.

This little closet was bringing me joy.

It was a small cozy space that was thoughtful. Intentional. My linen closet represented what I was capable of.

The final result of my project meant that I could successfully remove every item, judge whether I needed it, and only keep what I wanted. And get rid of anything that no longer belonged in my life.

It was a small victory but I knew this exercise had greater meaning. If I could do this for a linen closet, where else could I use this simple system in my life?

Where else was I storing or holding on to unnecessary items?

Or even more convicting, who else was I holding onto but really needed to remove from my life?

What else and who else did I need to let go of?

When I was done with the project, I was left with two full garbage bags of linens to donate.

And even though I was tired, I knew, if I walked away and left the bags in the hallway or shoved them in a closet, they would linger for months. The project would be incomplete. I would not get full credit.

I needed to finish the work. Complete the steps. Follow through.

I hauled them down the stairs, opened the front door and loaded them into the trunk of my car.

The next morning after dropping off the kids to school I headed to Goodwill.

I handed my donation of sheets to the attendant sitting outside the building who was waiting to receive them. I realized I am not aware of what will happen to my items after I drop them off. I don’t know what this young man will do with them.

Will he wash them before putting them on display?

Will they be transported to another store?

I am not sure.

And here’s the truth: when we give something away – it’s no longer ours.

When we let go of something or someone – we are no longer tracking them.

I am not driving back every day to Goodwill to see what they have done with my bedding, because it’s no longer mine. I gave it away.

This is what it feels like to truly let go.

We surrender the need to find out what happens next. Our story with that possession has ended. Our emotional attachment might linger for a while, but if we have truly given it away, the sting will fade soon after.

I am not interested in where my bedding went.

I trust it will find a good place.

Maybe it will be used for a ghost costume for Halloween. Maybe it will be placed on the mattress of a newlywed.

But maybe not. Maybe it will end up in a landfill.

And if so, that is not my responsibility. I did the responsible thing. I used it for years, I cared for it by washing it, folding it, keeping it clean. But our time together has ended. It no longer fit my life. It couldn’t work no matter how hard I tried to make it fit.

My needs changed.

And so I donated it. I didn’t throw it out my car window. It’s not laying on the side of some highway. But if it ends up in the wrong hands, or if no one else chooses to purchase it – that is no longer my responsibility. I gave it away.

The same goes when you surrender your loved one. You have done your best with them, you’ve loved and you have cared for, you have tried to make it work and you’ve done everything you can to make it fit. But your needs have changed.

Lovingly give them back to God and surrender the idea that you are in control of their final destination. Where they end up on the spectrum of sobriety is no longer your job to track.

Holding onto them just in case – is cluttering your life.

Since my donation, I have replaced that old sheet with a crisp white organic cotton sheet that feels so soft and cozy. And it fits perfectly.

But I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my new closet and all my hard work if I wasn’t able to let go.

So now it’s my turn to ask you some questions…

Where are you storing or holding on to unnecessary items? Who are you holding onto but really need to remove from your life?

What else and who else do you need to let go of?

You can be honest. It’s just you and me and I don’t do judgment. I hope you take a few moments to answer.

Are you ready to take your healing to the next level?

Love Over Addiction is here for you.

Join thousands of women, just like you today.

Love Over Addiction is a private self-study recovery program just for women who love someone who drinks too much or suffers from substance use disorder.

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