Cleaning house





By Caitlin Kelly

It’s what I do when I’m angry, bored or stressed — and boy, does the apartment look great!

Silverplate polished, windows washed, rugs vacuumed, counters scrubbed, stove-top gleaming…


But this is also a time in my life, long overdue, of cleaning house in the rest of my life:


Ditching worn-out friendships

Time to lose people with whom I have little in common now beyond some shared history but little joy and pleasure in their company — and likely, theirs in mine. I’ve allowed too many unsatisfying relationships to masquerade as friendship. And my cancer diagnosis and treatment, inevitably, quickly thinned the herd of people I once considered friends, but who couldn’t spare a minute for a call, email, card or visit. Here’s a powerful essay on the subject from Thought Catalog.


Seeking newer, better clients for my skills

That might mean negotiating for more money or less onerous demands from the people I choose to work with. It will definitely mean dropping those who drive me nuts with their disorganization while being more selective upfront about to whom I sell my labor.


Setting tighter boundaries around my time, attention and energy

Yes, I’ll still dick around on Twitter  and Insta, (one of the joys of self-employment is the need to remain visible on social media, as well as interesting and credible.) But spending more time reading books, visiting museums, galleries and shows will serve me much better than sitting alone in the apartment to save money. That which brings joy and inspiration — yes! That which enervates and sparks envy, begone!


Tossing out stained, worn-out clothing, shoes, towels, linens and all other items I just don’t like, never use and want gone!


I recently took a stack of good, thick (unused) towels to our local dog shelter, which they use to keep the animals warm and dry. I’ve clung for too many years to too many items for fear I won’t be able to afford to replace them. Fear is not a great place to live.


Upgrading the quality of what I buy, see, eat and experience

The obvious cliche of getting older — (and a scary diagnosis) — is valuing what we have and making  sure to savor the best of what we can afford. Cheaping out and defaulting, always, to frugality has helped me to save a significant amount for retirement — but it’s come at the cost of constant self-denial and deprivation. Enough!

35 thoughts on “Cleaning house

  1. Could not agree more, Caitlin! I’m not much for resolutions but the new year is a good time to take stock and clean house. We just took down the Christmas tree and I’m eyeing the storage space for reorg…out with the old, in with making the most of what you have! Bonne année from across the pond!

  2. i love this. so important to do for so many reasons. you’ll feel lighter and healthier and happier, i’m quite sure of that. it has certainly worked for me -)

  3. Hey, you’re back! I’m glad you’re shaking off the stuff that’s weighing you down. I’m hoping to do some of that myself this year. I know it wasn’t very long and I would never begrudge you the time or space, but I was a little like my cat, sitting by the door waiting for me to pull in the driveway, so YAY! I just read that cat bit over again and it sorta comes off a little more than bloggy. I want to say that is not what I mean but it sounded so good in my head, just as a bit of language, that I didn’t want to change it. I’m sure you got that as soon as you read it, credit where it’s due. Onward!
    I can’t wait to read (And write) what’s next. Good one.

  4. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, thanks for another thought-provoking column. I’ve told you before that I always find your blog posts very interesting, but I want to add that I admire your frankness, too.
    In December I did a major clean out of my house; I made massive donations of stuff to Goodwill and also Habitat for Humanity (including my late husband’s wood workshop tools).. Because Habitat’s drivers aren’t supposed to haul items up or down stairs, I had to carry everything up from the basement myself, which probably burned about 2 weeks of calories in 2 days. The house-wide reduction in clutter has made such a big difference.
    I’m glad you donated the towels to the animal shelter. I volunteer at my local shelter so I’m well aware of their needs. BTW, shelters always need volunteers to come walk the dogs and play with the cats. Animals that are better socialized are more likely to be adopted. Without volunteers doing this, the staff probably can only get the animals out of their cages for a few minutes each day, so they can go out and relieve themselves.

      1. Jan Jasper

        If you do get a dog, please please please adopt from a shelter. When people buy from pet shops and breeders, they are directly causing “excess” animals at shelters to be euthanized. For folks who prefer a specific breed, there are breed-specific rescue organizations.

      2. Jan Jasper

        Sounds like you had a nice break. And congrats on the new anchor client! About adopting a rescue dog: Shelters have a lot of large dogs, maybe because they are harder to place. But shelters also have small dogs – often from elderly people who pass away or go into a nursing home. That said,having an animal can be expensive – food, vet bills, monthly pills for flea, tick and heartworm prevention, etc. So volunteering at a local shelter can be a great solution – the animals are so glad to see visitors,, and you can get some dog cuddles without spending a dime!

    1. So true. I just (gasp!) paid a LOT of $$$$$ (full price at Saks) for a funky pair of Italian black leather boots. It felt soooooo decadent to pay full price and wear something new again. What a pleasure.

      Yes, I do feel better!

      1. The issue for me has never been “throwaway” fashion — not my style or taste. Frugality or just down times have meant buying only on sale or from consignment shops — still wearing a pair of suede Ferragamo loafers I paid $100 at a consignment shop maybe 15 years ago. I buy the best quality possible then get sick to death of wearing it sooooooo long!

  5. Welcome back, Caitlin. It sounds like you really figured out where your priorities lie, and will be putting yourself first beginning immediately. It was obviously a successful time away for yourself, congratulations! It’s good to see you back …

    1. Thanks, Susan.

      I took a serious break for two weeks — NO paid work, no pitching. Lots of reading, napping, seeing friends. Then, an amazing start to 2019 with a new anchor client, which will offer me some financial stability.

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