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After My Brain Injury, I Became a Hot Mess

Hot? Nah. But I have yet to come clean about my housework abilities

By Catherine KenwellPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
After My Brain Injury, I Became a Hot Mess
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I’m a hot mess.

OK, I’m not hot. I’m just a mess. And it’s nothing personal. It’s a matter of housekeeping.

Since my accident, my organizational skills have been hit-and-miss. Most days, and certainly when I’m out in public or engaged in the work I love, you’d never know that I have the most abhorrent, disjointed approach to tidying and cleaning my home.

Now, everyone who enters our home knows that I’m a horrible housekeeper. It’s evident the moment one approaches the front door. Dog-goober-decorated glass greets visitors, and through that glass, cat-fluff balls cling to the floor mats that lie unvacuumed and askew. Depending on the season, there is likely a mixture of salt, sand and detritus dancing on the tiles.

Enter the main house, and the pine floors are scratched and unkempt; the kitchen counter is cluttered with nomadic items that belong elsewhere. Translucent silver dust sleeps atop the antique china cabinets. Dog and cat toys—likely ‘Hockey’ and ‘Owl’—are strewn across the floor.

There’s an emery board on the coffee table, along with assorted papers I may or may not need to reference for something I’m writing next week. An intriguingly worn, four-foot piece of lumber is wedged under the TV stand—it’s for a shelf I’m building, someday when I can find the hardware to go with it. Christmas lights on the mantel are festive any time of year, I tell myself, until I remember that the cat chewed through the cord and the lights don’t work anymore.

Climb the stairs at your own risk. They do get vacuumed once a week, but that’s not enough to keep the cream-colored carpet from transforming to black shag, courtesy of the cat. Open one of three doors—I’ll pick door number 3—and you’ll uncover one of my biggest secrets. I can’t put things away or I will forget I have them. This is most true with clothing. I do indeed hang up clothing in closets; I have plenty of drawers in which beautiful, forgotten clothing resides. If I don’t see what I own to help dress myself without thought, I don’t have anything. Hence, there is always a pair or two of jeans, likely folded but perhaps not, ready to jump into at a moment’s notice. Underwear, in drawers, is within reach. Several sweaters, shirts, the stuff I don’t need to brain-translate, are piled on the bed. Socks, within reach—likely in a drawer, but just as likely in the laundry basket that I haven’t had the attention span to empty.

While I sometimes notice the general untidiness—the items within eyesight that have better homes elsewhere, the dust bunnies, the boxes of unused items that lurk around each corner—I am not moved to organize. Since my ‘big’ concussion, I have lost my ability and my motivation to straighten, arrange and order.

I know I’m not alone in this. You might be thinking, I’m just a lazy housekeeper, or I should get off my fat bum and tidy up. Or you might think, oh yeah, you don’t like to tidy either. It’s no big thing.

But it’s a big thing with me. I’ve never truly enjoyed housework, but I’ve always done it. I used to be obsessed with tidiness. My favorite tool was a toothbrush, so I could clean even the tiniest areas.

Now, my frontal lobe laughs and says, hey, your brain’s broken, you can’t make the connection between seeing dust and cleaning it.

It’s true: if I'm able to tackle the entire laundry cycle—you know, gathering, washing, drying or hanging to dry, and folding (which rarely happens during one 24-hour period) you can bet that I will leave it sitting in the laundry room, nicely folded, until I need a pair of socks and I run down two flights of stairs to get…one pair of socks from the basket. It takes me a lot of cognitive wherewithal to pick up all the socks and put them in my sock drawer. The entire basket? Waaay too much overwhelm.

So, while I can write and do art and take meetings and keep my schedule somewhat organized, I’m inept at housekeeping. Everyone has a fault or two. At least now I've come clean about it.

To compensate for my inabilities, I’ve developed some odd household rules. The old ‘five-second rule’ when a food item falls to the floor? That no longer exists. I just assume it’s covered in animal hair, so I enlist the dog to clean it up for me. He does a better job of cleaning up anyway.

personality disorder

About the Creator

Catherine Kenwell

I live with a broken brain and PTSD--but that doesn't stop me! I'm an author, artist, and qualified mediator who loves life's detours.

I co-authored NOT CANCELLED: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19. I also publish horror stories.

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