How To Spring Clean Away Some Of Your Existential Dread

The world is ugly. Time to clean the fuck up.

Guys. My life is a literal mess right now. Look at this shit.

It looks bright and colorful, but trust me: It’s gross. There’s stuff everywhere! Everything is blanketed with dust. Crusty old bloodprints from the time I cut my ankle while shaving and didn’t notice until I put my glasses on approx. 30 minutes later three weeks ago are dried into the carpet. Chaos reigns in both my physical sanctum and my brainspace, and understandably so! My whole world has been upended.

In the months since the Racist Rapist Russian-Ratified Ruiner was elected to the highest executive office of our nation, we’ve all borne witness to unthinkable ugliness. One Tennessee friend transplanted to the Northeast currently fears losing her academic immigration research job to tax cuts for billionaires. Another close friend was bullied out of her teaching job in the town adjacent to mine in the aftermath of the election — a group of her middle-school-aged students physically cornered her in her classroom and demanded to know if she voted for Trump. When she refused to answer, the kids tracked down her private social media accounts and subjected her to a sustained campaign of online threats and harassment. Horrifyingly, the students avoided any sort of punishment or even discouragement for their intimidation of an instructor; her fellow teachers and school administrators not only condoned the students’ behavior but did even worse themselves, championing a male teacher who physically threatened her on school grounds. A historically black cemetery housing and honoring remains of my city’s denizens dating back to the early 1900s was vandalized last month. A beautiful home near the university that’s long been recognizable for its array of cheerful decorative rainbow flags has been attacked multiple times this year, with its LGBTQ occupants waking to find the flags ripped down and mutilated animal viscera strewn around the property.

In the months since the election, we’ve all borne witness to unthinkable ugliness.

On an extremely local, like, my-own-body level, I’ve been struggling too. Shortly before the election I had finally begun coming to grips with a traumatizing assault I endured in the waning months of the George W. administration. Last year I was diagnosed with long-term chronic PTSD stemming from the experience, which explained a helluva lot of the ultimately destructive and unsustainable coping mechanisms I built to function ostensibly “normally” throughout my twenties. Leading up to last year’s election, I couldn’t (and didn’t) believe that anyone who purported to care about me or any other woman would support a repeatedly-accused-of-rape candidate who openly bragged about his ability to get away with sexual assault. Now I know without any doubt that many of the people I live amongst would rather see me raped any number of times over before they’d tolerate the sight of a woman who physically resembles me in the White House. That’s heavy, man — a physically heavy weight that I feel weighing on my person. The abusive drunk who lives across the fence yells at his put-upon wife more loudly since Inauguration Day. The bros across the street happily shout domestic violence “jokes” at their female guests during their three-or-four-times-a-week porch parties. Their girlfriends’ voices are very quiet.

Perhaps the most chilling part of the whole scenario is that I know, I know!!, I’ve got it “good”! I am white. I am cis. I am thin. I am straight-passing. I am a natural born American citizen. I am relatively financially secure. I am insured, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, for at least the remainder of this year, hopefully long enough to take care of some serious health-care shit I need to see treated if I hope to live ablely past middle age. None of my immediate family members are theocratic fascists. I have a lot of love in my life, and an abundance of beauty. So many people are in such worse circumstances that I feel guilty for the bounty with which I’ve been blessed, and I feel even guiltier for feeling so badly when I’ve been unfairly granted so much more than so many others are afforded. Writing this column makes me feel despicable sometimes, in this climate. How dare I focus on beauty when the culture surrounding me is so bleak?

But focusing on beauty is what I do. It’s how I keep moving, one bright shiny vision at a time, and in an embarrassingly grand proclamatory sense, I really feel that my major purpose in life is to create and share beauty and hope with others. To do that, I’ve got to take my cue from my community members who repaired the vandalism in our desecrated cemetery and decorated their houses with rainbow flags in solidarity with the Pride house whose banners were stolen.

It’s time to clean the fuck up.

First step of spring cleaning: gotta clear everything off of the floor. Like this tower of ribbons! I recall buying these individually for specific purposes, but really cannot now fathom how they came to be strewn across the floor to intermingle with stray wig hairs. I must have had my reasons.

The dust situation in this room is currently sending me into an existential crisis over my own disgustingness. How much of this coating is comprised of my own shed cells, do you think? No matter! It’s about to be gone.

My preferred dust wipe-up method is damp cloth followed by a dry cloth. Then, if the object I just dusted is made of wood, sometimes I put this lemon-scented furniture polish on it. It’s what my mom used when I was a kid, so it just smells like cleanliness to me. (You’ve got to spray the polish onto a cloth and then apply it to the wood, not just spray it directly on the surface to be polished! Otherwise your neat-freak life partner is apt to spring unannounced out of a shadow, shrieking in potential polish-streak induced agony.)

I hurled all of my earrings into a pile on the floor to get ’em the hell out of dodge while I dusted, obviously. In attempting to hang them back up neatly on my little self-designed wood-and-wire shelf-hangy contraptions, I was forced to confront the reality that the sad majority of my ear wires were coated with a fine layer of, like…worn earhole gunk. GROSS. Alcohol to the rescue.

I like to store post-backed earrings in those little daily pill-separator things you can buy at the drug store, removing the MON TUES WED so forth with rubbing alcohol. It’s a nice storage system, particularly once washed thoroughly to remove errant ear-skin flakes!

My nail polish went into its own pile on the floor at the onset of Spring Dusting Spree 2017. The damp cloth/dry cloth routine is, again, the easiest and most thorough method to clean all of those dusty lil’ bottles.

A Dusting Spree is also an excellent time to sort through your polish and toss the stuff that’s beyond resuscitation. If it’s 5+ years old and looks like this, it’s dead. RIP, purple e.l.f. glitter.

I store most of my jewelry in a totally impractical but nonetheless appealing-to-me assortment of boxes. This system *does* keep the jewelry inside the boxes relatively dust-free, but you’ve gotta dust the boxes themselves. OBVIOUSLY I’m always going to look inside every box I dust as I dust it, that’s the fun part of the whole ordeal. Look at all this cool shit I found!

Good work stashing all those treasures, Past Me! Dolly and the cross pendant are cherished reminders of my late grandmother; the lovely little lady-in-profile brooch is a gift from my uncle-in-law and once belonged to my husband’s maternal grandmom. Looking at them makes me feel closer to the women who came before me and stronger to fight for a better future for those who will follow.

Next up: dusting all of the jewelry I chose to hang decoratively out in the open, such as these faux pearls and this baller-ass triple-boob spaceship necklace my friend Jaime made me. I can’t help but smile whenever I take a moment to look — really look — at the Mothership.

All of the dusting and ear-wire cleaning that happened between the first earring photo above and this point took approximately a thousand years, but look!! Jewelry Corner is so beautiful now! I heard angry across-the-fence man shouting as I worked, but his words somehow didn’t carry as clearly as they did earlier when my treasure stash was trashed.

(Sidebar: I was so impressed with myself for tidying Jewelry Corner that I fully abandoned all attempts at cleaning the rest of the room and just admired my tiny corner-shrine to cleanliness for a week. It made for a lovely way-too-small oasis in the roomful of chaos until I started cleaning again.)

I used to wash my wigs with mild shampoo. Now I prefer to soak them in sports-wash detergent for finicky fabrics plus a little bit of fabric softener — makes ’em much easier to detangle later! I cleaned the sink first, obviously; I’m not a barbarian.

No worries about brushing/detangling wigs ’til they’re dry. You just hang them up somewhere to drip, and drip, and drip and drip and drip no matter HOW thoroughly you’ve towel-dried them. Wig-washing is a very wet undertaking.

And then…shit. I’d already cleaned the sink, the sports wash is still RIGHT THERE, might as well wash my bras while I’m at it, right?


Fucking deal with the sight of my drying wigs and bras, screeching orc-men on either side of my abode.

Wigs are so gorgeous when they’re freshly washed, dried, and brushed! For storage, I gently wrap them up and tuck them inside-out-inside-themselves like Popples, then seal them up in big Ziplock bags until the time comes to wear them once more.

Oh sweet merciful goddess, now I’ve got to deal with my makeup station.

Everything is everywhere. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be. Everything is covered in more dust than anywhere else in the entire house because most of the makeup products I use are essentially just little jars of colorful dust that flies everywhere when I brush it onto my skin and then settles onto everything in the vicinity.

I have this great rule for myself with eyeliner: I never put a stick back in the eyeliner jar until I’ve resharpened it so it’ll be ready for the next use! Unfortunately, sometimes I follow the rule by just leaving a bunch of eyeliners lying out all over my workspace instead of sharpening them and putting them away. Ugh. And lipsticks? Like, what’s the point when everything’s fucking filthy? Why would I ever put them back into their color-coordinated drawer storage system when I can just add to the eye-searing chaos and distract my eyes from the grime?? WHY DON’T I JUST BURN THE WHOLE HOUSE DOWN, DOESN’T THAT SOUND LIKE THE BEST PLAN FOR DEALING WITH EVERYTHING???

No, look to the tidied Jewelry Corner and take a breath, self. We can do this.

I typically clean my makeup brushes with water, shampoo, and a squirt of isopropyl alcohol.

Brushes with lipstick or otherwise gooey stuff on ’em get the goop removed with this Sephora brush cleaner prior to the shampoo+alcohol treatment. It smells a bit like kerosene and strips oil-based product like nothing I’ve ever seen. Interestingly, I found this larger bottle of the brush cleaner for sale in the brush section of Sephora for five dollars cheaper than the travel-size bottle of the same product displayed on a stand by the register.

Then I squish the freshly washed brush-heads into something resembling their ideal shape and let ’em air-dry. So shiny! So unlikely to break out my skin next time I use ’em. ❤

Here, friends, I apologize. I fully intended to take photos of my entire makeup organizational process to show you how I get down, but instead went into an ecstatic cleaning frenzy and just DID the damn thing and then suddenly it was all done. Organize your stuff in whatever way best suits your own preferences, says I.

Clean your mirrors too, of course! A razor blade takes off sticky residue (thanks, beloved neat-freak life partner!), then you hit the whole thing with a damp cloth followed by glass-cleaning product. This is my fave:

These are my girls Taylor, Haeinous Jr., Maddie, and Liz.

They started life as basic styrofoam heads from my local wig shop and then acquired decoration according to their personalities as assigned by me. They do not enjoy wearing cobwebs for extended periods of time but *do* appreciate gentle dusting with a damp cloth. Like the friends they are named for, they like to wear hats! It makes them feel fancy.

The Girls look so lovely when they’re clean that I really didn’t have a choice: I had to dust everything else surrounding them.

You may have noticed a running theme in my Jenn-space: I like to keep a lot of art created by people I love in my line of sight. It’s a continual, constantly generating power source for me, particularly when I’m not avoiding looking at it due to accumulated dust.

The last aesthetic obstacle remaining (besides that pile of art-that-still-needs-to-be-hung-in-the-first-place) is to tack all the stuff that’s already exploded off of the walls back into place securely. Like, what even the shit is going on here? Why did I ever think for even a second that double-sided scotch tape would be sufficient to keep my long-hoarded most-beloved magazine cut-outs affixed to my walls?

Framing art is great; it’s what you should do, really. If you’re me and you get irritated with the gleam of glass over artwork and like to move things around regularly, however, you might find that a cheap-ass little box of straight pins can really facilitate your decorating preferences.

Straight pins make teensy holes that don’t typically require patching, which takes a shit-ton of where-to-hang-what planning pressure off. They hold more steadily than any non-wall-wrecking tape or tack, and they don’t make a bigger hole if you choose to bang ’em all the way into the wall rather than leave some length sticking out. Straight pins: the renter/gallerist’s delight! I hammer them into the wall the same way I would a nail, just, gently, because they bend easily. You can also use hat pins with pretty pearly heads for the same purpose! But beware, it’s easy to break decorative pin-heads with a hammer.

Voilà! (Yeah, that’s me on my own wall with Elizabeth Taylor. I feel like Liz would approve of the practice of hanging a self-portrait immediately above your own mirror. It’s fabulous, for fuckssake!)

In re-pinning the rest of the unframed art on the walls, I remembered not only that Jake Gyllenhaal starred in a movie adaptation of Prince of Persia in 2010, but also that I pinned a photo of him in costume in said horribly-panned-by-everyone-including-me role to my wall….last year, in 2016.

Man, the world might be dark in many extremely serious ways, but HAAAAAAAAAhahahahaha does noticing that picture bring me a fleeting instant of intense joy.

Oh yeah! The blood-prints previously mentioned in the seventh sentence of this piece! I already vacuumed; as this is ostensibly a tutorial I definitely should have included an instruction to vacuum way earlier, oops. Shop vacs are for winners! And now I feel a bit badly for neglecting to take a photo of mine. The salient lesson here is: Always vacuum before attempting to sponge gore out of your carpet.

Hydrogen peroxide is the blood-eater. It might take a bit of patience and persistence, but it WILL do the job. Then you can clean the post-blood-clean-up scene with soap and water, and then it will be CLEAN-clean, really clean.

At this point, finally, for the first time in months! I actually felt like putting makeup on!

Just kidding; that is a bald-faced lie. All I truly want to do still is dive into the now-uncovered big bean bag and fall into a never-ending sleep, but come on! I can’t very well publish a Make Your Face post without including a photo of my face in it, and my makeup area is SO CLEAN now! I owe it to myself, and you, dear readers, to slap on A Face.

Here’s the pile of product I chose:

Have I solved any of the greater problems facing the world yet? No. But I feel a tiny bit more in control of my surroundings, an eensy bit less frightened, an iota more empowered to resist the unacceptable. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go tell those dudes across the street to shut the fuck up with their loud-ass misogynist blathering.

Spring Cleaning 2017 has just begun.

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