Mental Health and the Art of Vacuum Maintenance


Cleaning house, erm apartment rather, is not a habit of mine. At least it didn’t used to be. It’s something I’m learning to do, semi-regularly. To be perfectly honest, for me, “cleaning” is still primarily about clearing the surface clutter, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and taking out the trash.

The good news is that since I started participating in the 28 Days To A New Me accountability and commitment groups in May, I’m cleaning more often. Initially, there were some days that meeting my commitment to be physically active was fulfilled by me setting a timer, putting on my headphones and tackling the accumulation of dirty dishes, junk mail, and dirty laundry, which had built up for more than a week or two.

Yes, I had succumbed to the symptoms of depression and fibromyalgia – cell deep pain and fatigue, hopelessness, apathy, and overwhelm that, some days, even taking care of basic personal hygiene was not even an afterthought, much less dealing with the clutter and chaos in my physical environment – which was a reflection of my inner state of being.

As you can imagine, by the time I would work up the will to clean, it felt like a marathon, just to be able to see the floors. By that point, vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping were often not an option because I didn’t have the stamina to keep going.

Over the past year and a half the marathon cleanings have gotten closer together. Other people have stepped into my struggles and helped out, here and there. This has happened as I’ve been committed to my DIY healing and recovery journey. Facing my history, my thoughts, actions and emotions after three decades of focusing on the externals dealing with the accumulated trickle down of embedded gunge and ground in grime, from a life time of sporadic, surface marathon cleanings – figuratively speaking – has contributed to my increasing desire to clean and restore order to my physical environment.

Yesterday was a mini-marathon cleaning day. This time I resolved to vacuum, sweep, and mop. So, I pulled out the vacuum, made sure the canister and primary filter were relatively clean and got to work. After a little while, it seemed as if I could smell the unique odor of an overheating motor, so faint I thought it was my imagination. The last time I’d vacuumed, a week earlier, I had pulled and torn a half inch thick accumulation of hair, string, and muck from around the brush. I thought that would make the vacuum work better when I used it this time.

After I was finished vacuuming, and the carpet appeared cleaner on the surface, I took the canister out to empty it, only to discover it didn’t have anything to dump out.

I checked the brush again. It had stuff wrapped around it, but nothing like before. Then I unhooked the main hose to see if there was anything blocking it. It was also empty. At that point I realized I was going to have to get whatever tools I had available, get on the floor, and get really dirty in order to discover the blockage.


It was a long, tedious, and filthy process. I had to make do with the tools at hand: an old pair of flimsy “hair cutting” scissors, a plastic handled butter knife, the only Phillips head screwdriver I could find, and the broom/dustpan set. I also had to call on skills from a much hated, short-lived job as a door-to-door Kirby sales rep 25 years ago.

As I poked, prodded, pushed, and pulled at the obstruction I found blocking the passage between the brush rotor and the main hose leading to the debris canister, I started reflecting that, in many ways, the process of digging out the obstruction that was preventing the constructive flow of dirt and debris from the floor, through the vacuum and into the canister so that it could be properly disposed of, has been much like my journey from barely functional in all areas of my life, to increasing functionality in many areas. Left unattended, the build up of pain, sorrow, low self-esteem, relational conflicts and ruptures would continually reach critical mass. Regardless of the new ideas, techniques, lessons, and methods, I never was able to bring myself to get down and dirty and to face cleaning out the obstructions that impaired my effectiveness.

However, making the decisions to do whatever it took and committing to action and using the tools available – even if they weren’t the ideal tools suited to the task – has made many differences and increasing effectiveness and functionality have been and continue to be the result. Especially when days like today happen and all kinds of resistance in circumstances, interpersonal relationships, and technology all go awry and threaten to derail me from my intention and purpose.

Cleaning out that vacuum was sweaty, filthy work, but necessary. Facing our inner selves, out thoughts, emotions, and histories can often feel worse, but is also necessary if we are to become the people we want to be and hope others see us as.

What obstructions have you had to clear? Are there hidden ones you haven’t gotten down and dirty with?




  1. I love the connections you made here! Isn’t it funny how life sends us these things to help us remember the lessons we’re supposed to be learning? And then they start popping up all over the place. Just this afternoon, in fact, I published a post about how my broken refrigerator made me realize some things about myself and my life. These may not be the most convenient ways to learn these lessons, but they are effective. 🙂


  2. I hate cleaning. I end up letting clutter pile up and having to do marathon cleanings too. I’ve tried cleaning regularly but I just hate it so much! I have no motivation to clean. I don’t mind clutter. I just know that there is a point when there is too much clutter.


    1. Amanda,
      I have spent 30+ years in the same place you describe. I am discovering that it’s easier to tackle and I hate it less when I do something each day, even for 5 – 10 minutes. It makes the marathons less hateful.



  3. What a great reflection Kina! Sometimes we just have to get down, dirty, and determined to get what we want even if we do not enjoy the process. Otherwise – delegate it and be free!


    1. Debra,
      Thank you. I’ve tried delegating – however, there really isn’t anyone to delegate to, especially when it come to taking care of my own mental health.

      Thanks for stopping by.



    1. Diana,
      I’ve tried relocating too. Problem was I carried the accumulation with me, figuratively and Literally! I have a huge box full of decades’ worth of paper clutter I’m going to have to tackle sooner or later, lol.



Comments are closed.