Rachel Davis’ 63-Day Post-Breakup Cleaning Extravaganza


For the 63rd day in a row, I found myself sitting alone in my now sickeningly clean home. Gleaming hardwood floors? Check. Sparkling, reflection-bearing windows and mirrors? Done. Fresh carpets, complete with uniformly parallel vacuum tracks? Is there any other way?

I was 30 years old, newly single after a five-year relationship, and absolutely, pathetically clueless about how to move forward. So I did what any self-respecting, modern, feminist woman would do. I cleaned my house–a lot.

Did I really say pathetic? I thought it was, until I realized that nearly every woman I know seems to have been there. My best friend Megan was especially forthcoming: “When Tim and I broke up, I scrubbed every hard-water spot out of my tub, kitchen, and toilet. It took days!” Megan also confessed that, after her hard-water demons were effectively exorcised, she (psycho-) systematically reorganized her bookshelves and filing cabinets, washed every item in her wardrobe, brought all of her rugs in for dry-cleaning, and rearranged her countless photo stacks, sorting them by themes, dates, occasions, and relationships.

I love Megan.

What is it about post-breakup cleaning? Is it a way to pass formerly romance-filled time without unhealthy obsessing? An attempt to create a sense of order when things seem otherwise out of control? A therapeutic release for angry or frustrated or depressed energy? Or is it just a reflex, an alternative to “not knowing what else to do”?

Whatever it is, it’s OK. As women, we waste enough energy second-guessing our actions without having to add another worry to the list. If you find yourself alone and suddenly compelled to live in a dust- and allergen-free environment, then go on with your bad self: Dust and mop and vacuum and organize to your heart’s content, pretty lady.

My 63-Day Post-Breakup Cleaning Extravaganza was really quite simple: It was my way of re-learning how to be alone, a Spring Cleaning for my spirit. And though I spent many Friday nights accompanied only by Endust, Windex and Swiffer, too many Friday nights worrying that I was reaching grandiose, previously unimagined levels of pathetic, those Friday nights turned out to be time well spent. Critical and long-forgotten elements of myself were released, happily and unharmed, back into the wild through 63 days of hard-core domesticity.

And my spirit, I’m happy to report, came out just as clean and refreshed as my floors.

Rachel Davis lives and cleans in Minneapolis.