Creative ways of calming yourself down when going cuckoo with a toothbrush


A little while ago I told you I always go a little cuckoo with (toothbrush) cleaning before throwing a party. Well, I had the brilliant idea to put my apartment on Airbnb and guess what: when it comes to preparing & anxiety, the thought of having paying guests in my house and me not being there to gloss over any dead insects they might encounter in the kitchen cabinets, is the superlative of throwing a party.

Vaseline smeared over the camera

The anxiety grows when I put on my glasses. Let me explain. I should wear glasses all the time, but I don’t. Not always anyway. I don’t have to grope my way around, but I more often than not squint my way through a supermarket (and consequently overlook people I know).

My prescription is only -1.5, but it makes life look just a little friendlier; like vaseline smeared over the camera. People look more pleasant, my mirror is kinder to me and the world is nicely softened. It’s like a visual cushion. And: my house looks clean! Until I put on glasses and realise I’ve been living in squalor. Panic rises like a herd of bison stampeding in the distance, rapidly approaching.

The pull of the toothbrush

Suddenly I see every cobweb, smudge, crack, the shabbiness of my sofa (when I didn’t get any views on Airbnb my sister said “yeah that’s because your sofa is in the first picture), peeling paint, non-working lights, even my plants look scruffy!

And I feel the pull of the toothbrush. It’s begging me to get on my knees and scrub all the tiny nooks and crannies no (sane) human eye will EVER explore and only spider eyes will ever see (but then spiders do have up to 8 eyes).

Scrubbing cat flaps

Cleaning does have a liberating effect: throwing out old sneakers & clearing kitchen cabinets (tip: when you hold a container upside down and the stuff inside doesn’t move, throw it out). And making dirt go away has a cleansing effect on the mind too. But I know I’m losing it when I start scrubbing cat flaps and the inside of the washing machine.

Fear not! I’ve developed methods to keep my head from unscrewing itself.

Creative ways of calming yourself down:

1Put things into perspective
How does a grubby cat flap relate to say having your foot shot off while fleeing from guerrillas who just set fire to your house (and cat flap) in South Sudan?


I tend to get lost in details. Hence the sparkling cat flap; that little door is now so shiny that sun rays reflect of off its surface, scaring any cat out of using it. I mostly do this to avoid starting daunting tasks like clearing out cupboards. But ask yourself: do I want guests admiring my shiny cat flap, or do I want them to be able to shower without wondering if that green stuff on the walls is soap residue or something alive and about to take over the bathroom?

3Sit back
Yeah that’s right. To be more productive, you have to allow yourself to sit down and take a break once in a while. Just look at this infographic. So step away from that toothbrush/computer/desk.

4Breathe properly
Sounds easy eh? But for a vital component of human existence you’d be surprised how many people suck at it. Breathing improperly will make your nervous system think that you are anxious. And you don’t want the little people in charge of those wires to think that. They will make you feel more stressed, causing you to breathe more shallow, etc etc. Breathe with your belly, not with your chest. Try to consciously breathe deeply and calmly for a few minutes every hour and the little people will conclude that you’re totally cool.
Or try:

5The dreaded M-word
“Oh god!” I hear you cry out, “Not meditation! I can’t meditate, I just can’t.” Which is rubbish of course. People who say they can’t meditate are probably in most need of it. I use an app called Head Space where you are guided through each meditation (and the visual design is really nice). It’s a paid app, but there are lots of free ones. In fact, there are so many meditation apps, that you might get stressed out just picking one. If that happens, go back to point 4.

Bring on the dead composers
I put on holler-along-songs when doing the dishes, but washing up is a very clear-cut task. When I get overwhelmed by all the things I still have to do to make sure my guests won’t flee the house at first site, pounding music just stresses me out more. So I’ll play Nocturnes by Chopin or Three Gymnopédies by Eric Satie instead of Nirvana. You can put on Michael Bolton if that’s what keeps you from assuming fetal position while hugging your toothbrush, just as long as it’s soothing.

7Smell eco-friendly stainless steel-cleaner
Or your version of a calming scent like lavender, lemon or jasmin. I’d stay away from glue or petrol based liquids, since they will enhance your anxiety even more. I found out when I was cleaning my stove that my eco-friendly stainless steel cleaner really calms me down. It’s Method, Steel for real and smells of green apples if you must know. Doesn’t clean very well though.

8Hug a fluffy towel
Ok, this should actually be: pet your pet. But if no cat, dog or rabbit is available, you might settle for an extra fluffy towel or a particularly smooth suede jacket. I don’t use fabric softener, so my towels are far from fluffy. ‘Scratchy’ is an adjective that springs to mind. That was another Airbnb anxiety: lack of fluffy towels! Oh noooh! Talk about your first world bloody problem (again, think of that shot-off foot). So with a deceased (thus unavailable) cat and scratchy towel, I think I’ll just roll around my tattered corduroy sofa for a while.

So if I don’t answer the phone, I’ve probably wrapped myself in my not-so-fluffy towel, humming to Chopin, deeply inhaling my eco-friendly stainless steel cleaner, trying to hold on to my sanity.

PS. My first guest cancelled at the last minute. His mum died. Or maybe he took a closer look at that picture with my sofa on it.


3 Responses to Creative ways of calming yourself down when going cuckoo with a toothbrush

    • Haha, so you’re a fan of the toothbrush too. Maybe everybody should just stop wearing glasses and the whole world would look lovelier (and cleaner). Tough luck for the people with 20/20 vision ;-)

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