Mental House Cleaning

For many years, I’ve done an occasional imaging routine in which I imagine that my mind is a big two-story house with an attic and a basement. Each room has a gold plaque with its name, like “Vision Room” or “Hearing Room.” When I go into those rooms and clean up old hazy grime and waxy build-up with my magical cleaning supplies, my vision and hearing seem clearer. There are also rooms named “Old Baggage” and “Room of Bitterness.” The Old Baggage Room has a pile of hard-cased luggage like old Samsonite, and the Old Bitterness Room has boxes of smelly crap. They’re all labeled, and the suitcases and boxes have gotten fewer and smaller over the years, but some perversity makes me hold on to them. Every now and then I go in and dust them and decide which ones I’m absolutely done with.

The last time I did that Mental House Cleaning ritual, I discovered a room I didn’t even know I had. It was the Room of Noxious People. I was surprised that I’d let people I didn’t like move into my house, but there they were, all lined up on shelves like big warty toads. And the most galling thing of all was that I realized they couldn’t be there if I hadn’t been feeding them, which meant I must have been sneaking in there and giving them dead flies or something to keep them alive. That was even more disgusting than finding them there in the first place. I had to ask myself why I had invited all those obnoxious, despicable, hateful people into my house. I don’t even know most of them, they’re just politicians or neighborhood blowhards that I have no personal interaction with. So why in the world would I waste my time feeding them flies and giving them a room in my house?

My rule for cleaning my Mental House is that I can’t kill anything, but with my ray guns and magical shooters, I can send things into outer space. So I had a great time turning my magical shooters on the noxious toads that I’d let into my house. Their little legs were churning as they flew away. I’m sure they landed safely in some slimy bog where they’ll be much more at home. Then I sterilized the room and made it inviting for People I Like. Painted the walls and cleaned the floor and put out fresh flowers and fruit and stacks of good books for them. I like the feeling that People I Like are upstairs in my Mental House now, because when you get right down to it, I am whatever is in my house.


4 thoughts on “Mental House Cleaning

  1. I like this idea. Very clever and useful. I like guided imagery too. I try to be careful of the news I watch so those noxious people can’t get into my head too.

  2. Oh, I love this! And especially the thought of sending things and people into space, like Jor-el in SUPERMAN sending those super villains off in the flat space cube…

  3. I love this! I’m going to send that horrible assistant principal off to outer space to join your toads. I already broke your “no killing” rule though, by making her the victim in “The NCLB Murder,” which is sitting somewhere at Ellery Queen magazine, awaiting judgement. If it never gets published, it has still done a service by deflecting me from actual murder (despite so many offers to help me hide the body), and I did e-mail it to many friends (and still will upon request).
    I’m off to clear out and spruce up some mental rooms, flowers and books and stories and chocolates for invited guests. thanks for the idea.

  4. The reason so few mystery writers are in prison for murder is that we can imagine it so well we don’t have to actually do it. Here’s hoping EQ sees the wisdom of publishing “The NCLB Murder.”

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