Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Coming Clean

Once upon a time, my home contained a dining room. Perhaps the lonliest room in the house aside from the living room, this room carried with it the most promise. Inside that room stood a china cabinet filled with china, crystal and silver--
all wedding gifts to my husband and me-- to be used for those dinner parties we never had. Maybe one day we would have them? So I continued to decorate the table with seasonal dressings to impress those friends who never came over. Maybe one day our lives will calm down, and we can socialize like civilized people? I continued to fluff the curtains and "shoo" out the children when rough play ensued. It was a museum piece.

Meanwhile, in our liveable space, we were being invaded. Vacuums outnumbered the humans in this house at an easy ratio of 4:1. This did not include toy vacuums. Our older son, once so fearful at the sight and sounds of vacuum cleaners that he would run out of the room if one appeared, is now obsessed.

People with autism can take obsessing from the level of an action to that of an art form. And, yes, his parents are also to blame for the impressive collection. Vacuums make him visibly happy when so few things in this world do.

But, when the obsession got to the point where we were navigating around them in our living space, something had to be done. He began to strategically place the vacs around the house: the red Dirt Devil upright in his brother's bedroom behind the door, the light blue Bissell upright at the kitchen door and a very cumbersome green canister Hoover in our upstairs hallway. There were more, too. I've just blocked them from my memory like a bad childbirth. I was sleep deprived, running ragged and seemingly always tripping over a vacuum that just HAD to be in a certain spot.

I couldn't take it any more.

At that point, it made much more sense to me to offer a dedicated space to our son's perseveration (that's a nice "autism" word for grand obsession) than it was to my would-be social life.

Today, I am sure, our house is the only house on the block to boast a vacuum room. Surely this will increase the property value? Having the treasured items in a dedicated room has taken away entirely his need to strategically deposit them throughout the house. It gives him a room all his own and a reason to venture downstairs to more public areas of the house.

If giving up my dining room can bring this kind of family harmony, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I understand that, to the outside world, the room is a bit unsavory.

Welcome to life with autism.


  1. Well, I tried to come clean and actually post a picture of our vacuum room. How do you do that? My husband and I couldn't figure it out, so if you look very closely at the itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny profile picture, you will (kind of) see it. :)

  2. I can help you with the's pretty easy, actually. :-)