When the house itself seems sick

Saturday’s dishes are stacked high on the counter in the kitchen. There’s a collection of ripped envelopes and magazines on the table, recycling fodder that’s been sitting there for a few days instead of being placed outside in the bin. The litter box should’ve been emptied yesterday; stray pieces of litter are strewn across the bathroom floor. The curtains are drawn in the living room and bedroom, and in the bathroom the toilet paper holder is empty—if you need toilet paper, it’s in its roll on the counter. We couldn’t be bothered to actually put it on the dispenser.

If you want to know if Jim and I are having a really tough week with our health, one look at our house will tell you. It seems messier, and darker, and a little less open.

When we are sick, our house looks sick. (And that’s not to say that when we are well the house is clean, organized, and spotless. Far from it, friends. We are a cluttery sort and don’t tend to have the house picture-perfect even on our best days—and that’s okay with us.) But when we’re sick, our house goes from messy to just plain sad.

Even our cat, the beloved Satchel, seems to nap more, curling up with us and not bugging us to play with him (as he does when we are feeling good).


In addition to looking different, the house just feels different when one of us is sick, and it’s particularly noticeable if we’re both under the weather. I get the sense that, if friends were to stage a surprise visit, they’d know immediately that something was wrong the moment they walked in.

When I was a kid, my mom suffered from terrible monthly headaches (which, to my knowledge, were not diagnosed as migraine but certainly fit the profile perfectly). I vividly recall bursting into our house after school and knowing right away that my mom was not well. The house was eerily quiet, and it was dark and cool. No music played, no TV could be overheard, and her hello was quiet and weak. She’d be in the den with the thick curtains drawn, resting on the couch, or up in her bedroom at the top of the stairs. My sister and I would tread lightly until our mom started to feel better.

Sometimes the feeling in the house Jim and I share is reminiscent of those monthly days from when I was in elementary school. It’s as if the entire house has taken over a completely different personality, one I don’t recognize at all. How could this sad, gloomy, and still place be the same house as the one where Jim has band practice? How could this dark, messy home be the same spot where just last weekend we were playing games with friends and listening to records?

Do you ever find that your house or apartment serves as a reflection of how you’re feeling? What is your place like on days when you are feeling great? What is the mood there when you’re beat down with a multi-day migraine?

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