After putting it off for weeks, with all sorts of interesting excuses, I finally did the spring cleaning on our deck. We live in the Pacific Northwest, where both the weather and falling tree debris can take a toll on any deck. Oh, and just to be clear, it’s July now – so it’s clearly not spring.

As I pump up the sprayer with cleaner and get the pressure washer ready,  it got me thinking, how much is this deck cleaning  like working on family relationship issues?

Certainly, I have both if my brain is presenting this to me, right?

And, while that thought might have also been a way to amuse myself during manual labor (without headphones), it may just be interesting to you too. There’s a lot more here than I first thought!

So, here  are eight ways that cleaning your deck is like working on family issues.

  1. Unattended, mold grows. Without addressing difficulties in our family life or relationships, they linger. They may even grow. Just like seeing my dirty deck every day, we see these difficulties and spend some energy on them all the time. Unattended, these issues continue to grow and take up much of our precious energy. They don’t just go away if we ignore them.
  2. Consistent efforts help. Even after the major clean, the deck needs some sort of maintenance – screws to re-tighten, sweeping up newly fallen leaves, and cleaning up after enjoying a good time. The same is true of our relationship issues – while a “big clean” will help a ton, resolving family issues can take constant effort to keep them in the best shape.
  3. Special Tools Help. While I certainly could have used a toothbrush to clean this large surface area, I would have been there for a week instead of a few hours. Some special tools for the deck – a pressure washer, a sprayer, and a deck brush – make a big difference. I certainly could have also used tools and techniques that would have caused more damage than good. Similarly, it can be wise to use proven approaches in working on our relationship issues. Just winging it with the equivalent of a toothbrush will not likely get you the result you want… and your back will really hurt.
  4. You can hire an expert, and still need to do work on your own. Now, I could have hired an expert deck cleaner. Sometimes in our relationships, we can also hire professionals skilled to help. That is certainly a path that has served many. And, even with that, the other 99% of the week we still must do work on our own. This is where some special tools that we learn and use – even if we have an expert on the payroll – will help.
  5. It is messy. Somehow, I managed to get at least half of the grime that was on the deck, on me. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but it felt like it. Similarly, when we work on relationship issues, it can get messy. It won’t stay that way, but as we do the work, there can be some mess.
  6. It can be loud.  Pressure washers are loud, and you must keep them on to finish the work. However, what was even louder were the weeks of guilt and excuses going on in my head… “oh this will take too long… I’m tired… I don’t have time.” Sound familiar? Just know that the truly loud part of the work doesn’t last  long. What is louder is listening to the many conversations and excuses in our head – over and over. Shh.
  7. You will see the results for a long time.  While the big deck cleanup is an annual event, the results still last a long time for a small investment. For a few hours of effort, I have months of enjoyment. That’s a great return on investment. Similarly with relationships, with the right tools and focus, some concerted big efforts can lead to a lot more fun and peace.
  8. Everyone will have ideas on the best approach. When it comes to deck cleaning, there are lots of people that have different ideas. You may hear everything from don’t use a pressure washer to do use a pressure washer, use a stripping agent or just a cleaner, sand it down before you start, replace it with Trex decking, and so many more. Many of these ideas are just what people are familiar with and know, and they haven’t often tried alternatives. They are just repeating something familiar to them, that might not work for your deck. Similarly. In our relationships, we often repeat our family of origin. Whatever is familiar to us, we repeat. It must be right because it’s familiar, right? While uncomfortable, and perhaps even scary, there are likely different approaches that will get you better results. And your deck (family situation) is likely different from others, so keep that in mind.

As the last section of the deck was ready to clean, I looked back. While I was a bit tired, looking at the now clean wood boards was so gratifying. The trees around me seemed a bit greener. I felt like a much prouder homeowner. Even the clean-up wasn’t so bad.

Even better, the next day (and the next), seeing this area now clean and inviting for friends is so much better than the alternative. The noise and guilt in my head are gone.

It’s just not worth letting the mold grow and take hold of your deck, or your relationships.

You, and they, are worth much more.

It’s also less difficult than you may tell yourself, even if the task seems daunting.

Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas to clean up your relationships a bit, and your deck, if you so choose.

Get your clean on!