Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It's that time of year.  "Spring cleaning" peeps its head out in the back of our minds, emerging from the cozy winter soil, as memory recalls warm sunny days in sun dresses.

I never liked cleaning when I was growing up.  I didn't really like cleaning when I was in college, either.  It was just a chore, something I had to do in order to get to do other things I wanted.  It wasn't until I got married, and had my "own" house to take care of, that I began to appreciate the virtue in good, honest housework.

I recently read an article in Body + Soul magazine (eh, I got a free subscription with some tea I bought online) all about a "fresh look" on spring cleaning.  [Unfortunately, I can't seem to link to it, so you will have to bear with my paraphrasing and re-hashing of the article.]  "The idea," the author states, "is that we should find meaning in ordinary tasks, because true clarity is fleeting enough--and when it's over, somebody still has to clean the crisper."  Ahh, doesn't that ring true with so many things I've learned over the years?

Momma used to tell me, when I emerged from some chore I had finished: "That didn't take long enough. You didn't do it right."  I was always quite appalled and indignant (especially when I had done [almost] everything she asked me to do), because "how would she know?" But, looking back, I realize that she was getting at the same idea as the article.  So much these days says "do it once, never do it again."  With many things it is possible to finish completely the first time, but not with most things in life.  Folded laundry will be worn and need to be washed. Clean dishes will be dirtied. Swept floors will be "dusted." Over and over again.  If repetition is weariness without end, life is exhausting (and if so, frankly, why bother?).  Instead, focus on the now, not on the "when it's finished."

So what's my point?  As a housewife, a philosopher's wife :) I know it's important to have a clean and happy home--one that welcomes not only guests and strangers, but also its more permanent residents.   [I'm not saying your home has to be spotless--taking care to make a "good, clean home" is different than a catalog-perfect "living" space.]  When one comes into a real home, it's apparent in the walls and the floors and the air. A Home is full of Love.

Because, folks, physical things have meaning!  It's not enough to tell your children you love them and pray for them (though those are infinitely important), you have to work out your love--in dirty diapers and banana-crusted floors and mud-stained clothes and temper tantrums (hopefully the kids').  It's not enough to get married and be madly in love with your spouse. Work out your unending Love for him in the unending pile of dishes that accumulate, or the unending cycles of laundry.

It's in such repetition that we, as humans, exist. Breathing and waking up and going to sleep are all repetitive. Seeing the sun rise and set each day is repetitive. Hearing your child(ren) laugh (again and again (at the same thing)) is repetitive. Why don't those things weary us?  In housework, too, we can find joy in the repetition.  In going back to the sink, for the third time today, I can find a moment's peace in the warm sudsy water, in the lemon scent of my soap, in the knowledge that we have enough food.  Make it a meditation. Pay attention to what you're doing.

See, housework and all those blissfully quotidian, repetitive tasks, are a kind of therapy, really. A perfect meditation. Doing the dishes is calming and relaxing for me (mostly--sometimes I'm just tired).  It's something I do on my own, so it gives me a window of time where I can think to myself.  Folding laundry is the same way. Repetitive, soothing, consistent.  I fold everyone of Taylor's t-shirts the same way.  I sort the socks and match them up.  I re-organize our sweater cubby so they don't fall out.  I put the clothes away and admire a clean room, all put together.

We should all revel in a little repetition--it's good for us :)


  1. Ain't it the truth. I read an essay at GU called "Jesuit Bread Making," which was basically the same principle. We have also discussed this topic a lot in my Mom's group too. Do you really stack your glasses in a pyramd? Who does that?

    I enjoyed your thoughts.

  2. Haha, actually, Renee, Taylor did those dishes. It was a great surprise to come home that afternoon and find a clean kitchen :) I would never stack my glasses like that--too risky!

    Husbands, though :) love 'em.