Cleaning is in my blood. Every Saturday growing up, for as long as I can remember, my sisters and I would help my mom scrub our house from top to bottom. We swept, dusted, shined and vacuumed.
As a college student and young adult, I continued the Saturday cleaning ritual. I couldn't stand to have dust build-up or crumbs underfoot. I dusted, shined & vacuumed with continued fervor.
And then I had kids, 11 months apart. I welcomed the two greatest blessings of my life into the world - along with their incredible ability to create mess, disorder and endless laundry.Soon, that laundry became a daily task rather than weekly, vacuuming was required after every meal or snack rather than a couple times a week, and straightening became - quite literally - a never-ending to do.
Many days I lament the messes and curse the crumbs.I complain about the piles of laundry and shout expletives every time I trip over another toy. I nag my husband to tidy up and assign the kids jobs to help preserve my sanity. I vacuum, dust and shine all morning, but by dinner, most of my efforts have been messed right through.
Still, I insist that a cleaner, more organized home is necessary for all our well-beings. So I drag the vacuum out again, I put away a bin of toys for the hundredth time, I carry yet another load of laundry to the basement (didn't I just wash this shirt yesterday?!).
I even rally my energies and plan, like so many of you, to make my way through a Spring Cleaning list. The thought of every corner crumb free and every linen freshly washed and folded is too good to be true. Such order & cleanliness entices my inner perfectionist and makes it hard to resist jumping onto the Spring Cleaning band-wagon.
But before I dive in with buckets of Clorox and handfuls of paper towels - or before you do any such thing yourself - let's stop and notice the mess. I know it sounds a bit absurd, especially to a cleaner-at-heart like me. But hear me out.
As I was following the kids' trail of mess the other day, the thought dawned on me that all this mess is a sign of life. That one day, I'll miss the mess. Really and truly, crumbs and all! I'll miss the piles of little clothes, the toys scattered around, the half-eaten meals still on the table.
One day, we will miss all the messes, because they are signs of lives lived fully and deeply in a space we get to call home.
So I stopped. I noticed. I counted all the ways I am grateful, even and especially for the messes. I walked around the house, not tidying a single thing, but capturing the beauty of our lives in full-swing. The mess, the chaos, the clothes scattered everywhere: signs of life. And this is the beauty I found...
What if, instead of labeled bins and neat rows and everything in its place, instead of immaculately remodeled kitchens and perfect decor, we filled the Internet with images of life lived fully?
One of my favorite authors, Anne Lammot, says in her book Grace (Eventually), "My best teachers were mess, failure, death, mistakes, and the people I hated, including myself."
What would it mean for you to stop & see, to slow down & let the physical mess around you speak to your heart, even awaken you to gratitude? What would it mean to stand in your mess & call it fullness?
Glennon Doyle Melton writes in her book, Carry On Warrior, "I think one of the keys to happiness is accepting that I am never going to be perfectly happy. Life is uncomfortable. So I might as well get busy loving the people around me…I’m going to quit chasing happiness long enough to notice it smiling right at me." Perhaps the same principle applies to chasing the dream of cleaner homes and perfect order.
What if happiness, contentment, joy are right in front of us, not a Spring Cleaning away?
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