October 21, 2014

I clean.

I clean.

My good friend was unhappy at work and struggling to decide her future.  She said, "I am not going to quit my job so I can stay home and clean my house all day."

Her words have haunted me.

Do I stay home to clean all day every day?  

I will admit that my house is clean, although it is never as clean as I wish it was.  I'm too busy doing good things to clean all day, although I often wish I could spend my hours cleaning.  I could have a clean home if that was all I did.  I don't feel my life would be best spent cleaning all day, but unlike many of the voices in society today, this is not because I don't find purpose and value in menial tasks.

There are times I would feel wrong spending all day studying scriptures, serving others, writing blogs, or even praying.  The need for balance and order should not diminish the value of foundational tasks.  Creating a home of order is a GREAT and NOBLE work. 

When my home is orderly, my mind is at peace.  

I have rules about my home.

1- I welcome people into my home whatever state it is in.  Allowing people to see me in my less than perfect state, endears them to me, opens me to service, and shows them I can love them in an imperfect state.  Friendships are formed with honesty-- and honestly, my house is usually one or two hours away from "clean."

2-  I try not to apologize for messy kitchens, fingerprint windows, or laundry piles in my living room.  (I'm not great at this.)  I post messy house pictures on my blog.  I am not one who stages my house for pictures because I think the idea that our house should be model-home perfect is unhealthy.  Unrealistic home expectations lead to debt, depression, and even divorce.  

3-  I believe learning to keep an orderly home is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in this life.  I believe clean, organized homes eminate peace and health.  I believe we cannot teach our children to clean without helping them to be accustomed to a clean home.  Order begins with me!!

4- I do NOT think clean trumps kindness or relationships.
The attitude by which I clean teaches MORE than the skill by which I clean.  I am very aware of the mental energy I eminate when I clean or as I organize chores.  I cannot expect my family to clean happily when I do not.

I believe in cleaning.

I find great symbolism as I clean.

For years I have organized (or picked up) my home on Mondays, cleaned on Tuesdays, laundered (separating the light from dark) on Wednesday, etc..  My cleaning schedule mirrors the creation (I think there is a link to creation cleaning on my sidebar) and so as I clean, my thoughts turn to the Creation story.  Running water illicits images of great oceans.  

Cleaning is transformative and beautiful.  Of all the repetitive tasks I perform as a mother, cleaning is my favorite.  There is just something rewarding for me as I see a toothpaste-y sink wiped to a clean, shiny surface.  I find freshly bathed children and husbands equally irresistible.  I feel natural joy in a clean kitchen, wiped counters, mopped kitchen floor.  Vacuum lines in the carpet are my love language.

My home is my Garden of Eden, this is my small part of the world.  I get to create a place for my family to dwell.  As the Queen of my castle I take full responsibility for the state of my home.  

Sure, those who live with me will all have differing levels of cleanliness and skill.  But, I am the manager of the home.  My job description includes the great skills of motivator, teacher, and scheduler.  

It is so very common for parents to complain about their messy children, messy home, lazy teenagers, or unhelpful spouse.  I wonder if they understand their role is to INSPIRE, teach, facilitate.  

WE are the coaches!!  Complaining about our team just makes us look bad.  Good coaches take the team that they have and make them better.

My children are messy.  I am not the Queen of Clean or the Queen of Consistent.  

Different children are wired messier and neater.  I'm so grateful for the chance I get to teach my children to be clean.  Cleanliness and order are not skills that can be taught in one family night lesson.  These are habits taught over and over and over again.  My messiest young children have become amazingly tidy teens.  I'm so impressed.  

My creative, messiest child was in school with an overflowing desk.  Her teacher made a comment and my daughter replied, "I know I'm messy.  My mom says THIS is the year I'm going to learn to be organized."  I loved that story-- she notices her current weakness, but she also knows that I know she can learn new skills.  I really believe this is true-- we can learn beyond our natural tendencies.

I am still learning to overcome my natural laziness.  (The best part of being a mother to many is that I can literally feel my selfishness and laziness being melted off my soul.)

I choose to love the process as much as I love the result.
It makes me sad when people say "Nobody likes changing dirty diapers."
I do.  

I feel it is a privilege to be alive and able to change dirty diapers.  
I feel grateful that my babies are alive and healthy enough to potty.
I have never lost a child.  But, often as I change diapers, I imagine that THIS diaper could be my last.
Would he know how much I love him?
If my baby died- my soul would ache to change one more of his dirty diapers.

Can I tell you a thing or two about changing dirty diapers?
It is a privilege!!
It is a skill!
It is an act of service that is healthy, bonding, and crucial.

I do not bask in poo, but I cherish the opportunity that I have to serve my baby often during the day.
Keeping his bottom clean and healthy is important to me.

I teach so much as I clean him.
I teach him to trust me.
I teach him to lay still and be calm.
I teach him to find his eyes, his hair, his ears, his nose, his tongue, his toes.
I teach him animal sounds.
This is the game of responding-- I ask, he answers.  What an essential skill for him to learn.

As I change his diaper, his eyes are close to mine.  
We connect, we sing, we bond!!
I choose to love changing diapers!!!
I want my child to feel loved, not dirty and annoying.
I CHOOSE to love changing diapers because I love the child I am cleansing.

I love cleaning dirty toilets.

For almost one year, I laid in bed unable to lift, clean, or even potty.
I watched people I love serve me.
I watched people I love clean my toilets.
My body ached to work, my soul yearned to serve.
I wanted desperately to clean my own toilets-- and today I can!!!
The ability to clean my home is a gift.

As I read holy scripture, I find a God who cleans.  

2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 8)

If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Don't you love those words?
Can you hear them from your child, your kitchen, your car, your toilet?
I will.
I clean because I love.

21 Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us? ...
23 Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also. (Book of Mormon, Alma, Alma 60)

I believe a house of order is the desire of almost every person.  We might not ever achieve the level of order we hope to have, but we are unified in our desire.

In a recent General meeting of our church, Elder Jorge Klebingat, of the seventy, gave a talk "Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence"

He was obviously NOT talking about house cleaning-- but oh the divine analogy.  Cleaning is like repenting.  Cleaning, like repenting, is repetitive and renewing.  

Establish an attitude of ongoing, happy, joyful CLEANING by making it your lifestyle of choice.  Beware of the temptation to procrastinate!!

Joyful repentance...
Joyful cleaning...
Beautiful concepts to ponder as you cleanse.

The beauty of Christ's teaching was that He taught about menial tasks.  He compared menial tasks to Godly things.  Homemakers everywhere can relate to the parable of the lost silver.

8 ¶Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (New Testament, Luke, Luke 15)

This IS a holy work.

A friend gave me a framed quote once that said,
"Treasure those humdrum tasks that keep your body occupied and your mind unfettered."

Oh, don't you LOVE talking to a wise friend while you mindlessly clean?  Don't you love listening to a book on tape, an inspirational talk, or cheerful music while you clean?!!  Cleaning can be calming anti-anxiety and anti-depressant.  Cleaning signals endorphins and burns calories.  Don't you love to clean?

I do!!

My whole house is happy if I put on the Happy Little Working Song from Enchanted while we clean.

One of the best things my husband can do to help when I'm cranky is to take the kids to the park so I can spend a few uninterrupted hours cleaning my temple. Love it!!

When we're helping we're happy!!
Happy is a direct result of cleaning.  
It's a scientific law.
(We need to pause a second and really FOCUS on that which we've cleaned or that which still needs to be cleaned will rob us of those natural and good feelings.)

Children naturally LOVE to clean!!
They really do!!
Give any child under five the choice of a sink full of sudsy water with dishes to clean or the coolest toy alive-- they will CHOOSE to wash dishes.  I know it.
Teach them to feel proud of clean dishes before you make them mop the flooded floor!

We teach them to dread work by the weight and negativity WE place on work.

I certainly haven't mastered the art of teaching children to keep a home clean, so take my advice for what it's worth.  I
believe inorder to properly teach work to children you must separate your desire for a clean home with your need to teach your children to clean.  Both of these are YOUR responsibility to teach.  

I cannot be mad at my kids for my messy house, because my house is my job.  I am the teacher, the Queen, the Master-- they are my students.  Messes are an inevitable and healthy part of life!!  My job is to deal with them and teach my children how to deal with them.  Clean is the goal-- but dribbling back and forth is an essential part of the game.  

Usually, the big messes comes from ME being distracted or busy and not following through.  Accept the mess.  Embrace the process.  Joyfully and willfully clean and teach those around you to joyfully join you.

I cannot be angry at a child for being cranky, overwhelmed, or unmotivated to clean.  If I still (at age 36) feel cranky, overwhelmed, and unmotivated, then those are absolutely natural and expected behaviors from a younger child.  Getting angry at a child who is acting like a child is, frankly, childish.

When you are teaching your children to clean you must separate yourself from every single guilty feeling you have that your house needs cleaning.  Don't blame them for the mess, don't blame yourself for the mess.  Separate two lessons; how to clean up and how to keep it clean.

One- you will joyfully teach a child to clean overwhelming messes.
There are lots of skills for them to learn.  Where to begin, how not to get distracted, how music lifts your spirits, sorting, purging, working quickly, working with others, breaking a large task into smaller tasks.  Pretend you are on TV, that you are cleaning somebody else's house for an extreme home makeover.  Cleaning is fun!

Two- you will joyfully teach your child how to be more organized, more neat, and more self-disciplined.  This is not a lesson you teach while you're cleaning big messes.  Did you hear that?!!  Do not yell at your kids for making a mess the whole time you are cleaning up messes!!  If you do this, you will be teaching them that having to clean means they have done something WRONG.  No wonder nobody likes to clean.

Do you feel that moms?  Do you feel that cleaning equals failure?  Tis not so!!  Can you see that having to clean means you are doing everything right?!! We have mess because we are living and loving, eating, playing, and creating!!  Be grateful for your beloved mess!  You are great because you clean not a failure because you have to clean!  

Likewise, you repent because you are good becoming better!  Repenting means growing and becoming NOT condemning and failure.  Oh, let us teach our children to run towards God when they err, not away from Him.  

Let us teach our children they are the most amazing cleaning crew ever!!  Let's praise them for their ability to transform a Hiroshima House into a Heavenly Home with the same skill as the Cat in the Hat with Things A to Z (sometimes we clean in rhyme).  Do not teach your children that cleaning equals failure.  

Be grateful you have ANOTHER mess to clean.  See the excess of money, gifts and blessings in every single mess.

Please, next time you are complaining about a messy toddler or an overwhelming house, take a trip to the pediatric hospital near you.  Find a mother sitting near her toddler hooked up to chemo and ask her what she would rather be doing.  Ten bucks says she would tell you that a messy toddler is a happy, healthy toddler.  She would trade you in a heartbeat.  

Yes, teaching your children to be neat and disciplined is so, so important.  We teach this as we move slowly, plan ahead, establish routines.  Morning routines, sleep routines, bedtime and mealtime routines.  When we keep our bedroom clean, our children learn to keep their bedrooms clean.  

Oh the hypocrisy of parents who feel so justified in being angry at their lazy children without seeing the beam in their own eye.  First, put on your own oxygen mask!  Find joy in cleaning.

My time is up and my house is waiting to be joyfully cleansed.

I wish I could tell you exactly how to keep your home clean and tidy while inspiring your family to do the same.

I have tried, perhaps harder to figure out homemaking than I have tried to do anything else in my life.  And, I still have so much to learn.

Cleaning my house, cleaning my car, cleaning my kitchen, cleaning my children is still hard for me.
I don't know how to have a large family and have a clean home.
My floor, although regularly mopped, is always sticky.
My sliding glass doors have tongue and fingerprints smeared across them.
Despite notes, repeated training, and two Saturdays devoted to washing, ironing and rehanging lessons, I have a child who still picks her nose and strategically places boogies on her shower curtain.  Lovely.

I try to be neat and disciplined, but it still takes daily grit and determination.
I try to keep my van tidy, but it is not.
I have designed and created hundreds of chore charts and designated spots for hundreds of shoes and still I have shoes in my entry ways and Saturday morning negotiations.
My favorite advice is-- never stop starting.

I really hate putting my clothes away at the end of the day.  Oh, I have a procrastinating soul.  But, I think THIS is the year I will stop procrastinating.

God doesn't ask us to repent because He expects us not to sin.
We repent because we are mortal and sin is part of the plan.
Repenting is a joyful gift, an opportunity for cleansing and growth.
Cleaning is like repenting.

We clean because mess is inevitable.
We clean because work is worship.
We clean because we are hopeful and grateful.
We clean because cleansing is holy.
We clean because it is a service and a sacrifice.

44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven (New Testament, Luke, Luke 7)

I believe I clean because I love much.
I believe that as I serve I am sanctified and cleansed myself.
Yes, I find cleaning to be a holy sacrament.
I feel privileged to be able to serve my family.
I love to clean.
In the repetition of cleansing I am purified.
Life, with clean diapers, wiped counters, shining toilets and vacuum lines is good.
Life, even with stinky diapers, sticky counters, ringed toilet bowls, and crumby carpets, is an absolute gift.

Time to stop preaching and keep practicing.  :)

Let me leave you with one final thought.
My Savior-- He cleans.
He cleans my soul, He wipes my tears, He walks with me as I clean my home.
How can I ever despise the menial tasks of caring for my home and family when each task drips of holy symbolism, incomparable love and eternal grace?

5 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (New Testament, John, John 13)

I believe we do not know now the significance of the daily acts of service we perform.  But, we will know hereafter.

Perhaps it is the act of changing diapers, washing feet, cleaning together, that creates eternal family connections.

Lord, dost thou wash me?
What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.

If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
If I wash thee-- thou hast part with me!

I am like Him.
As I wash them, they have part with me and Him.

Today, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!

Not my dishes only, but my clothes and my floor and my boogered shower curtain.

I clean and I am cleansed.
I feel honored that I get to clean my home, clean my family, and clean my soul.
As I wash, I am healed.

9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord. (Old Testament, Psalms, Psalm 113)


Marie said...

Ooooohhh.... This is a good one, Jen!
Off to clean the potties...... WITH a happy heart!

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