“So who’s coming over?” my daughter asked.
“Do you think the only time we need to clean the house is when we’re having company?” I countered.
“Mostly,” she nodded.
“Who’s coming over, and why does he need to come into my room?” my son asked. “Just keep my door shut.”
“Your room is in MY house,” I told him, repeating a variation of the line first used eons ago when a caveman told his child “As long as your mastodon hide is in my cave…”
It was hard to get the kids to clean their own rooms. My gosh, it’s not like I go in there and throw crap all over the floor, sling their clothes in every direction, and grow fungi and the odd ear of corn in the shadows of their little pigsties.
Later I told my daughter while I supervised her cleaning of the fridge, “It has to look good, honey. Nothing says ‘Gross! I’m not eating anything that comes from that house’ like a filthy fridge with foods in it years past their expiration dates.”
As my son shaved the filth off the bathroom floor, I used a variation of that theme with him, “Buddy, it has to be clean. Nothing says ‘Please let me die from an impacted bowel instead of making me use that bathroom’ like seeing a layer of grime on the floor and walls.”
I thought the house looked pretty good. Not great, though. No one will ever confuse me or my children with the Mighty Maids. But as I walked through the house, I convinced myself that things looked pretty nice.
Until I sat down and started scanning the room from the point of view of a non visually impaired outsider. How long has that cobweb been there, the one that starts in the living room, crosses into the kitchen, and creeps into the basement? And did someone actually try to wash my windows with a bag of French fries? Someone could pour the contents of a deep-fryer on the glass and leave less of a stain. And hello mound of cat hair! Did you just arrive?
The longer I looked around, the worse things looked. And that made me think about the conversations I had with my kids.
Was I cleaning the house for someone else to enjoy? Why wasn’t I willing to do this for myself? After all, I LIVE HERE!
Apply this story in your life in any way in which you need to today.
Maybe your physical house is a wreck and a dump. Feeling tired and lethargic all of the time is no way to live. I know. I’ve spent about a quarter of my life in a motionless state, telling myself to conserve energy in case I ever needed it for later. Hogwash. Use it or lose it. Do what you need to do by improving your diet and increasing your exercise. But do it for yourself. You will be the recipient of the gift of a healthier you, one with more focus, energy and overall vitality.
Maybe your emotional house is a wreck and those you love are getting frustrated with your inability to pull it together. Work on your emotional state by practicing some self awareness about who you are and what you need in your life. I love what Marlene Chism says: Don’t confuse where you are with who you are. Just because you feel stuck today does not mean you’re doomed to be stuck for a lifetime.
Is it time to take some garbage out to the curb? Do it, but not for others. Do it for yourself. You have to live inside your own heart. Having cobwebs and clutter won’t make your heart looked lived in as much as it will give the appearance that it’s been abandoned. Clean it out so you are comfortable inside.
Maybe it’s your behavioral house that needs some work. Do you have loved ones who nag you about (insert “Quit [drinking/smoking/eating too much/etc.]” or insert “Will you please start [exercising/taking better care of yourself/etc.]”). You should probably listen. But you can’t be “guilted” into changing your behavior. Well, you can, but it won’t last. You have to want to do it for yourself. And why shouldn’t you? Aren’t you the largest beneficiary of the house cleaning you do in your life?
Okay, so it’s time to start cleaning house. What’s first for you? First on my agenda is to pick up the sweat sock that has been hanging over my lamp shade for who knows how long…