I have always said that when my house is messy I am in my “creative mode” and when it is clean I am in my “organized mode”. And yet the cleaning and organizing process is a lot like my creative process.
I don’t usually clean one room at a time. I usually move from room to room throughout the process, back and forth, sweeping one room, dusting the next, washing the bathtub, sweeping the next room, putting the sheets in the laundry, returning to finish the bathroom and so on.
The order in which we do things differs from person to person, situation to situation, but it doesn’t mean that the end result is all that different.
Let’s take cleaning the house for example. Some people might attack it one room at a time while others, like myself, take a different approach. The poor neighbours downstairs as I flit or flow from one room to the next, back and forth, back and forth.
What’s on the list?
- Water plants – check
- Sweep floor
- Mop floor
- Clean bathroom – check
- Clean kitchen
- Laundry (sheets and towels)
- Make bed
So what will I tackle next?
Sometimes what we choose to do next isn’t next on our list or even what we were expecting we would do. Cleaning the kitchen counter one bit at a time, for example. This is not like the bathroom sinks where I remove everything and attack it all at once.
No, the kitchen counter is one square at a time, moving things to one side and cleaning the area, then putting things back and moving the next lot, and down the line it goes. Like cleaning the mirrors or the windows, top to bottom, side to side.
There is a method to the madness and sometimes you come to realize that the order in which you did things isn’t always the fastest, or the most direct. And sometimes it even creates more mess, like when you sweep the floors before dusting the counters. That was a silly thing to do because now you have to sweep the floor again.
And then you wipe the windowsills, something that may have made more sense if you’d done it before the counters because now you have to clean the counters again.
But maybe you catch yourself earlier this time and start to change the order, washing the next windowsill before the counter, this time with a dry cloth first to wipe away the dust because a wet cloth will only make it stick and curl up into a fuzzy ball of tangled particles, something you discovered while wiping down the first windowsill.
And sometimes you see that you don’t mind wiping those counters down again, you actually enjoy it and you realize that you didn’t quite get everything the first time around anyway.
And then you realize that you are so intent now on what you are doing that you haven’t noticed how loud the music you are playing has become and how it might, perhaps, be irritating the neighbours.
And you discover this because you find yourself dancing around the kitchen, cloth in hand, waiting for the next flurry of inspiration because the kitchen is done and you’ve actually completed something from start to finish. Yippee!
And as you shimmy across the room what you need next appears right before your eyes – the broom. “Perfect”, you think to yourself, “I need to finish sweeping the floors”.
And how do you keep going when you get bored or tired or distracted? Focus on what you are doing. Stop for a minute and focus your mind on what you are doing knowing that if you just keep going you will get it done.
And once you get into it you see how amazing the flow of energy is. No matter where you direct it, things just flow. Those things that you need just start to appear right when you need them.
You put an un-used garbage bag away in the kitchen and get a small plastic bag for the garbage in the bedroom, you turn the corner from the kitchen and the garbage can is right there, sitting in the middle of the hallway, where you left it over an hour ago.
The cloth in your hand, though you set it down to put the bag in the can, reminds you as you start to walk away that you still need to dust the bedroom so rather than leaving it behind, you take that with you.
And as you move things around to dust you may end up putting some things back where they aren’t meant to go or weren’t when you first moved them. But this can sometimes force you to do something you’ve been putting off like sorting those receipts that were once scattered all over the dresser and have suddenly been put back into one large pile. And wouldn’t you know it? You need to find a receipt so you can return something before it’s too late, leading you to finally get that sorting done.
Trusting in the process allows things to happen organically, sometimes helping you out along the way, even when it doesn’t seem that way. And the best part is when you see it all come together.
Reviewing your list you see that you have now finished the kitchen, swept the floor, done the laundry and have only a few things remaining: mop floor, dust, wipe down shelves, and make bed. And as you sweep the last of the floor and the stairs and review the list of what’s left you realize you haven’t taken a break since you started and that was over 4 hours ago!
So you take a break, stretch, put your feet up, maybe even watch an episode of Supernatural. And then you finish up the last bits, wipe the shelves, make the bed, fold the towels, and presto you are done. The house is clean.
And then you start the process all over again, one thing at a time.
First you make some dinner, getting crumbs on the counter, dirtying a knife, a plate, and the cutting board. Then you run a bath in the newly cleaned tub, using a clean towel to dry yourself off. And finally, you get ready to sleep in the freshly made bed knowing you’ll wake up in the morning to a freshly cleaned house – a fresh canvas waiting for life to make its sweet mess once again.
And, just before you turn off the last of the lights, you take in what you’ve accomplished and see that sometimes what we discover in the process of cleaning up the mess makes having made that mess totally worth it.