I recently took a day off of work to clean. Spontaneously, with gusto, and with more love for cleaning products (stainless steel appliance cleaners! fancy sponges!) than, well, ever before probably in the history of Sarah.
I am not a neat freak. I used to be a slob. I am a recovering slob. Let’s just say I lean toward being a tad like one of my favorite law school professors. His office had stacks and stacks of papers, so much so that he refused to move offices even when he received a promotion. He knew exactly where everything was in that chaotic mess, thank-you-very-much.
I’m not that bad, but I definitely lean in that direction.
My husband is the neat freak. He gets a little too twitchy about it sometimes for my taste. But it is ok because he balances out my lackadaisical tendencies.
So back to the day off to clean.
It was glorious.
Lately I had been feeling unmoored. Things in my life that should feel steady and constant hadn’t felt steady and constant.
My solution to all of this was to clean. To assert some order in the chaos. To rid the stagnant and stale energy of October and usher in the gloriousness that is this November.
This is not my usual solution. In fact, my brain was trying to talk me out of it. (“What a silly way to spend a day off” “Why is this bugging me so much, shouldn’t I be able to let it go?”)
I overrode all the negative chatter and I went to my happy place: T.J. Maxx. I slowly wandered the store with my short cart, no child in tow, no husband, just me and a coffee, sniffing candles and perusing sale racks. I realize it is consumeristic and a bit ridiculous to claim that T.J. Maxx is my happy place. And I assure you, when I was in labor with my daughter I was not envisioning the quiet, fluorescent-lit aisles as I breathed through a contraction.
But T.J. maxx and its aisles of storage bins, linen sprays, and laundry baskets was just what the doctor ordered. I got handy-dandy containers to organize my pantry. Bins that hold canned goods! A cute little container for your sponge and scrubber that suctions to the side of the sink.
And when I got home, I cranked up the NPR, put on scrubby clothes and got to work. IT FELT SO GOOD. I cleaned, I organized, I argued with political commentators on the radio.
It totally and completely renewed me.
It turns out that a day off to clean was exactly, precisely what I needed. It wasn’t my typical “self-care” regimen, for sure. I love yoga, meditation, a walk in the woods just as much as the next gal. But this time when my soul spoke, it told me it wanted to scrub dirt. And watch Strange Things on Netflix until too late into the night.
Yesterday, the day after my cleaning-day-off, I got an email from the writer/retreat leader Jennifer Loudon entitled “The Spiritual Importance of Watching TV” and gee, talk about timely. She writes:
Forget the spiritual ideal of trying to be awake and aware all the time. Or doing only “healthy” things to recharge. Let alone always pushing yourself to be “better and better.”
I see too many people, especially women, holding themselves to some spiritual ideal or some productivity guru’s ideal of what life should look like.
Self-improvement all the time!
Striving to be awake and aware 100% of the time.
Working 8 hours a day without a break. (You can’t do it, but you may think you should be able to – so draining.)
It all becomes another way to terrorize yourself with some impossible ideal.
You end up settling for crumbs, for what I call shadow comforts: things that don’t truly nourish you, but because you think giving yourself what you really want is lazy or even dangerous, you end up starving yourself of real rest and relaxation.
And then you rebel. Maybe by binge watching 10 hours of Netflix or eating food you aren’t hungry for or by giving up working on your creative dream.
By listening to my body’s weird request to clean and categorize, I found deep satisfaction. I can’t tell you how much it recharged me.
(And my husband, well I told him not to get used to this or anything. Unless it turns out I’ve been hiding an inner-neat-freak all these years!)
I leave you with this: what if you listened to your deepest desires and needs without judgment. What would that look like? And if you rebel against it, why might that be?
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