A week or so ago, I wrote about my Lenten goal of becoming a better caretaker of my home. I wasn't aiming for perfection, to erase any and all signs of there being children, LIFE!, in this house, but rather an overall feeling of calmness found in drawers containing clean socks and underwear, in floors uncluttered with toys, in bathroom counters not encrusted with toothpaste, in meals planned in advance, etc. I've learned the hard way that a total revamping of my daily habits is a surefire way to fall flat on my face in frustration, thus I've been slowly, ever so slowly, making just one change to my routine at a time and then trying to stick with it awhile before moving on to something else.
Yesterday, I was at K-Mart, where they had an insane sale on winter apparel and even some springy looking items. I picked up some pants and long-sleeved t-shirts for the boys (for the fall) and an outfit for Priscilla. I bought myself a couple of sweaters for about $4.00 dollars each, understanding, promising myself, that I would donate to our local resale shop at least two of the sweaters I already had in my closet – sweaters I never wore.
Well, wouldn't you know it, those "two sweaters" turned into three garbage bags full of clothes – clothes given to me but weren't right for my body type, clothes I'd outgrown but had been hanging on to just in case I lost weight, clothes stained or ripped or all stretched out. I kept only what I absolutely loved and felt great in. Oh my gosh! How cathartic that was!!! Too much stuff makes me anxious and awfully crabby.
You know what inspires me in the long-term? Not new planners (believe me, I've tried every kind there is!), new methods, new cleaning "tools," but rather a firm conviction that housework is indeed holy. I want (need) to be reminded over and over that the repetition is not a waste, not punitive in nature, but a spiritual blessing. I read the following passage this morning in Kathleen Norris's, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work. It totally revived me. I hope that you, this afternoon, find it to be an encouragement as well! Thanks and thanks again for your prayers and friendship!
I sense that striving for wholeness is, increasingly, a countercultural goal, as fragmented people make for better consumers, buying more bits and pieces – two or more cars, two homes and all that fills them – and outfitting one's body for a wide variety of identities: business person, homebody, amateur athlete, traveler, theater or sport's fan. Things exercise a certain tyranny over us. Whenever I am checking bags at an airport, I recall St. Teresa of Avila's wonderful prayer of praise, " Thank you God for the things I do not own." Things are truly baggage, our impedimenta, which must be maintained with work that is menial, steady and recurring. But, like liturgy, the work of cleaning draws much of its meaning and value from repetition, from the fact that it is never completed, but only set aside until the next day. Both liturgy and what is euphemistically termed "domestic" work also have an intense relation with the present moment, a kind of faith in the present that fosters hope and makes life seem possible in the day-to-day.