Here in our sweet little beach town, the sun was shining (but not too hot) and a breeze was blowing (but not too windy). It would have been the perfect time to grab a cup of coffee at the café adjacent to our pier; take a hike along the ocean bluffs just north of us, or even head to the library for some reading.
I washed my kitchen floor.
Maybe that’s because this particular routine often ends up being quiet and mindful.
It begins like this: the trash and recycle wastebaskets are taken out and emptied from their custom drawer. Next, before returning the bins to their place, I clean the inside, and then the baskets themselves, all with warm lemony detergent and a dash of bleach. Everything is then dried with a clean dish towel, and the trash container gets a fresh white liner.
Next up are the speckled linoleum tiles.
The starting step is a thorough sweeping, which involves a whisk broom for tricky corners, and a regular sized broom for the rest of the room. I’ll then get one of my used-expressly-for-this-purpose, old toothbrushes to retrieve the infinite dust balls and dog hairs that multiply underneath the stove, refrigerator and dishwasher. Then, sweeping again.
Now comes the main event.
With a bucket of new lemony suds at my side, I get down on my hands and knees and scrub every square inch of floor, as well as the baseboards. Depending on the level of grime, I’ll change the bucket three or four times. Finally, for the piece de la resistance, I retrieve a trusty Swifter mop for one last polish.
The whole routine takes a little more than an hour, and it’s done twice a month.
It might surprise you to know that I’ve never, ever, felt like I’ve wasted my time.
Indeed, after the floor is shiny and somewhat new looking, smelling so clean with a hint of bleach, my barefoot feet
do a celebratory happy dance around the kitchen. If my toes could sing, they’d be warbling a very happy tune right about now.
I can’t really explain why the whole experience makes me feel so good, except that there’s something about keeping my house spic and span that also, somehow, feeds my soul.
In an odd way, it’s a meditative experience. Too, it doesn’t hurt that after the cleaning is done, there’s a real sense of purpose and accomplishment, much more so than a stroll on the beach could ever accomplish.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in this thinking.
Indeed, there’s an ancient deity supporting me all the way.
The Greeks called her Hestia, and 3,000 years ago, she was the virgin goddess of the hearth, as well as guardian of family life and the temple.
As a way of worshipping her, women of that day turned to Hestia for inspiration, transforming their dwellings into homes of beauty and comfort. And even though Zeus—the King of all of the Gods—allowed Hestia to sit in of the center of his celestial home so that she might receive the best gifts from common mortals, she never had a human form.
Rather, her presence was an eternal flame burning on a round hearth. If we choose to seek some sort of spiritual encounter with her today, we might open ourselves to Hestia’s calm, orderly and peaceful presence, especially when presented with mundane tasks that involve our homes.
As a matter of fact, if Hestia could have a BFF right now, she would probably be Cheryl Mendelson, author of
Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. An instant classic when it was first published in 1999,
this encyclopedic tome (there are more than 800 pages) remains the go-to book that tells you everything--really everything—about housekeeping.
It’s in here that you’ll find not just a chapter on cleaning kitchen appliances, but a glossary of sanitizers and disinfectants. There are many illustrations demonstrating the correct way to fold tablecloths and socks (there are three methods), as well as a template on proper clothesline hanging. Basic home sewing, which includes a comprehensive list of what goes into a sewing basket, gets space, too, and of course, the proper care and maintenance of floors, including stone, cord and wood.
Mendelson is absolutely on to something.
Because while cleaning my home makes me feel good, it turns out that living in a clean home is pretty darn good for
There are the obvious reasons, of course.
Regular cleaning greatly reduces the presence of dust and other allergens, which can help those with allergies and respiratory problems literally breathe easier. Sanitizing surfaces prevents bacteria from growing, and simply tidying up and organizing a bit ensures the chance of less injuries. And let’s not forget that sweeping, mopping and vacuuming all
But consistent housecleaning is also good for one’s heart and soul—and there’s compelling research to back that up.
A detailed, 2013 study at the University of Indiana seems to offer proof. Here, nearly 1000 African Americans between the ages of 49 and 65—a group with a high risk for heart disease—were tracked to compare their levels of physical activity with how clean their homes were.
The scientists’ conclusion? Those with the tidiest homes were also the healthiest and most active. Furthermore, the study suggested that encouraging folks to maintain their home’s cleanliness might be more important than encouraging them to walk around their neighborhood on a regular basis.
And while the findings were a surprise to those who led the research, a Time magazine article goes on to say that they shouldn’t have been. The story then quotes Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, who once said, “The connection between health and the dwelling of the population is one of the most important that exists.”
Then again, there’s that one room in my home that I don’t clean, or even venture into much.
That would be The Bedroom of The Teenage Daughter.
Clean and dirty clothes are intertwined and strewn on every available surface. The wastebasket is full to the brim (we once found a very jolly field mouse there), and let’s not talk about the piece of furniture littered with paper that might be a desk.
Still, I am confident that one day—hopefully, sooner than later—my child will make one of my many wishes for her come true.
With age and maturity, she will become more aware of how important it is—for both her mental and physical health—to live in a clean and uncluttered environment. One day, she will realize that not only is this the best way to live, it’s also the happier way to live.
Flinging her arms wide open, she will welcome Hestia to her hearth.
What are your thoughts about keeping house? I look forward to hearing from you!