As temperatures have finally started to feel like spring versus late winter covers are being pulled off deck furniture and lawn cleanup is happening in our neighborhood. And this season reminds me of what was a tradition in my home growing up – spring cleaning. I confess that I continued that tradition for a long time and our two children could attest to that.
I rarely hear this tradition spoken of these days and yet it seemed to have merit when I was learning to do it. No matter how tidy and fastidious we may be, none of us do some of the cleaning that needs to be done on a weekly basis of our usual cleaning. Few of us are adding washing off woodwork these days and that would be only one item on a list my mother did and taught me.
Perhaps that has changed because our HVAC systems result in less dirt and dust accumulating in our home or we would like to believe that is the case, but an accidental brush of a curtain, drape, or blind points to the evidence that is not the case. My mother’s list (and much of mine) up through the early 1980’s included washing walls, using something called wallpaper cleaner, washing woodwork and curtains, cleaning out every closet and cupboard thoroughly, and cleaning the oven and range because who knew about self-cleaning ovens back then! It also meant waxing hardwood floors after a thorough cleaning, and all this took weeks of time and left my mother and me tired but satisfied as the house smelled like spring and everything was spotless.
When our children were very young and I wasn’t working outside the home, I followed in my mother’s footsteps with spring cleaning (fall sometimes, too). Then when I started teaching and our children were old enough to be helping, I developed a plan that in early June when school was finished I would “hire” them to help do spring cleaning with me so we could do all those fun things like going to the pool that they wanted to do. I made up a list of what needed to be done and what each job would pay, and they could choose from the list. I got help and they got spending money since neither were starting part-time jobs then. That likely sounds harsh to many of you, but the result was that both of our children entered adulthood with skill sets to be able to do almost any cleaning job needed to maintain a home and their spouses appreciated every one of those things as well.
One of the things this annual project always revealed to me was that places in my home were dirtier than I realized AND that decluttering always happened as I finally took time to get rid of things I should have discarded much sooner.
But is there something about our internal lives and heart we can learn from this task as well?
In the busyness of our lives have we missed things that need cleaning within us? We have added more and more devices and appliances meant to simplify our lives that can take more time to keep working as they should so that we might wonder how much time we have saved. For many of us, the hard work of housekeeping or farming meant a leisurely swing on a front porch at the end of the day as we listened to birdsong and watched the setting sun. Those simple pleasures at the end of a hard day of work of any kind are not so common now.
In our desire to come up with time-saving ways of doing things, have we made life more complicated? If so (and I think this could be true), has this also made our internal world noisier and more cluttered? Do we need to discipline ourselves to a life of more simplicity internally as well as in our daily schedules? What makes it so hard to do even if we decided to attempt it?
“Everything around us works against reordering and simplifying our lives. Everything! Ours is a cluttered, complicated world. God did not create it that way. Depraved, restless humanity made it that way!Chuck Swindoll
Our culture holds success as a major value (no matter what field or endeavor) and that means lots of time and effort to acquire that goal. It costs us not only time but also energy, resources, and sometimes our good health to chase after that ideal every advertiser and entity encourages. No, not everyone buys into that because the requirements to get there cost some more than they want to do. These folks hope for all those goals and yet cannot or will not do what is needed to achieve them.
“To reorder one’s own world, the need to simplify is imperative. Otherwise, we will be unable to be at rest within, unable to enter the deep, silent recesses of our hearts, where God’s best messages are communicated. And if we live very long in that condition, our hearts grow cold toward Christ, and we become objects of seduction in a wayward world. What perils await us in that condition!”Chuck Swindoll
Maybe when we are getting ready to power wash the patio or deck, weed the beds to plant flowers, and start all those other spring projects, we need to put our internal lives in better order so that we can hear those “best messages” and reflect Him in an ever-darkening world.