When Cleanliness Stops Being Godliness

If you follow any moms on social media, at some point you’ll likely have noticed her talk about the struggle of balancing household chores with her needs and the needs of her family. We joke about how we make “to-do” lists, only to watch them remain untouched as life inevitably unfolds. 

You know, cause if we didn’t joke, we’d cry.

It can seem like every time that spark of productivity finally motivates us to fold the laundry or start the dishes, the kids need a snack, the siblings can’t settle a squabble, or we’re just too tired to physically do it and pour a glass of wine instead. 

My parents came in town last weekend, and I used their visit to motivate myself to do some extra cleaning projects I had been putting off. A funny thing happens when I start cleaning. Cleanliness begets cleanliness. The more I clean and organize, the more I want to clean and organize. Before I know it, the junk drawer is no longer worthy of the name, and we could all eat off the floors without plates. It feels good, it looks good, it smells good. It makes me want to take lovely staged photos for Instagram and light seasonally-themed candles.

That candle smells exactly like what it says 🙂

But there was an unforeseen consequence to my sudden love of cleaning.

Cleanliness made me utterly intolerant of my family making everything messy again. All that hard work I put into making the counters shine made me yell at my husband for not wiping up after he spilled a little sauce making our kids lunch (nevermind that he made our kids lunch!). I got upset when my kids pull their books off the shelf again because I got so caught up in my organizing, that I arranged their books in size-order and they looked so good. And don’t even get me started on how my 15 month old eats lunch like I didn’t just vacuum up the mess he made at breakfast.

Now, obviously I’m not about to say to chuck your sense of hygiene or basic cleanliness out the window, or that having other family members take responsibility for their own mess isn’t good. And I’m definitely not condemning those random bouts of OCD that can seem strangely cathartic (or is that just me?).

More important – far more important – than having a clean house is why and how I have one.

The law at the end of the day for us homemakers should be simply this: love. The question we ask ourselves shouldn’t be, What can I/ should I get done right now? The question has to be, Where am I called to love right now? The same exact things will probably get done (eventually), but the reasons they get done matter.

This is where women excel, and what we were literally made for – seeing the needs of others, and caring for them. Our value within the home has nothing to do with our ability to accomplish a to-do list. Anyone can be taught to do laundry. Our inestimable value is based on our ability to see where love is needed and then respond to it. 

If we start asking where our love is required rather than what needs to get done, our homelife, and life in general, can become far more fulfilling. The answers will vary day to day and moment to moment, but they will include all the stuff of daily home life – the dishes, the cuddles, the laundry, the sibling squabbles, the dusting and vacuuming, the teaching, the groceries, the caring, the bills – all of it.

Interestingly, this question also allows, in fact requires, that you include yourself in the mix, because in order to pour love out to others, you have to be filled with it yourself first. Sometimes the answer to where the love is required is for mom to get out of the house for an hour.

There are few things I enjoy more than the feeling of accomplishing my to do list, of knowing that the chores are done and we can all be happier and healthier for it. But if I allow that to supercede the love and mercy I have for the people who share this clean house with me, well then, cleanliness couldn’t be further from Godliness.