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Two Ways to Clean A Kitchen (According to a Poor Clare)

alec vanderboom

"What do we mean by a clean kitchen? There can be something that looks like cleanness just because nothing is going on. Let us linger for a couple of minutes on those material aspects. There are two ways, for instance, you could have a clean kitchen.

One, is that the cook never does anything there, that no service goes on there. Everything is in its proper place and never taken out; there is no work, there is no love, there is no energy, there is no spending. Nothing is ever spilled because nothing is ever done. Nothing ever burns because nothing is ever cook. And it's a clean kitchen.

Then there is a clean kitchen that is the result of loving labor after there have been some spills, some scorching, some pans boiling over--and then there is always cleaning up. Lots of work has gone on, and wherever human work goes on, there are always going to be some spills, there are always going to be some pans boiling over, and there is always going to be some things that didn't turn out as we had hoped. But then it is all cleaned up afterwards. That is a very different kind of clean kitchen from the first kind.

Then too, there is a clean house, the kind of thing we have heard about, read about, shivered about: women who are so tyrannical that they have a spotless house because nobody is ever really allowed to live there. Nothing really happens, in a deeply human sense. It's clean, all right, but for lack of life. And then again, there is a clean house in which a mother of many children has spent herself, every day, cleaning up the mud, sweeping the rug, washing the dishes because people have to be fed. You could have very clean dishes if you never fed anyone. You could have a shining stove if nothing is ever cooked on it-going back to our first image. But there can be the house that is always so beautifully clean because the mother is always cleaning up the inevitable messes that human living entails; the happy little disorder that comes from living, and the messes that perhaps should not have been made but then should not be pointed at--just cleaned up. And that is a very different kind of house.

In our spiritual life, the parallel is very evident: nothing else could be meant by a clean heart, but a cleaned heart.

--Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting, Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.

(I am such a Carmelite! I have been a stay-at-home Mother for 10 years. I'm incredibly messy and very poor at house cleaning tasks. My husband is the exact opposite of me. He has this natural, calm sense of order and his dream job at retirement is to become a janitor. For 10 years of our marriage, he carried me. Now finally after 6 kids and his 12 hours spent at work everyday, we are not getting the house cleaned on the weekend together regularly. We are printing out new car insurance cars and going rock climbing instead. So for two years the deep cleaning work is all on me. I'm failing at it.

I'm such a Carmelite because I could read 10,000 articles on Fly Lady --which is a great encouraging How To Clean Your House website that seems to work for every other mother except for me. I read "How to Clean Your House" and I fall easily into discouragement and self-pity. Yet I read three paragraphs from a spiritual book by a Poor Clare and I am inspired to be a better house cleaner. I think "Oh, this is why I'm supposed to care about this task!

I often sail on an opposite tact from everyone else but I have to trust that we are all aiming for the same buoy. A clean house is a critical tool for an active, happy family life. I was built to get to better housecleaning by sitting still and talking to Jesus' Mom in silence for 30 minutes today. Praise God for the Poor Clares. Their spirituality is so sweet, so encouraging and yet so, practical!