Monday, April 13, 2009

"All things become more intimate for [the artist], and there is nothing else for him but a great recognizing, seeing again, and being welcomed."

Rainer Maria Rilke

It is difficult sometimes to find the balance between keeping a clean, beautiful, hospitable home and a neat, tidy, untouchable house. Cleaning can become draining – a chore we do only for the end result, which we’d like to keep as long as possible. Hence the untouchable rooms: clean breakable places to which children and dogs are forbidden. These rooms smell of dust and disuse; they are opened only occasionally to older, important guests – the people we hope to impress – cleaned, and closed off again, providing a constant temptation to children and casual guests, who long to touch the untouchable. When we see cleaning as an art itself we recognize that molding our environment is a continual process and that each day offers a new opportunity for beauty. People touch and alter, guests explore, husbands add and enjoy; and we have the blessing of rediscovering our homes each day as they absorb and adjust to the life within them. It is not an art to keep each room at its neatest day after day, but it is an art to create each day a beautiful space that is clean and inviting out of an environment that alters with each day.

Our attitude toward the process is essential. If the cleaning and arranging of our home is just a means to an end, then we tend to see the process as drudgery and the result fleeting. What is the point of cleaning if they’ll only mess it up again, we often wonder. But when the process itself is our focus, when we can truly appreciate the sound of the broom against tile, relish the smell of soap and the first shiny streak of Murphy’s Oil Soap on a dry floor, when we learn to play as we clean and forget perfection for the joy of momentary loveliness, then our attitude toward cleaning itself is not “what I must do to have a decent home” but rather “what I love doing for those I love, myself included.” Then we don’t think “cook first, clean later” but instead clean first, so that the home is an inspiration, then spill flour, dirty dishes, and chop fruit while the home is rejoicing at being loved, cared for, and used for its purpose.

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