Are You an Angry Cleaner?
July 16, 2012
It is one of life’s paradoxes: people love being in a clean, tidy home, but dislike the act of cleaning. I too used to feel it a chore. Then I figured out why. My mother had been an angry cleaner, as were my older sisters. Cleaning was a burden to be finished as quickly as possibly. Sometimes they would be resentful, blaming someone (usually me) for the mess. The vacuums would be banged against my feet. The TV would be sprayed with Windex even as I was watching it. The sofa pushed out of the way with me still seated in it. The atmosphere was so tense whenever they cleaned that the best thing you could do was stay out of the way. Of course that gave them another reason to be resentful. Not surprisingly, my sisters have children and husbands who also make themselves scarce when they clean their respective homes. And they complain, without the slightest trace of irony, that no one ever helps them.
Subconsciously I had learned that cleaning equal being in bad mood. I used to feel panicked and uncomfortable while cleaning around my apartment, without understanding where the sense of unease came from. One day it dawned on me that I had been taught to detest the act of cleaning rather consistently. Once I made this small realization, there was a huge shift in my consciousness. I became aware of the resentful feelings and deliberately replaced them with a joyful mood. At first it felt forced, there was effort involved. But over time I now clean without blame or resentment. I clean for myself because I like an uncluttered environment, no matter who is responsible for the mess.
I live with someone who does not like to clean either. Because I like a tidy environment, I clean for the both of us. I used to resent this. I felt put upon. After I made that switch from angry cleaner to joyful cleaner, I clean up after the person I live with as an act of love. I remind myself of it each time I remove a coffee mug from the living room and put it in the dishwasher. Strangely, I now get help whenever I clean. It seems the people you live with pick on your moods as you clean. There is now a joyful air when I clean and everyone wants to be a part of that joy.
It may seem like a small change but actually it is huge. It has made me re-evaluate some of the other ‘chores’. Does having to take messages have to be a chore? I decided, no. It too can be an act of love. Doing the shopping, holding the door open for a stranger, letting others ahead of you when they look to be in a hurry. The common curtseys that have become uncommon in big cities. If we follow good manners it is usually out of fear of being judged by onlookers. In this ‘me first’ society, manners feel unnatural, an anachronistic imposition. But all of these basic curtseys can be acts of love.
A gigantic change happens in the mind when we adopt this attitude. We start to feel better. We experience happiness, no matter what other problems are going on around us. The mind is uncluttered. We sleep more restfully. If we are meditators, that too becomes deeper and easier.
That attitude does not end there. Even when do small things ourselves, like opening a letter, or making a meal, we start to do it with more care. We start to relish the small personal acts of daily living. I used to think that to be happy I needed pots of money. Perhaps travel to exotic locales, engage in exciting sports like skydiving or parasailing. I no longer feel that sense of lacking about such bombastic activities. I am content with simply being alive.