Friday, January 16, 2009


I have a confession to make: I am not a very good housekeeper. Those of you who know me know that it's not much of a confession. One visit to my house will convince anyone that I am not the best at keeping a neat, ordered home. Often, I blame that on the fact that I homeschool three children under the age of 7. We are here most of the time, and the messes build up. And, to a degree, that is true. But the plain fact is, I despise cleaning. I don't make it a priority, and I will find any excuse to avoid it. Therefore, the dust builds up on the shelves, the crumbs gather in the corners, and piles of clutter reproduce at amazing rates.

I keep our house reasonably clean... the floors are swept nearly every day, I try to stay ahead of the dishes in the kitchen, and the bathrooms get cleaned once a week. But I don't do much more than that on a weekly basis. Just enough to keep the rodents and the health department at bay.

About once a month, though, the mess starts to make me crazy, and I spend a few hours scouring the place. If everything lines up for me, and the kids are out of the house, I can actually sit back and enjoy the feeling of cleanliness for a little bit, before the clutter and mess settles in once again.

I think about this today because I reached that point of being grossed out by the state of the house last night, and I set aside a few hours this morning to get it back in shape again. As I swept, mopped, cleaned, scrubbed, and dusted this morning, I thought about how keeping a clean house is similar to keeping a clean soul.

I do a daily examen of my conscience. Nothing formal, but a quick review of my day at bedtime, looking over what went right and where I fell short. I pray for guidance where I am struggling, for forgiveness where I have failed, and for a peaceful sleep and a good tomorrow. The whole thing takes just a minute or two, right after DH and I pray, and before I go to sleep. It's not unlike my weekly swipe at the bathroom counters and swish in the toilet. I get rid of the "obvious" dirt... the messes that, if left unattended, could fester into something really troublesome.

But every 3-4 weeks, I start to feel that it's just not enough. The clutter in my soul has built up too much, and I need to do a real cleaning. There are little piles of venial sins in this corner. A layer of impatience has collected over there. Sticky spots of pride and anger need to be scoured again.

And so, I set aside time to do a more formal examination of my conscience. Sometimes I use an actual form, but lately, I've just prayed for knowledge of where I am falling short. Then I make a list. (I am nothing if not a list-maker). And finally, I get myself off to confession, where I can open up the blinds, turn back the curtains, and shine a light on the corners of my soul, where all this dust and debris has gathered. It is in the light created by this Sacrament that I can best see my trouble-spots, that I can get the right tools to attack the messes. And, in the peace that fills me afterwards, I always try to take a few moments to sit back and enjoy the feeling of cleanliness, of being right with God and my neighbor once again.

If I'm careful in my choices, that feeling will last longer than the floor remains crumb-free.

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