What Needs to Go?

I’m standing in my daughter’s room, and we touch every item and decide whether we need it anymore.

We are making space.  Saturday cleaning day means deep cleaning for Spring.  We pile up books we never read, clothes we never wear, and toys we don’t use into one big heap to donate.   Afterward, the room seems to open up into this beautiful expanse.  The older daughter can actually turn cartwheels all around the room with that kind of space.

With space like this, the girls create and imagine.  I can’t get them to leave that room.

We release objects from our grasp.  We let things go to make room, not just for more stuff, but for an emptiness we need in order to thrive.  For example, I learn that most folks only wear 1/3 of their wardrobe on a regular basis.   It’s true.  My youngest has four or five outfits that she wants to wear over and over again.  She chooses between those alone.  The rest?  We donate.

Her choices are now clearer and her decisions less stressful.  She thrives with less.

I look at my life today and think about reducing down to the important 1/3 of it.   What about this clutter in my mind?  All the worries, all the stress?

I wonder if 1/3 of what I think about actually matters for eternity.

I want spacious places.  When I get to those places in my heart and in my home, I barricade my life against the onslaught of more that we seem to suck in, like a vortex, as soon as space clears. 

1.  Find the 1/3 that matters.
2.  Give away the rest.
3.  Keep the spacious places open. 

That’s how I’m living with flair on this Saturday Cleaning Day. 

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Journal:  What needs to go?

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Real Men Vacuum

On Saturday mornings in my household, we all pitch in to clean and reset the house for the next week.  Children dust and organize rooms.  I scrub floors and toilets, fold the laundry, and change all the bedding.

Real Men Vacuum

And my husband vacuums.

Then he takes his smart phone with the Grocery IQ application and does all the coupons and grocery shopping.  He’s so detail-oriented that he can make the house sparkle, and he’s so good with fast math that he saves us a fortune each week by memorizing sales and matching coupons to what’s on sale.

He’s mastered the art of weekly grocery shopping. 

He calls it hunting for our food.  

I’m thankful that my daughters have a father who cleans house and goes to the grocery store.  There’s something profoundly manly about this, and it makes our marriage have flair.  

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Journal:  Is there something I’m not doing because I think it doesn’t fit a traditional gender role?  

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You Weren’t Alone Today

Do you remember when I cried while mopping my kitchen floor because I was thankful for the filth?  Well, today I bring out my mop to clean the floor once again, but this time, I think of a different narrative.

I imagine who else in the world is mopping a kitchen floor at this exact moment.  Of the 6 billion folks living on the planet today, chances are good that somebody is also mopping a floor.  Maybe thousands of us are.

And then, I start imagining you fellow moppers:  your countries, your lives, your particular sorrows.  I can’t help what comes next:  I start praying for unnamed, unknown people. I pray that you would find joy in the work; I pray that whatever happens on your floor today would be a good thing.

Then I go about my morning.  But something has changed in me.

I wash dishes, and I imagine other people who are scrubbing breakfast dishes at this exact moment.  Next I fold laundry and wonder who else of the 6 billion of us are folding underwear right now.  I smile and giggle to think of this community of underwear-folders.  And then I say a prayer for the people folding underwear out there. 

I’m not alone in these tasks.  I’m never alone at all.  We are all in this together–you, me, and people all over the world–mopping floors, scrubbing dishes, and folding underwear.  We did it together today.  So if you felt alone, you weren’t.

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A Message From God in my Vacuum

Yesterday, I vacuumed my entire house. 

We recently had the carpets cleaned, and the kind cleaner suggested we needed a new vacuum.  He said to get a “multi-cyclonic” system with a canister I empty out–not the bag kind. 

I like my old vacuum.  It’s been with me all these years.  To me, the carpets look great: clean and soft with little lines from where the vacuum travels.  We don’t need a new one. 

But late in the afternoon, my husband suggests we purchase the “multi-cyclonic” vacuum (it was on sale!) to help keep our carpets clean.  With his fall allergies, our three cats, and our Grand Central Station lifestyle of game nights, parties, and meetings in our home, I agree to see what the big deal with multi-cyclonic vacuuming was. 

So I test it.  I re-vacuum the entire house. 

Apparently, multi-cyclonic means “miracle” in Greek.  From the view of this different mechanism, the carpets I think are clean are actually filthy.  The new vacuum removes so much unseen debris from my carpets that I literally sit on the floor and admire it in the canister. 

I even call two friends to tell them about this vacuum. 

Today in church, I think about that different mechanism that could remove what the old one couldn’t.  I ask God to come in multi-cyclonic form into the depths of my being to lift the stain and invisible dirt that I can’t see.  God removes it thoroughly, and for me, that’s the beauty of the gospel. 

The unseen violations–pride, criticism, judgment, favoritism, self-focus–sink deep in my fibers.  Let me not just be clean on the surface.  Let me be multi-cyclonic clean. 

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What’s Worth Keeping?

Yesterday, my oldest daughter had to choose one object from home that best represents her to share with her class.  The teacher wrote:  “Find one thing that best describes who you are.”

She said she’d choose one of three things:  her Bible, her journal, or a photo of her cats.  She values God, her writing, and her family members (OK, they are cats, but still). 

I’m cleaning my bedroom and I pass over various things I’ve collected over the years:  jewelry, clothing, books, candles.  Was there anything precious in the whole lot?  Was there anything I could say best represented me–the way my daughter could find the essential core of her identity in 3 objects? 

Cleaning day suddenly becomes so much easier.  I don’t need so many things.  I can pare down to essentials–the things that represent me and what our family values.  If it doesn’t fit into that essential core, I can recycle it or give it away. 

I’m seeing toys and trinkets differently.  I start to visualize what it means to give my children objects that can begin to represent their core identity.  God, creativity, relationships.  Can it be that simple?  Suddenly, cleaning never felt so pure, so right.  Suddenly the toy aisle and clothing section of stores don’t have the same pull.  Sure, I can buy things as diversions to fill up the days (as I often want to do for myself), but when it comes right down to it, what lasts (and what we want to keep) we can’t even hold in our hands. 

Parenting–and living with flair– might be broken down into these three things:  God, creativity, and relationships.  Does every room I’m cleaning help foster these three things?  If not, I’m rearranging the space and purging the objects within it to make room for flair.

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