Cleaning Is Praying. Praying Is Cleaning!

I recently read a wonderful novel by a Turkish author, Elif Shafak, called The Forty Rules of Love. It’s a powerful book, but one of the lines that struck me most was “Cleaning is praying. Praying is cleaning.” Why? Well, to me, the feeling of being in a totally clean place is so peaceful and freeing, I feel there is nothing between me and God—it’s a sort of heaven on earth. When things are messy and dirty, I feel a heaviness that feels like depression, and like I am in a hole I can’t get out of…kind of like hell on earth. Most women, and a few good men, know that keeping something clean is temporary at best. The perfectly cleaned kitchen is marred by the first meal. A lovely cleaned living room is, for some reason, a favorite place for pets to vomit (don’t get me started about the white chair in my office!!) So cleanliness is never permanent; it’s a process…and the process of cleaning is, to me, a lot like praying.

Which doesn’t mean I like it! I am, in fact, an angry cleaner. I get very frustrated when people around me don’t pick up after themselves, or have the same standards of cleanliness as I do. I am one of those people who notices when things aren’t organized and in the right place. And in the process of cleaning, and cleaning out, I face all my own faults and weaknesses. I buy too many tablets and never use them. I buy too much food and don’t eat it. I buy too many toys and cheap crap for the kids, and then don’t make them pick them up. And there is always too much damn plastic in the house! But the closer I get to a clean and organized space, and the more I unload my junk, the happier and lighter I feel.

When a place is finally clean, it’s easier to realize that we actually need very little to be happy, and the less we have, the easier it is to keep it clean and organized. Praying is like that, too—it’s an unloading of fears, thoughts, and wishes that can weigh us down. So when we ask our God or Goddess or the Universe for help, we are letting go of things and messes that are holding us back from feeling closer to our chosen deity.

But just like cleaning and praying (and weeding, for that matter), it’s really about paying close attention to the small things in life. We are not rushing and running and looking at the big picture, we are focusing in on the details, and sorting through the tiny bits and pieces that we want to either “keep or get rid of.” We are taking action to make the world better—whether it’s our own homes, our natural outdoor areas, or a village in a place that needs our help. Cleaning or praying is taking action and responsibility to improve ourselves and our world, to get closer to that feeling of spiritual bliss we all crave. We may do it for ourselves and for our own satisfaction, but the fact is it helps others, too—whether it’s the enjoyment they, too, feel in our clean space or the fact that our cast-offs are others’ treasures.

I have also been thinking about this a lot lately because a year after my mother’s death, we are STILL cleaning out all her stuff. Her stuff gave her a lot of pleasure. But more than ever, the idea that “we can’t take it with us” is real for me.  I’m leaning more and more towards the backpacker’s credo: Pack it in, pack it out. Easier said than done. Maybe I need to pray about it.

Full disclosure: I do have an amazing “cleaning lady”—but the fact is, no outsider can clean out our stuff the way we can. And she was on vacation over the holiday, so I recognize even more what she does to keep me sane all year long!


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6 Responses to Cleaning Is Praying. Praying Is Cleaning!

  1. Virginia H. Peters January 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    What goes around, comes around. We sold seeds for our school in the 30’s.

  2. CathieCoats January 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    So true! And “simply and cleanly” written. I especially loved the pets throwing up in the perfectly clean living room. Been there, done that so many times with 7 feral, rescue, abandoned kitties. But don’t get me started on that. Be careful what you pray for. “God please let me help the lost, injured, hungry, unloved animals.” So, did I win the lottery and get to set up a foundation for them? No, instead they come, one or more at a time, magnetically drawn to the Cat Lady. But I digress. My home will never be as clean as I want it to. But it is filled with much love and gratitude from some very lucky cats.

  3. Denise January 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Thank you once again for reading my heart! This is oh so true!

  4. Sharon January 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    The writing tablets hit home with me…Just this morning had a conversation with a friend about the “stuff” of this material world we live in. Our hoarding mentality…from the big box stores, right down to the money that we are all hoarding…under the guise of investments…where is the flow…or is it mostly flow being driven by the fear mongers? Interesting…Some American Indian tribes had a wonderful concept of being buried with the things you had accumulated in life…it gave you a wonderful focus of not accumulating. At what point do we own things or do our things own us? Clean on…pray on! Have an incredible year…Sharon

  5. Lisa S January 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    Wow Maria. I can relate to this on so many levels. Everything was so messy during our 2+ year renovation that nothing was ever clean, peaceful, or freeing. And now that the renovation is mostly done but we are not finished in the sense of being “decorated”, our feng shui is off, we are unbalanced.
    My sisters and I do not have the luxury of waiting to clean out my mother’s stuff since she was in a rental so I am right in the middle of that with you. It is too much to process our grief and her stuff. I feel like I have enough of my mother in me and in her photographs and a few sentimental items but it really hurts to clean out her life by just getting rid of it all.
    My cleaners come tomorrow and that will temporarily restore some sense of sanity.

  6. Maya January 11, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Yes! Agreed on this post.

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