I never hear about cleanliness and godliness, but I do think the two are connected. Several times in my life, my house has figured prominently in my dreams. When I escaped my abusive first husband, I dreamt of a large house swept clean. Constructed with beautiful woods throughout, the bones of the home were strong, but the rooms stood empty. I understood this to mean that I was embarking on a new life. The time to fill my rooms with new memories (or furniture) had come.
I remember reading an article about how your bedroom represents your marital relationship. If it is a neglected room, disorganized and cluttered, then the relationship was sure to be. The author advised cleaning it up and spending special time and
attention making the room pleasant and conducive to lovemaking. Specifically, she suggested a lot of red. I had a red duvet on our bed at the time. I remember feeling relieved that I passed the ‘expert’s’ test. After all, isn’t that why we read such articles as these, to test ourselves against another’s judgment? And sometimes that is helpful, normalizing our behavior. And sometimes it isn’t, creating impossible standards and causing shame.
But my goal is a little different. Instead of seeing your home merely as the standard against which others measure you, or a vast unending chore, or even just a shelter, ask yourself what your home says about you. After all, your brain constructed it. One can learn a lot about oneself from one’s own home.
I dated a man for a while whose home was perfect. And he didn’t have a cleaner. He was a single man with sons and was a far better housekeeper than me. My mother hated his house and I eventually figured out why. It was cold and vacant, much like that man turned out to be. It looked like a house should look but nothing about the house invited or engaged the visitor.
Learning to Clean
My relationship with keeping a clean house is a somewhat agonized one. I remember a prayer time in which I asked the Lord to tell me what He wanted me to do. I wanted to show Him my willingness to obey. He told me to clean my house. I was a single mom at the time and overwhelmed by work and mothering. But I dutifully cleaned and found a lot of dust that was causing my oldest allergy issues.
Another house dream that visited me came after my husband and I went to a conference on generational sin. I knew very little about it at the time, but at the nudging of the Holy Spirit, my husband and I prayed through our ancestral lines. That evening I dreamed of a huge dumpster outside our house. Filled to overflowing, it was surrounded by wolves which were somehow attached or after the garbage. I felt a profound relief because none of the trash was in my house any longer. I knew God was showing me how thorough a spiritual house cleaning He had done.
I didn’t really learn to clean, however, until I found the FLY lady. She cut through the decades of perfectionism and the lie that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right. After all, even a little cleaning is better than none. Using her method, it took me four months to clean my garage. At fifteen minutes every day or so, I cut through decades of accumulation without ever being overwhelmed. And now, literally nothing but actual death will prevent me from going to bed with a clean sink. Follow her rules if you want to be an organized person who is not emergency cleaning all the time. Find her here:
What is Filth?
We all know homes that pass beyond all bounds of normalcy. After all, they even made a television show about it. I watched it a few times but realized that the show affected me on a spiritual level. I was watching, as entertainment, severe mental illness. I felt filthy after seen the cluttered homes and the cluttered minds that had created them.
I don’t think many realize it but the Bible has some pretty interesting things to say about clean houses. In Leviticus 14, the laws regarding mold are strict. If a garment has mold, it is unclean. If a house has a certain kind of mold, it is unclean. Both circumstances, if not mitigated right away, require the burning of the offending clothing or structure. Mold is a considered a symbol of sin in the Old Testament, and so must be dealt with accordingly.
But here in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, mold gets personal. Neighbors of mine had black mold seep in from the toxic waters of the flood. They began having seizures and experiencing all kinds of illnesses. Sin makes us sick, body, soul, and spirit. But so does actual filth.
My Rules of Engagement
My purpose in writing this post is to make connections between our homes and our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I think everyone knows that psychological studies show that adults and children thrive in houses that have order and are clean. Most college students I know clean their rooms before a major test. They think they are procrastinating. Actually, they are making mental room for the information they need to know for exams.
So here are the questions I ask myself when I tour my house. I know that each spot of disorder is not about physical laziness. It generally has more to do with the state of my mind.
- What does that part of me does that portion of the house represent?
My closet is too full. And this spot in my soul is complicated. My relationship with my body is a bit of a see-saw and so possessing
a lot of clothes seems like a safety measure. And clothes are a form of self-expression. Being the creative mind I am, many of my clothes were chosen because something about them stimulated my creativity. If my closet is my subconscious, then it is certainly filled with beautiful treasure. The downside is that much of that treasure goes unnoticed and unworn. I could use some mental order here.
- Who else is affected?
My family room gets messy really fast. So I straighten it every day. This is the room we live in, are a family in. When it is clean, everyone wants to hang out it in. When it is messy, people avoid it. If my family room is the heart of the house, I have to keep it unclogged in order to keep relationships flowing.
- How does this particular object affect me?
If I have an object that reminds me of painful events, I get rid of them. I got rid of any gifts or letters from former boyfriends when I married my husband. I even got rid of outfits that reminded me of past relationships. It felt so cleansing like I was starting anew. My rules for decorative objects is that they have to be interesting to look at, have a meaning deeper than just décor, and contribute to the beauty of the room.
This prevents me from having stuff for the sake of having stuff. It means that when I go to Target or TJMaxx, I don’t buy a bunch of empty but pretty stuff. When I travel to interesting places, I will buy something unique to remind me of the trip. I like the things in my house to bring up good memories for me, my husband, and children.
We are our houses. To face the trouble spots in your home is to face the trouble spots in your soul. Having a beautiful home is not about having a designer perfect home. A beautiful home is one in which love is present. Love brings its own order, as it serves the best interests of others. A little chaos is honest. Any mold is dangerous.
I find that healing the troubled spots in my home often brings healing to the troubled spots in my home. Order is beautiful only when it is the product of care, never when it is the product of fear. So love God, yourself, and your family. The order will come first in your heart, then to your home.
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