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Come meander with me as we dissect the opinions often passed on as gospel. Think of these writings as my point of true.


The Unbearable Virtue of Cleaning

Updated: May 4, 2021

The mind has a funny way of racing at the quietest of times. It’s almost some sort of thermodynamic balance between the internal and the external. It is in these moments that I’ve told myself to focus on a hobby, something that you do for the sake of doing something and perhaps, sometimes, even to the point of mastery.

Food is one area I’d found solace in–both cooking and eating. Creating food can be quite a rewarding experience, especially for the pedantic. For years, the solace of creating an elaborate meal helped immerse the mind. The absence of a kitchen in my current digs has put paid to that option.

There we are then. Under the sheets wanting to make more of ‘quality leisure’, especially now having read about the benefits of focused recreation. ‘It rehabilitates the mind’ (excellent!), ‘invigorates the soul’ (serious?), and ‘supercharges creativity’ (where do I sign up?).

The desire to do everything and the motivation to do nothing can, however, throw up a fair few obstacles. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll associate with the glorious daydreams of success and the catatonic stupor even the thought of getting yourself some water could induce. And then, looking around, you come to a point. Not quite a halt, but not quite a path you associate with continuity or discovery.

That’s when it happened. ‘Why don’t you clean?’ (this is internal dialogue, please rest assured that there are more poignant moments, it’s in my best interest to believe that). But cleaning? Surely there’s a better alternative. Cleaning is ephemeral, repetitive, time-consuming and requires focus to do well, hardly the sort of vision for your afternoon that drives the mind to sensorial overload. ‘Isn’t that exactly what you need?’ (see, I told you we could be poignant).

I stick on a podcast (This American Life, great soundtrack for catatonic stupor) and begin to clean. First, the bin bags that reveal the oddness of every object you’ve interacted with during the week, a repository of the residue that your life is leaving behind. Bin bags all done, I move to the dreaded Level 2–clothes. ‘Should I fold this like the laundry does or just go with the sideways fold?’ Mildly disturbed that this discourse is even taking place, I proceed to just take a call and grab life by the proverbial danglers. One folding style for the shirts and the casual, more home-baked approach for the bottoms. Eclectic!

Halfway through, I start to feel more productive. It helps that the room looks a lot less cluttered and, over time, I’ve realized that this always has a knock-on effect on the mind. I was speaking to a friend a couple of weeks ago. This was the friend who would categorize Sisyphean conundrums as ‘chat’. Discussing the monotony that comes with adult life in the capitalist world, he referenced the Gita. “Sometimes you just do things for the virtue of doing them. Not everything will have an end.”

That’s what cleaning means to me. Simple, transitory, immersive and rewarding. Our minds are still being understood–biochemical, intuitive, emotional, and rational in equal measure. There’s little we can do but do something. Do something for the virtue of doing it, the unbearable virtue of conscious monotony. Something for the virtue of having life in your veins and a soul thriving on the possibility of an intriguing construct.

So, get out from under the sheets, go fold a shirt, straighten out some books, and do it without an end in sight.

I’d say more, but those clothes will not sort themselves.

P.S. For those of you who can’t contain your curiosity, I went with the KonMari fold.

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