Selfishly Clean

This post is part of the 31 Days Writing Challenge, in which a group of writers post a piece every day for the month of October. If you’re interested in catching up on the entire series, click here.

I’ve written about my obsession with a clean house on this blog. The struggle is real.

Talking with a group of women at my office a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that I am no where near unique in my struggle. My friend said that she feels frantic when she gets home sometimes. She feels like her entire house will fall apart if she doesn’t clean it and clean it NOW. She feels like she can’t rest until the house if picked up.

And I feel the same way. I feel like I’m failing. I feel like if my house is messy, something is wrong with me. I feel like if my house is messy, I am not doing my duty as a wife. Or as a woman. Or just as myself. I love it when my house is clean.

But, when we were talking, we talked about what cleaning compulsively costs, and who it’s really benefiting. When I clean like a crazy women and I don’t really need to, I’m not doing it for my family. I’m not doing it for my husband. I’m doing it for myself. I’m doing it to make myself feel better. And Husband-Man gets neglected. No one talks to him, and he gets sad.

So, I have to put the broom down and wait for a while before the cleaning-monster comes out. I have to really think about who I’m cleaning for, and what will help my family the most. And most of the time, the best thing isn’t cleaning to make me feel better. It’s sitting on the couch and making fun of a horrible movie with Husband-Man.

Do you selfishly clean?


Remember when I confessed that I’m a ritualistic person? Well, about that. When I get stressed out, I have rituals. I work out. I write. I clean my house. I clean my house a LOT. I’m a person that’s environmentally sensitive. I am comfortable when my office space is neat and clean. I feel better when my house is clean and my bed is made. I feel stressed when my house is dirty. I feel uncomfortable and unable to relax when I can see dust and clutter.

And I married a man whose standard of “clean” is much lower than my own. And his future offspring will most likely be messier than he is. 

“Clean” to Husband-Man means that it doesn’t crunch when you step on it. You hand doesn’t stick to it when you touch it. It doesn’t stink. “Clean” to me means it shines. You could eat off of it. There is no physical defect that is caused by dirt. Who is “right” about clean? We both are. But, I don’t usually remember that. I don’t remember that Husband-Man’s “clean” is just as correct as mine.

It irks me. It irks me so to see a vacuumed floor that still has some piece of paper or dirt on it. So how do I handle this? Not well, I’m afraid. Not usually. Usually, I fuss at Husband-Man. I point out what he missed.

Not a proud thing for me. I fuss at him because he doesn’t do things my way. I could tell you why I’m so particular, but it doesn’t matter. There are a few things that aren’t negotiable, because I’m a sufferer of a dust allergy, my bedroom has to be my version of “clean”. But the rest of my house? Unless I plan on laying face-down in the carpet for a while, it doesn’t matter as much. So, why do I fuss at him? Because I want to be in charge. And usually, he’s very graceful. And then later, I remember what I did in my frustration and apologize to him. When I’m all stressed out, he’ll help me clean. But when the dirt in the house is causing me stress, he reminds me that my compulsive version of “clean” isn’t always true.

Don’t even get me started on our first year of marriage argument about what a “hand towel” was versus a “dish towel”. We don’t really talk about it. We’ve settled for just calling them a “towel”. IMG_0591

Our versions of “right” are all practice. What are we practicing for? The rest of our lives. Buying another car. Raising children. Buying a house. You know, everything. What does the Bible say about what is “right”? In Mark 12, the Bible says:

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

How important is a “clean” house or a “dish towel” in light of the gospel or loving my neighbor? My neighbor is Husband-Man. And my actual neighbors. And everyone else. So, “clean”? Not very important. Just a bit of perspective for your (my) day.