I don’t like to participate in the Great Internet Wars, such as they are. And I don’t intend to enlist in the cyber army with this post. But I will say that I felt a little piqued by an article I read today, and wanted to respond here because, well, because I can.
Tim Challies is a well-respected Christian author, blogger, thinker, and person, and rightly so. And when I write the following, I don’t wish to disparage him in any way. But the thing is, he’s not always right about stuff. Today, for instance, he wrote an article called “A Clean House and a Wasted Life” that appears to pit orderly, tidy homes against those that are messy, but bursting with energy, life, and love. One kind he clearly approves of. The other? Maybe not so much.
As someone who cleans my house regularly, I hated his title immediately. But then I actually read the article because that’s just a good rule of thumb before deciding to hate a person’s written opinion. In fairness, the article makes some good points about not letting a desire for cleanliness in your home trump everything else–to the detriment of your family, neighbors, and kids (white sofas and china figurines, anyone?). But it also seems to hint that if you work hard to keep things tidy in your home, you might be wasting your time, or worse, your life. In fact, he juxtaposes productivity (messy, life-producing, experience-laden!) with cold, sterile orderliness in the home.
I’m bugged by this false dichotomy.
I love a clean house. I’m home a lot, and having order helps me to be a better mom. Furthermore, I make my kids help me keep it tidy on a daily basis. Yes, they hate to clean, and, no, I don’t care. This is because I know that a clean house aids all of us in a). finding things we need when we need them, b). reducing stressful clutter and minimizing materialism, and c). being ready to receive spur-of-the-moment guests, even for overnight visits, without feeling frantic. In short, more often than not, keeping a neat home means we are ready for life in all of its messiness.
Housework is often devalued in our culture. It’s seen as meaningless and menial, something you do only because you don’t have 1,000 more worthwhile things to accomplish. This attitude has developed largely because people are busier now than they’ve ever been, and the idea of wiping down the kitchen sink feels like just one more thing.
But it isn’t just one more thing. From a Christian perspective (one I share) all work is made sacred when it’s offered to God. Even scrubbing toilets. On the other hand, all of our accomplishments (all of them!) will fade away someday. We’ll go six feet into the ground and, in fifty years’ time, our names will be forgotten. So it’s a little silly to suggest that maintaining domestic order for the sake of a peaceful home is ‘sterile’ or ‘cold’ work, while performing data entry, or even wiping a snotty nose, is of ‘noble’ value.
News: It’s all mundane, and it’s all noble, if we’re doing it for the right reasons.
So I’m going to keep insisting that my kids take out the trash and make their beds (order). But I’ll also invite neighbors to the house, host get-togethers with friends, and feed other people’s’ kids (life!).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get off here and make my own bed.