Is cleanliness really next to godliness?
On the one hand, cleaning house can lead to the flow of energy and good chi, but on the other hand, tv ads make us worry about it just to sell more products which actually could be worse for us.
Where is the happy medium? If you are truly kind to yourself, shouldn’t you let go of any shame associated with a dirty house?
Great question Amess Anlovingit (and love the pseudonym by the way!). So oooooh dang, there are QUITE a few aspects to this question. So first let me break down my answer and then I’ll dive deeper to address each point.
Summary of my long-ass answer:
Yes, we’ve been marketed into a cleaning frenzy that may not actually be healthy.
Patriarchy may be involved in women’s guilt over not having a tidy house.
Perfectionism and control, especially if you came from a chaotic past, may be why many people are obsessed with cleanliness. And it becomes a way they sacrifice their happiness.
There’s a difference between every day untidiness and piles of crap clogging up the flow of your life. Which may, in fact, be representative of a deeper issue that you’re not addressing.
First, yes, I absolutely believe that the marketing machine has created an intense concern that things aren’t “clean” in order to sell more cleaning products. When you get into holistic health and an organic lifestyle (which I generally am) you realize that simple things like cleaning with vinegar are more effective than many products, which are actually full of poisons and many artificial chemicals. Plus, the influx of “antibacterial” products, soaps, etc. is actually exacerbating the issues that our society has with antibiotic resistance. We need our antibiotics to work for things that matter! And don’t need these substances in everyday cleaning products and soaps. I personally avoid using products with antibacterial properties because of this very reason.
There is also some discussion about how an obsession with “over-cleanliness” has led to an influx of allergies in today’s youth. That by being so clean, we’re actually removing the opportunity for children to get dirty and to strengthen their gut microbiome when they’re young.
As you may know, I live in Bali. And the cleanliness standards here are not what they are in countries like the US or Australia. At first, when I moved I was scared about what that might mean. However, after living here a year and traveling around SE Asia quite a bit I have begun to see that there are fewer infections and few food allergies in the children over here. Although there are cases of what they call “Bali Belly,” this is usually caused by drinking unfiltered water. Not by the cleanliness standards held by those in the society.
Plus, when you think about it, we evolved outside. At one point our species was sitting in the dirt around fires eating food that wasn’t rinsed and refrigerated perfectly. The cleanliness standards we have really only developed over the last 100 years or so. And so I’m not sure how natural this actually is.
So yes, absolutely. I think we’ve all gone a bit overboard with how clean we feel things must be. I came from a household where my house would reek of bleach every Saturday. And this just isn’t the kind of environment I want to live in anymore. I’d rather use organic and natural cleaning methods when possible.
“Because of the way that cleanliness has been wrapped up in the identity of a good mom, wife, or homeowner it can come with an incredible sense of guilt and shame. It’s not worth it.” – Click to Tweet
Now the second part of the answer is – what about tidiness? Order? Feeling like you can find the clothes you want to wear and the paperwork you’re looking for verses being overwhelmed by piles of stuff on every surface of the house?? There is a sense of necessity about keeping certain things clean (like food, dishes, counters clear of debris) that can attract bugs and other pests for sure. And most people feel as though they can think clearer when they have a clean house where their clothes and dishes are put away regularly.
But here’s something really interesting. Scientific research points out that a messy desk can actually be indicative of a creative and perhaps even genius mind. But what about a messy house? We as a society tend to judge those who have messy houses. And it makes me wonder if there’s an edge of patriarchy involved here where we are judging women for “not keeping the house clean” but see a worker with a messy desk differently?
Research points out that women do most of the house cleaning in a marriage. So the judgments our society puts on messy homes is actually a judgment we’re putting on women for not “being better”. But better at what exactly?
Perhaps we need to examine why a clean house is of the utmost importance. I know some women who have an impeccably tidy house but are miserable. Because they use their tidiness as a key factor in their own perfectionism and control. They try to use a clean house as a way to earn worth and see a tidy house almost as a status symbol. This ends up becoming self-destructive because these same women will harbor a great deal of anger when things get messed up, the towels are folded wrong, or the sink isn’t cleaned to perfection every time the dishes are done. This is part of what I call “everyday codependency” and it’s something that can develop when you come from a Toxic and Traumatic past where you essentially try to control minutiae in your life in order to feel like you have a real sense of control!
But the real scary truth is that we don’t ever really have total control over life.
Because of the way that cleanliness has been wrapped up in the identity of a good mom, wife, or homeowner it can come with an incredible sense of guilt and shame. And I’m 100% with you on this AA – it’s not worth it. No one’s life is improving because you feel guilty and ashamed of your messy house.
Because let’s get real. Life is messy. Kids and pets are messy. Life gets hectic and we get rushed and so the laundry may be permanently housed in the laundry basket, even when it’s clean. Or the dishes may never quite make it back into the cupboard. But we don’t have to allow that to impact our happiness.
The key factor here is discernment on what we’re talking about in terms of messy. Are we talking about the clutter of a life well lived? A life that’s unwilling to be caught up in the perfectionism and false sense of control that a perfectly tidy house confers?
Or are we talking about clutter and keeping things that need to be given away, gotten rid of, and released. Things that are, in fact, keeping us trapped in place because we just refuse to deal with them. This is when I believe Feng Shui really comes in. When we realize that the messiness that we may be harboring is more than the day to day busy-ness of life but instead is hiding something much deeper about how we are unwilling to deal with the baggage of the past, release what’s no longer serving us, or are terrified of still not being good enough, even if we give away all of the clutter.
So as you can tell, this whole messiness question comes with a lot of layers.
Hope I’ve answered the aspect that was specific to you 😉
Anxiety. Fear. Playing Small. Stuckness.
You’re living in a prison of your own making.
It’s time to change that forever.