Spirituality found in cleaning up

    As a teenager and even into my mid-20s my bedroom typically looked like a tornado had hit it. Shirts and pants lay in sad, crumpled heaps. Shoes and socks were separated from their matching counterparts, sometimes not to be reunited for months.

    My mother called me reckless, careless and a piggy. Sometimes she wouldn't let me socialize with friends until my room was clean. That was easy — all I did was shove everything under the bed or pile the heaps into the closet. Looking back on my former underdeveloped self, I find it hard to imagine how I ever lived in that “pig pen” as my mom called it.

    When I eventually started cleaning up for real — dusting and reorganizing the top of my dresser, folding and hanging all the clothing, and putting things in their appointed places, the transformation was drastic.

    I would stand at the door of my bedroom and marvel at the open floor space. The clean windows made everything outside sparkle, and my own image in the mirror came into clear, sharp focus.

    I loved the experience of a clean room, but I didn’t have the tools or discipline to maintain it. I had no thoughtful intention, no ritual, no methodology and no motto. At the time, I didn't even realize all that was necessary!

    Fast forward to my more developed self. Cleaning and minimalism have become my religion. If I am ever feeling funky, I clear, I organize, I revamp. The act of cleaning out a drawer, or putting my bulk foods into glass mason jars, or filling a bag with items for Goodwill will lift my spirits and re-energize me.

    Now, I don't mean that I'm an obsessive-compulsive cleaner, or that I'm thrown into a frenzy if something is out of place, or that my living quarters are in a pristine, forever-bright, span-clean state. All within good balance, right?

    The principle of minimalism is part of my ethic and practice these days, particularly because I share a 500-square-foot apartment with my boyfriend. This situation alone is enough to catapult a person into minimalism, whether they like or not, but I have seen it as a kind of blessing.

    Letting go of personal belongings you no longer use (or have never used), or items that don't bring you joy is essential. All too often in our culture we are bombarded, burdened and enslaved by our material possessions, or they become someone else's problems when we pass on. I've made it sound rather serious, because I believe it is.

    How can we really be free when we are attached and holding on to so much? Those excess items are clogging the entryway of our home, spilling out of our cabinets and drawers when we open them, and cluttering our desks so we can't find what we are looking for. All these things take up precious space, and obscure what's most important to us. Many times there are emotional connections to our possessions that need to be identified, and sometimes for our benefit, released. This undertaking is where the inner work begins.

    Until recently, I had held on to a shoebox of old love letters that boys gave me in elementary school and junior high. One read, “Diane, you are the most butiful girl I have ever seen in my hole life. Love, Justin.” I had read through the old letters several times during the 25 years I kept them. The papers had worn soft, like they were made of silk.

    As I sat with them for the last time, several months ago, I asked myself why I had kept them. The answer became clear to me: They were a validation that I was liked, wanted, and “butiful.” When I put them in the trash, I thanked and honored them for reminding me of that, for all those years. I felt free realizing that I no longer needed them to serve that purpose.

    Each day if we choose, we can cultivate our living environments to reflect and satisfy our inner desire for clarity, space, beauty, direction, opportunities and renewal.

    — Diane Fisher currently works as a caregiver in Ashland.

    Send 600 to 700 word articles on all variations or aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.


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