Impressed by the magnificent cleanliness of the Carmelite monastery in the DVD I have just been watching (No Greater Love – it’s just fab! US version here) I have just started a new housework game which I am finding startlingly effective. It reminds me a bit of “Dust Under the Rug!” which I played for years and still do.
“Dust Under the Rug!” is remembered from a version read in childhood of the Brothers Grimm story (you’ll know it) Snow White. When Snow White went to live with the dwarves, they would go out to their daily work leaving Snow White to clean and care for the cottage. One day while sweeping the floor, she couldn’t be bothered to move the rug but just swept round it. She heard a little voice saying “Dust under the rug!” Her conscience smote her and she lifted he rug to sweep under it. There she found some money that the dwarves had left for her to find if she took the trouble to actually pick up the rug and sweep underneath it as well as around it. If there was any money under the rug in our house it would be because I put it there – no-one else is daft enough to do that; so that has never happened to me. But the story had a profound effect on me when I read it as a child, and still now when I am cleaning I hear a little voice whisper “Dust under the rug!” and, like Snow White, I pick it up to clean underneath as well as brushing or vacuuming round the edge.
But my new game, “Is it nothing to you?” comes from a quotation from the Bible, Lamentations 1:12, Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? This quotation is mostly applied to the death and passion of Jesus, and is often brought into the liturgies of Holy Week. I think they have the words written under the big crucifix on the wall of Christchurch, the Anglo-Catholic church on the hill going down to the sea.
However, in this instance I have taken the words and applied them to things that need doing around the house – you know, the little jobs that it is so convenient not to “see”.
I come through the front door with two large bags of shopping to put away; there is a tiresome leaflet advertising special offers at a supermarket or the menu of a Chinese takeaway. I step over the leaflet and leave them lying there.
I put the shopping away and make a cup of tea. While the kettle is boiling I take in that at the cats’ feeding station are the dirty dishes, now empty, from their breakfast. After my cup of tea I go upstairs and put my coat and boots away, and deal with some correspondence. I leave my dirty teacup behind on the table.
The floors have needed vacuuming for several days.
So I have started asking myself, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” about the leaflets . . . the cat dishes . . . the teacup . . . the dirty floors . . . and taking the trouble to deal with each thing as I see it instead of just stepping over it or walking away from it, leaving it to be dealt with some other time or by some other person.
“Is it nothing to you?” I ask myself about the tumbleweeds of fluff at the edges of the bathroom floor, the splashes of plaster left by the builders on the kitchen door, the out-of-date spreads at the back of the fridge.
Because I associate those words with the Passion of Jesus, they have especial power for me, and it makes me go back and pick up whatever needs doing.
A word of warning: this is a better game for mess-heads than for neat-freaks, because it is in the nature of housework that it never seems to come to an end. There will always be something you haven’t done. Even if you managed to achieve absolutely everything, by the time you trailed exhaustedly into the kitchen for a well-earned cup of tea, some oik would have left a new trail of muddy footprints to be wiped up. So, it is only a game – it’s not meant to activate your neuroses, just help motivate.
A glasses (spectacles) cloth. I had several of these, but when my glasses need cleaning I polish them on my t-shirt or my fleece. So I moved on the glasses cloths. I know they’re a good idea and I know you’re supposed to have them – but if you never use them, what’s the point?