The Fleeting Nature of House Work

After the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, men and women began to leave the cities, journeying far out into the deserts in order to practice a “pure” form of the faith. They believed that the faith being incorporated by the Roman Empire was diluted, and only through solitude could they imitate Christ. These men and women were known as the Desert Mothers and Fathers.
I’ve read some of their writings, and accounts about their lives. They are largely mythical in nature, but there are interesting wisdom tales hidden in the stories. It is said that many of them practiced a craft, like basket weaving. They would weave baskets throughout the year, at least in the times when they weren’t sleeping or praying, and fill their caves with their work. And then, once a year, they would burn all the baskets, destroying all their work as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life.
I was reminded of this tale this morning, when I surveyed my kitchen as I began to prep my slow cooker meal. On Saturday, seized by a strange fit of energy, I cleaned the kitchen, and various other areas around my house. I don’t clean. It’s just not something I do. Oh, I keep a hygienic house. But if you did a white glove inspection you’d find a lot of dust and daily grime. But on Saturday, I was inspired to do something about it. I got all the dishes dealt with, wiped down all the counter tops, eliminated all the clutter, washed the stove top, and put out fresh hand towels. On Monday morning, it looked like I had done nothing, and worse yet, I hadn’t even cooked over the weekend!
This is why I don’t clean. No matter how much care and effort you put into cleaning a room, it takes hardly any time at all to destroy all the work. Dust falls incessantly. Things clutter the flat surfaces. Children play. Cats shed.
I am insanely privileged that I live in a time and place that I don’t have to work my fingers to the bone to keep my house clean and tidy. I grumble about the very little I do, when I ought to focus on how little I HAVE to do. Maybe I can focus a little more on my home keeping efforts as spiritual discipline – a reminder of the fleeting nature of this life.

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  1. Interesting post! 🙂 But I wouldn't agree that the effort spent on housecleaning is totally wasted. While the house might not stay perfectly tidy for long, doing some chores fairly regularly (not keeping a pile of dishes in the sink, picking up the worst of the clutter, a weekly round of vacuuming+bathroom+kitchen) will keep a state of comfortable disorder from degenerating into depressing chaos. I've seen some terribly messy homes where things got out of hand – I think there's a critical degree of messiness beyond which it becomes difficult to function.

  2. This is why I've started going full Kon Mari on tons of my stuff. The less stuff I have, the less I have to tidy and the more "mental space" I havein my house. Kon Mari apparenly doesn't apply to climbing or outdoor gear though because #priorities lol. For Russell Kon Mari doesn't apply to kitchen items, but those textbooks both of us were convinced we needed right out of college, gone.

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