I don’t clean.
OK I do clean a bit, but not out of choice and I certainly don’t get any enjoyment out of having a tidy home. I’m a pig, a slob, frankly a bit of a tramp who is perfectly happy wallowing in her own mess. I have just spent 12 blissful days in Kolkata eating with my hands and wandering around barefoot and I couldn’t have been more at home with the curry dripping down my fingers and the dust on my feet (and yes, I will be one of those people who shoehorn “when I was in Kolkata” into conversation at every opportunity from now on – deal with it.)
In our house, James cleans. He does the lion’s share of the washing up, the hoovering, the incessant tidying away. As I like a one-off job I tend to whack the laundry in the machine or take the bins out but, generally speaking, James does most of it as he can’t stand the mess. While I’m at my happiest with a few clothes on the floor and piles of books on the table, the same cluttering comforts will slowly eat away at him so that he can’t relax until everything is put away – which means he tends to clean up way more than I do. It’s not fair, and I’m completely aware that it’s something I need to get better at doing, but my natural slovenly inclinations usually win out over my best intentions.
A few months ago, James spent a Saturday away at a digital conference in London. In the week leading up to it, our flat became messier and messier. It was just one of those weeks where we were both too busy to tidy or clean, and by Friday night we were living in genuine squalor. Even I, oh glorious slattern that I am, was beginning to feel a bit disgusted with the chaos in which we were living, but James was a wreck. As the flat became a little bit more gross each day, James would increasingly complain: “But I’m busy at the weekend. We don’t have any time to fix it.”
We didn’t, but I did.
The thought popped into my head: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if James came home and the house was immaculate?” And it would be. James is not the kind of fella you can treat very easily but the dude is all about acts of service and this would be the perfect one. And, as I am not a natural cleaner, he would appreciate it all the more that I gave up MY Saturday to do something I HATE just to cheer him up after a long day. It went down a storm and he was really surprised, but the thing that surprised me was that I actually enjoyed myself.
I had such a good day cleaning the flat. I did three loads of washing up, I tidied and hoovered the living room, I put everything away upstairs, I changed the bedsheets, and I may have even got the toothpicks out to dig the hard-to-see dirt out from under the hobs. Had I been living alone, with only myself to impress, I wouldn’t have done half as much and I would have enjoyed it far less. In fact, it’s highly likely I would have sacked it off, had a Gilmore Girls marathon and prayed for someone else to come round and clean around me. But as I saw each room start to look nicer and nicer, I was more and more encouraged simply because James was going to love this – and he did.
I don’t know about you, but I find it really hard to get motivated to do something dull, especially if it’s only for myself. Tasks at work are far easier if I can see how it will benefit the team as a whole; making myself get up and go to Church early for whatever rota I am on is more tolerable when I think about who I am helping through the job I am doing; and yes, cleaning is much more fun when it’s a big surprise for James rather than a weekly chore I “have” to do.
But even if you can’t see how another person will benefit from your hard work, that doesn’t mean you’re not working for someone else. As Paul puts it in Colossians 3 V 23: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (NLT) Now I’m well aware this is easier said than done, but how much better would it be to fill in a spreadsheet, to study for your exams, to cook dinner for your kids, if you weren’t just doing it because you had to? How much better would it be if you were doing it as an act of worship and service to the Creator of the universe? It certainly makes the washing up feel a little more profound, right?
So if your daily tasks feel like they’re dragging on, and you just can’t find the motivation to get up and get going, think about who you’re doing it for. Will doing this work bless you or someone you know? Is it an amazing gift you can give to someone to lighten their load? It’s a challenge, and definitely one I need to take up week-by-week rather than as a one-off treat, but imagine the joy we could bring to ourselves, our friends, our family, our neighbours and even to people we don’t know yet, if we tried to honour God by throwing ourselves into every menial task heart, body and soul.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti