I had one project this summer,
Only one mind you,
But it was a doozy.
The job was to clean the house.
And no, I don’t mean clean
Like sort the mail or do the dishes
Or find a place for that box of childhood memorabilia.
The kind of cleaning I’m talking about
Is a deep, thorough, down to the roots,
Touch absolutely everything you own,
And determine whether you need it,
Someone else can have it
Or the trash truck gets to devour it the following Tuesday
Kind of cleaning.
It’s the kind of work you put off until next summer
And the one after that and the one after that.
Because it’s the kind of work no one really wants to do.
Who wants to go through every single thing they own,
Weigh it in the balance of need versus want
Versus guilt because you spent good money
On something you haven’t used since who can remember when?
Box after box, bin after bin,
Is consigned to a trip
To the local charity giveaway store.
You fill your car’s trunk a dozen times
But it’s still not enough,
Not enough to shed years of detritus,
Items that have outlived their usefulness
But are still protected by the self-delusion
That they must be saved at all costs,
Including your sanity.
But when the work is done,
And the rooms are clean
And everything, every single thing
Has a home of its own,
Then the work,
Both mental and physical,
Will have been worth it.
While this is true for the clutter in your home,
It also is true for the clutter in your soul,
The things that cling to you like barnacles to a boat.
Worries, fear, insecurities—
These all fill the rooms of your innermost being,
Crowding out and covering over
The good and precious parts of your true self.
We hold on to them out of obligation, out of guilt,
Out of the habit that tells us we absolutely must do so
Because we deserve no better.
The poetic charge of Thomas Jefferson
Compels us to pursue happiness,
But we assume that command is for ones far more deserving.
For us, the simple ones who live ordinary lives,
We trudge on from task to task, from sleep to sleep.
Doing what comes next without thinking about
What should come next.
What would it look like
If our souls were as clutter free
As the homes we have chosen to clean?
Would we find the Joy that went missing
When the Drive and Purpose were given up for lost?
The outer affects the inner
As does the inner impact the outer,
An infinite loop of possibility or perdition.
So, clean up. Clean up, I say.
Inside and out, make it all clean.
Declare war on clutter, as it has declared war on you.
And, when you get buried
Under literal and figurative piles
Of debris and remnants of the past,
Remember these words,
Chanted by So Cal sports fans for years: