Cleanliness Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q4

Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or location.

Personal notes:

  • I feel terrible when frumpy, dirty or disheveled;
  • Clutter drives me crazy;
  • Pine needles are everywhere!

We love Christmas in our house. We love the decorations, the tree, the lights, the dishes, the ornaments — everything — but in the end, our love has an expiration date, and it’s about a week after New Years.

I think being unclean is great fun, temporarily. Camping, or a good workout, or playing with the kids — or Christmas clutter and holiday gluttony — feel great, but after some time, there is a deep seeded desire to get Clean. To get home and take a shower, to wear fresh clothes, to get rid of clutter, to eat clean food.

Enjoying the physical, the human, the temporal feels wonderful. Returning to Cleanliness feels better. It is a return to the spiritual. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.


Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q4

Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Personal notes:

  • Trifles are life’s paper cuts;
  • A lot can be gained from taking a breath and letting go;
  • Focus on what matters.

Trifles — tiny wounds that cause such terrible sting. But there is no injury. Just inconvenience. 

Cleanliness Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q3

Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or location.

Personal notes:

  • I feel worse when unclean;
  • Clutter leads to frustration;
  • Cleanliness calms the mind.

My laundry pile slowly consumed the room. Like The Blob, it kept growing. Fortunately it didn’t eat anyone, but each time I looked at it, I felt physical pain. The pain was exhausting. I had to tackle the monster – so I killed my laundry pile (just kidding, I took it downstairs to the laundry room). Did you know Entourage’s Johnny Drama killed The Blob in 1988? Awesome, right? Anyway, I took my laundry downstairs. It was heavy as sin and I kept banging my knuckles on the door – add anger to my lack of motivation.

My laundry process is pretty simple: dump everything in, pour in soap, pray the wife’s delicates aren’t in there (talk about a scary movie when that happens). Done. But I’m not done. I leave and go back to work, but the damn alarm goes off. Minutes pass in seconds. So before I know it, I’m back in the basement laundry room, lugging the beast from washer to dryer, then dryer to basket. I hate the laundry room, the fluorescent lights blink like an old Michael Myers movie. I do love the feeling of warm clothes though – fresh out of the dryer. The only downside is you have to fold them. I hate folding them, but I hate wrinkly clothes more; the horror.

Once I start folding though, I forget I hate folding. It’s not too bad really. Your mind gets quiet, which is nice. So I enjoy folding, which takes longer than usual because one of my wife’s scrubs attracted every piece of lint known to man. Like a Stephen King novel where laundry gained the radioactive, super power to attract lint and people lose their minds trying to get it clean. No kidding, beady, white lint balls were everywhere. I had to get my ax, I mean lint brush.

I had to use the lint brush twice to make sure I got everything. I hate it in the movies when they don’t shoot the bad guy twice and he comes back to life. Lint is like that. Besides, you feel really good when the bad guy is dead and all the lint is gone. And in the end, I did feel really good. The dreadful sense that something was wrong disappeared. It wasn’t quite like surviving the zombie apocalypse, but it was pretty close. Maybe that’s why everyone is so miserable in the zombie apocalypse, everything is so dirty. Cleanliness, that’s the ticket, anything less is just too scary.

Happy (early) Halloween


Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q3

Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Personal notes:

  • Learn to accept certain behaviors from people, you’re not going to change them;
  • It’s not cancer, it’s not bankruptcy;
  • Focus on what is in our control.

It’s 545am Monday, my 2 year old is already screaming and yelling. No wonder people hate Mondays. Tranquility: “be not disturbed by crying toddlers.”

Cleanliness Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 10, Q2

Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or location

Personal notes:

  • Location, location, location: New Move, New Home, Big Mess;
  • Pitch the suit, wear sweatpants, and fix the place up.

Cleanliness is deeply rooted in our biological DNA. Unsure? Move from one home to another and record what happens. The experience will erase any doubt.

We are moving, and exhausted, but despite our exhaustion, we are driven by a deeply ingrained desire to persevere. Like an animal ensnared in a trap, we tirelessly unpack boxes, break down cardboard, drag garbage, paint rooms, construct furniture, clean deep into the night, then repeat; it is an effort to free ourselves. The speed is breakneck – we are racing towards sanity.

Our pace results in a deep, filmy sweat that layers like a dirty sweater. The film begins early and builds depth as we labor through the day. I’m left uneasy – I’ve come home from a week of camping and felt cleaner. The only relief is a shower to wash away the filth, and a clean bed to provide a few hours of renewal.

This is our space, our home where we relax and provide shelter. I can’t relax when a deep, visceral dirt covers my person and clutter robs my space. Cleanliness is a part of me; it does not bring me joy, but it does bring me peace.


Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Ten, Q1

Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or location.”

Personal notes:

  • For me, this also includes how I dress. Go with the 007 mantra. Look like bond – when going out at least 😉
  • While I don’t think it’s necessary to wear a suit around the house, I should dress up, get out of PJs, don’t look like a slob, aim to look like an adult with style.
  • Pick up little things laying around the house. We leave little piles everywhere and it drives me crazy!
  • Maintain front of the house & garden (more so during summer).
  • Fix what needs repair.

Cleanliness is a week I enjoy but don’t always know what to write about. I guess if I had to distill why I enjoy Cleanliness, I would have 3 reasons: First, and now I know I’m getting old, when I am physically cleaning, my mind falls at ease. Second, when I improve my state of appearance, sometimes even marginally so, I simply feel better about myself, more confident. And finally, piles of mail, clothes, whatever, are little land-mines waiting to set me off and it’s important to clear them from my life.

It’s true, small, insignificant clutter can drive me insane and ruin the day of not just me, but everyone around me. Example: the other day I was making Saturday morning breakfast for the family. The bacon was sizzling, coffee brewing, music playing, the sun was out, everything was great, but then I began to set out the plates, and there in front of me was a giant pile of mail. I was so annoyed laying out the breakfast spread that a moment later, when my wife asked me a harmless question, I was short, abrasive and set of a spiral that ruined the morning. That little pile of mail might as well have been a pile of dynamite.

It’s amazing how insignificant it all seems in retrospect but the cluttered counter space sprung a well of annoyance and anger. Why even let these piles accumulate if I know they’re going to have a negative effect? To be honest, I have no good answer; laziness I guess. The weird thing is though, I don’t mind cleaning. In fact, when engaging in big or little projects, I enjoy cleaning, clearing, working. In that moment I can shut off my mind and disappear into a task.

In the case of my yard, I spent hours removing a tree stump and couldn’t care less what was going on in the world. Working in the dirt, physically laboring away, feeling the sun and knowing I was making our yard more enjoyable allowed me to disappear into the present. I looked at that stump a million times thinking how difficult it would be to remove, setting up obstacles and preventing its removal. Don’t get me wrong, removing the stump was a bear, but once the process began, time flowed and the labor was its own reward. I walked away thinking, why do I let mail piles become tree stumps?

This week, I also upped my wardrobe and did my best to look like an adult. Don’t worry, I didn’t remove the tree stump wearing a three piece suit, but quickly remembered that it feels good to look your best. Feeling good, who doesn’t like that? No one; but writing about it here, I think of it a little bit more complexly. Yes, we know all the cliche “dress to impress” and dressing well helps with promotions and social interactions, all of which make you feel good, but what about when you’re alone? Safely in your home with no strangers, no meetings, no social pressure, how do you feel then to dress your best? Surprisingly, I found you feel pretty good.

It all stems from my wife and I’s experience on Sundays. Many times we’d stay in our PJ’s all day, being lethargic, hanging out, rolling around with the kids. Winter kept us on the couch, gray and sleepy. But we always felt bad at the end of the day, sluggish, detached, never really embracing what was before us, until we started dressing up a bit.

We did it to see if we felt better and you know what, we felt the benefit almost immediately. We felt better about ourselves, got more accomplished during the day, engaged more with the world, began attending church again, got the girls away from the TV, it was an all around improvement. Was it all tied to the clothes, probably not, but it was a part of the small steps we took to change our psyche.

There are days when we’re still in a rough place, but overall our outlook has vastly improved, and it all stems from little, simple changes. I guess it goes back to our theme, these little incremental pieces all add up to a larger benefit. It doesn’t have to be a tree stump, small actions like wearing a pressed shirt or cleaning up a mail pile have dramatic consequences. One of the best things we ever did was change our sheets on a Sunday night. Now we do it every Sunday night because climbing into clean, cool sheets on Sunday night is a simple way to vastly improve your Monday.