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The Zen of Housecleaning

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is a phrase that my mother often uttered to me. Trying to get me to clean up my room, rinse my dishes, etc. I am not a neat nick by nature. Unlike my sister-in-law who couldn’t stop herself form neatening pillows on the sofa, polishing her countertops, straightening pictures. But, this morning as I sat in my chair in the sunroom, all I could see was dust. In fact, my husband had drawn a picture in the dust on the piano!

Instead of feeling like I (or he!) SHOULD clean the house; dust, sweep, clean counters and toilets etc. I suddenly had the awareness that I WANTED to have a neat environment to look out on as I sit in my chair. Not because my mother and other friends would admire this clean space or my housekeeping – but because it mattered to ME. This was a new thought! And so, I began with dusting. I have to say it was not a smile-inducing task – I just did what needed to be done. Of course, one cleaning task leads to another and the place has a way to go before it “sparkles”. But I realized that the effort was worth the feeling it produced in me when I sat back down in my chair.

This is perhaps why Zen temples are so thoroughly cleaned by the monks who reside in them. It is more than housekeeping. It is an honoring of the space and the furnishings – as well as a way to clear the inner life. It also is likely a practice of seeing everything as holy – everything as an opportunity to be mindful.


I clean this morning,

remove the unnecessary,

balance things,

make clear space.

Not out of duty

to some elusive standard,

but out of an inner longing

for order

for shine

for peace.

To clean as an act of the heart.

To straighten,



So that the eye

can rest easy

on the space of my life.

So that chaos

does not call out

to be hushed.

So that bare wood,

granite, leather, tile,

can shine with bareness.

An uninterrupted beauty

in which to sit,

a place where the heart

might soften,

the spirit might rest easy.

An unfettered place

where I might





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