Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Clean Swept Floor

This essay was first published in Prairie Times in early 2012. I hope you enjoy and can relate.

The Beauty of a Clean Swept Floor
By Susan Sundwall

Several years ago I traveled east with my family to visit an old Shaker village. If you know anything at all about the Shakers you know how clean their communities were. In fact, cleanliness is next to godliness was a dictum they strove mightily to live by. As we wandered through the various old buildings, the meeting house, the school rooms and kitchen, I was particularly taken by the clean swept look of the floors. Of course no one lives in these places now, but one gets the distinct impression that the floors were always clean and cleared of clutter back then. I despaired when comparing them to my own floors.

I had this exact visit in mind the following spring as I vigorously swept winter from the patio. I was appalled at the crud lurking beneath the mud and leftover autumn leaves. But while sweeping I glanced back at intervals to view my handiwork. Nice. The patio seemed to be glad of the lifted burden and gleamed back at me all tidy and ready to face the sun again. Naturally that begged the question of when the patio furniture would be set out, what flowers would be planted along the patio border and whether the grill would need a good scrubbing before it came out of hiding. But those were thoughts I didn’t trouble myself with right then. I just kept sweeping and then gave in to the call of the fresh cup of coffee I’d set to brewing before the sweeping began.

Mother was the kind of housekeeper whose regimen demanded the floor be swept after the supper dishes were done every night (we kids were the dishwashers). Make supper, set the table, eat supper, do the dishes and sweep the floor. In that order. Like setting the family’s evening ritual into a comfortable old picture frame and it felt good to get it done. When the kitchen light went out everything was in order. I confess that discipline often escapes me now and I don’t always sweep the floor at night. I know, I know – I should and hereby resolve to be more vigilant in that area.

In case you think this is a big deal about nothing, consider the economic angle. Visit the home appliance section of your favorite discount store and view the stunning array of mops, brooms, dust bunny busters and vacuum cleaners. You can swiff, steam, buff, spot clean, foam and special tool your floor like crazy with all the equipment you find there. And the info-mercials! My stars, what they don’t go through to let you know the power of their product for keeping your floor spotless and eat off of clean. Probably the demos are rigged, but it sure sets up a lust in the heart for clean floors.These savvy marketers know what a great first impression a clean floor makes and more importantly, how to keep it that way. I’d love to know their annual sales figures, especially for that little robot guy that does the work all by itself. Genius.

Remember spring cleaning? Modern technologies have made it possible for us to have top to bottom clean homes year round. Most of us don’t have soot from the wood stove or cow manure from farm boots to clean up like our grandmothers did. But maybe we should again relish the prospect of throwing open the windows in April to let the spring sunshine in. That bright light sweeping into the rooms shows us the task ahead and fills us with vigor for the job. And then months later when autumn rolls around and the windows must be shut up again against old man winter, it’s a comfort to think that the rugs are all thoroughly shaken, the broom has been applied to all the spider-webbed corners and the fireplace is swept and ready for a log or two. Bring on the mulled cider!

Yes indeed, those Shakers were on to something. Their common saying, hands to work and hearts to God, hovered over their daily tasks and are still an inspiration to us today. A clean swept floor is tantamount to a well ordered life and a mind free of chaos. A beautiful thing.

Image: lamnee                                                                          Free Digital Photos


  1. "I vigorously swept winter from the patio."

    As a writer, I love that line. Great work!

    1. That means so much coming from you, Rhonda! Thank you.

  2. Oh, bother! Winter is still in my house. Woe is me.

    1. You must be a Winnie the Pooh fan, Cindy. LOL There's a lot of winter around here, too. Sigh. I'll get to it sometime before the end of August. . . maybe.

  3. This post makes me want to clean my garage, where I've let the cleanliness of the floor (and shelves) slip quite a bit! ;-)

    I like how you tied in a clean swept floor with a chaos-free mind. Beautiful.

    Be well, my friend.

    1. Thanks for your input and sweetness, Janette. My patio is so old and crumbly it's hardly worth sweeping, but I do it anyway. Blessings.