Keep it clean.  As a child, that meant I was approaching potty mouth and my mother would go for the soap.  (Needless to say, I cleaned it up… Who wants to eat soap?)  As an adult, I’ve learned that the meanings to “keep it clean” are endless, because there is always a plethora that has to be cleaned!  Clean up the house. Clean the children (on multiple fronts, mind you).  Plus, somewhere in there I have to make sure I get cleaned up…  Hair, body, face, and all!   Now, because I’ve tried to be responsible,  add volunteer organizations, office and clean-up favors of all sorts for friends.   Clean, clean clean… But I digress.

No matter what needs to be cleaned, one thing remains true for this writer:  To  clean means that, first, a bigger mess than the one in existence will come to pass before the task is done.  Crazy?  Far from it.  In the middle of that procedural mess is order.

Picture cleaning the kitchen cupboards.  Say that I have removed everything…  So cups, plates, bowls etc, are removed from their home and placed temporarily all over the kitchen counter.  There is now, no room anywhere for anything on that counter; yet four little bros, all longing to suddenly use the kitchen counter with no space, found one teeny tiny spot in the middle of the fragile dishes, and each of them wanted it at the same time. Now, picture The Bros all talking  (complaining would be more accurate) simultaneously.  And, as they “discussed”  who would have the teeny tiny space amid my dishes, I inserted myself saying, “There is no room, go outside, while I get this project finished.”  And, with that, I returned to my cupboards, believing that I had eliminated at least the noise and confusion if not the mess on the counter.  But no!  They went outside, and then inside (through the kitchen door of course) and outside, and then inside, and then out and in… You get the picture!  And, cleaning the kitchen cupboards continued with this fanning of the door and arms flying over the kitchen counter where dishes were stacked precariously.


At this point, you would think I would have reached the epicenter of the confusion.  I thought I had.  Yet at that very moment, the phone rang!  It rang once, the bros all yelled, “Mom, the phone!”  It rang twice and I continued to let it go and wipe down cabinets.   “Mom!  The phone!”  And before I could say, “Let the voice mail take it,” one of the bros answered it and I heard, “Yeah, she’s right here!  … Mom! It’s for you!”  The phone lay there waiting for me to drop everything and take the call.  So… I did.  And, when it was finished, I saw that one of The Bros had placed a GI Joe tank in the middle of my dishes on the counter.  (I am so glad I did not see that happening!)

By now, it had occurred to me that if I was to finish my task before lunch, there was no time to worry any more about what might go wrong or what those four Bros might do next… I had to get focused on my project and stay focused.   Trust that nothing would go super wrong…  Time does not divide itself well within the human mind…  Yes, we can multi-task, but worry and work?  That just slows everything done to a crawl.

Soap suds flew as each cabinet was washed and dried.  (There was laughter and chatter in the background, but there were no blood curdling screams.)  The dishes went back to their homes, one stack at a time; and at last, GI Joe was all alone on the kitchen counter.  Done!  Clean and organized!  Things can get done, when we’re willing to reach beyond the inevitable chaos, as we work. Clean = plan + (stamina and focus) – chaos… Even though the chaos is a given, dealing with it sometimes means letting it go.

I love to accomplish things.    My dad and mom made success look like it was so much fun!  And my grandmothers?  I can still hear them both telling me that I should focus on my job at hand and quit complaining…  Feed the brain on success, not failure.  Feeding on failure…  Well, that’s just not trying to achieve a thing at all, and instead, lying down with all the reasons why a thing will be tough to finish, so don’t finish at all.  And that, my friends, is the final “keeping it clean” for me…  Success instead of sass.

May you experience many successes today, and always!


Carolyn Thomas Temple