Sunday, December 2, 2018

Clean Up

Fact: I am the messiest cook in the history of ever.
Another Fact: I’m okay with that.

That I don’t care how big a mess I create while doing something might be attributable to my not minding the clean up step. Point of fact, I actually like the clean up stage of any project, whether cooking or crafting. I have a system. So as not to be overwhelmed, I don’t look at the whole mess, just the small section in front of me. When that is resolved, I move to the next section and then the next until I can look up and out and see everything all tidy again. It’s quite satisfying actually. 

This was something of a weird realization that rushed over me as I reordered my kitchen at the end of making Thanksgiving turkey leftover soup. First, as I assessed the chaos of my kitchen, I thought to myself that one turkey carcass being boiled for its last remaining useable essence should not have been cause for the use of so many utensils, bowls, pots and paper towels. Since it took the better part of a decorate-the-house-for-Christmas Saturday, it occurred to me that making leftover turkey soup was as time consuming and troublesome as making the original turkey dinner. 

But being an over thinker and all, as I usually do, while cleaning up the mess, even though I was bone-tired, I considered the task I launched into, regardless the complaints from my old hip, and why I didn’t really mind the clean up. Why I needed to get it done. 

This sort of thought processing requires serious introspection. I’ve always tried to stay true to myself, as Shakespeare once recommended, to know myself, the good, the bad and the ugly, so I often take stock of what I am doing and why. The why being the actual focus. So, I asked myself, why?  Why clean up - the part most people dread and groan over - is often the best phase of an endeavor for me?

My first thought was about closure. I am a problem solver so I naturally crave closure. By comparison I hate cliff hanger endings. I need a beginning and an ending. Doesn’t have to be happy like a fairytale or a Hallmark movie, but just a conclusion. A tidy wrap up. The endeavor itself, whether a meal or a work of art, is not quite as important to me as having followed through from step one concept to final putting things away. 

Clean up says, “Done!” Clean up says, “You tried, and regardless the outcome, you gave it all you had. Now move on." 

Sometimes in the cleaning up I look at the tools I used as I put them away and make notes - you might have used this instead - or- next time you can leave this step out - or - next time you will do better because now you know how you can improve this. 

Clean up says - all ready for next time!

Clean up is when you can say, I gave it what I had to give and now I intend to finish up by leaving where I did it as good as I found it, if not better. 

Clean up is when you accept that which you did, whether it resulted in a triumph or defeat, a success or failure, a bad choice or serendipitously wise move and note how it all added to you, one way or another. How you learned by the experience. How making messes is okay so long as you are being honest with yourself, others, and most particularly God, as you are also willing to finish with clean up. 

For Him,

This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day; thou canst not then be false to any man. ~ Shakespeare


  1. I was just thinking with a tiny thrill about the messy manuscript I'm going to be editing today (that is, if I get the Monday-morning- kitchen cleaned and a good start on the laundry and supper first!). I like cleaning up that kind of mess because I know I've got something to work with. Starting from scratch always seems so daunting to me because I wonder if I've got anything to say.
    Maybe the satisfaction of clean up comes in the joy of knowing something has happened!

    1. Yes! I much prefer the edit stage - I sit down to a blank page and blinking cursor to write and immediately I think I definitely need to do something else. The angst of wrangling the thoughts into coherent words is the worse part. Once the wild muse has been subdued though, into a raw but fixable draft, with the pressure of ‘is this even possible?’ conquered, I breath again, rub my hands together and say, “Okay, let the clean up begin!” :-)

    2. Yup . . . "subduing the wild muse" is a good way of thinking of it. I never ever begin a piece without first being absolutely convinced that I have nothing to say. :-)
      Thank heavens God made me stubborn.

    3. Okay I have to laugh at that because I’ve recently passed through yet another threshold where I am pretty sure it doesn’t matter if I have something to say or not - whatever it might be is completely irrelevant. The irony is - I don’t care. I talk to myself anyway. That might be considered a streak of stubborn. :-)