Sunday, September 4, 2011

A House of Order

I used to think I was a very orderly, organized person. I realized how mistaken I was when I got married and moved in with Cameron! He is the emperor of order and cleanliness. Everything that needs to be done is done right away, and never left sitting even for an extra hour. (It's really lovely actually. The sink disposal breaks and within a day we have gone to the store to purchase a new one, installed it ourselves, and gone to a second store to find a replacement for a mismatched part. Voila! If it had been left to me, well, it would still be sitting there, left to me.) Once we were married, the poor man was suddenly dealing with my undone dishes, my clothing lying on the floor for sometimes a couple days at a time, my disorganized closet, and my total domination of the bathroom counter and dining room table. I never heard (and still have never heard) a word of complaint from him --- just the occasional gentle reminder. And really, I'm not that bad. I just feel like I am because he's so darn good.

I believe in a strong mind-body connection. Our spirits thrive off of healthy living, just as our bodies thrive off of positive, edifying thoughts and attitudes. Our homes function similarly. The physical atmosphere we create greatly aids or handicaps the spiritual atmosphere of a home. I need to be more diligent in my own home. D&C 90:18 says, "Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you." More than one time in that same book, the Lord counsels men who would otherwise be given spiritual callings that they must first set in order their houses. This is an effort I want to make inside my home, so I can be better prepared to serve outside of my home as well.

Can we invite a spirit of peace and gentleness to a home where dishes and laundry and clutter are mounting a seemingly unbreakable offensive? Of course we can, by so many different means. Just as someone with failing health or the need to lose weight can have a very vibrant spiritual life worthy of emulation. I think the Spirit of the Lord measures our efforts against our abilities, and not against some invisible standard. It will attend those who are striving to do their best --- not stressing, not straining, but making diligent and daily efforts.

I didn't know what a House of Order was until I served in the Salt Lake Temple for two years. I worked in the baptistry, where many of my hours were devoted to folding clean laundry and towels. I was shocked my first few days there, as I was taught how every item needed to be folded and stacked with perfect exactness. There was a special way to fold everything! I thought I would never remember, and I admit I was frustrated at first. Most of these items, once folded, were tucked into cupboards where nobody but we temple workers would ever see them. I felt like the letter of the law was overpowering the spirit of the law a bit.

But over time my understanding changed, as I realized the purpose behind it all. It is not enough that the temple has beautifully manicured gardens, clean carpets, and shiny handrails by the stairway. It is a true House of Order, even in its unseen cupboards, in its isolated corners. I once had the opportunity to go late at night to clean the same temple. My job was dusting. I pictured myself dusting the furniture in one of the grand, beautiful rooms, but where was I sent? The women's locker room. There, I was assigned to dust the top of every changing stall --- its door and two sides. Few women are tall enough ever to see these ledges, and I thought my handiwork would likely never be noticed. I wondered how it is possible that the temple staff wastes manpower on this task every night, as dusting such a large room of stalls took me well over an hour. I especially thought I might be wasting my time when I realized, "I'm hardly even getting any dust off! If they do this every night it never has a chance to build up..."

But then it struck me. The Lord's house is a house of order, which means a house of cleanness. If they waited for the dust to build up, then for some period of time the temple would not be clean. Having a perfect house of order means foreseeing disorder, and preventing it.

Nowadays, when I think of the Salt Lake Temple, I don't think so much about the elegant rooms and staircases.

I think of the towel cupboards in the basement, and the changing stalls in the locker room. They are a large part of my testimony that the Spirit of the Lord loves order, light, and cleanliness. Those lockers and cupboards are, I believe, a large part of why the whole building carries such a remarkable feeling of peace. Do I think our houses can be so perfect? Not really. If I had a midnight staff of four dozen people mine probably could be. But it is a testament to me that we should do our very best.

So I'm going to start thinking of the corners in my house that are a little dusty, dirty, or dark. That includes the spiritual corners! Maybe I'll get to one a week, maybe one a month once I have children. But I know my efforts to have an orderly house will influence the peace in my family and home.


  1. What a wonderful post! We just read it out loud and really loved it. What great personal examples from the temple.
    Our house is backwards and inside out right now because of the move, and it definitely gets us down!

  2. Meredith, this is a timely post for me to read actually. There are truly few things in the world that feel so nice as a freshly cleaned room. I strongly agree with you about the idea of a mind body connection. I confess, though, I don't get our rooms as freshly clean as I should. I say as I should, not because Joe doesn't help me, (he is very helpful, and loves order as much as I do), but because I consider being able to stay home to raise George a wonderful privilege, and as Joe works SO hard to make this a possibility for us, I consider it my duty and privilege to make our home livable. This post serves as a boost for something I have had on my mind this weekend all ready. Our one bedroom apartment needs extra effort on my part. Thank you for your thoughts!

  3. Thank you for those insights, Meredith! I feel this pull to cleanliness so strongly in my home. I have started to be more organized about how and when I clean, and being organized about being orderly has helped me so much! :) Maybe I'll post about it...

  4. I hope you guys don't mind that I am your secret blog stalker, I guess it isn't much of a secret since I have been making comments. :) I love this post. Meredith, I had some of those same thoughts and feelings when I was cleaning the Ogden temple and was vacuuming all the little carpet squares they put at the bottom of each locker.

  5. I loved this post! It was so uplifting. I have struggled finding order in our new house, especially since it is smaller than our last one (it is always hard to downsize)! This gave me the strength I need to follow my chore chart a bit better and clean my dusty corners! Thank you!