In Jenny Blake’s Life After College, the following quote is attributed to Paul Carvel:

 “He who wants to change the world should begin by cleaning the dishes.”

I haven’t been able to verify the original quote, and in the search results, sometimes there’s an “already” before “begin,” but let’s just accept it for the moment.

There are certainly benefits to having a clean space, including clean dishes. I feel calmer, happier, and more motivated when my space is clean. I also think of that inspiring scene in Limitless where one of the first decisions made by the guy’s new super mind is to clean his apartment.

I have heard other discussions, especially in Buddhist contexts, about mindfully washing the dishes, not rushing through the task just to get it done, but actually appreciating the process.

So, on one hand, we have support for cleaning.

However, there’s this other valid viewpoint I’ve encountered. One of my computer science professors said that whenever he was cleaning his floors, he was avoiding doing some other more important work. I don’t think he was implying there was anything wrong with cleaning, just that it was a distraction from something more important.

Author Talane Miedaner has written,

“The danger of cleaning your own house is that it may give you the illusion that you are accomplishing something when in reality your time would be better spent working on your big goals and dreams.”

She also says that cleanliness is important, though, so her suggestion is to hire a housekeeper, which she argues is not as extravagant as people may believe.

When I find myself vacuuming the ceilings (not crazy—there are sometimes cobwebs!), I think of all these conflicting viewpoints. Maybe I am wasting my time or maybe I am clearing the way for exciting new things or maybe I am meditating.

Until I convince myself to hire a housekeeper, though, I guess I’ll keep doing it, as long as I can still make time for the fun world-changing stuff.