Thankful for this post from Jane Grizzle:

I think I just needed to find my niche to really become addicted to Internet content. And my niche is cleaning. I get lost down a deep rabbit hole of video after video of power-washing. Just one more video of someone spraying their siding or porch or outdoor shower. I even went as far as purchasing a power-washer and washing the entire outside of our farmhouse in Virginia. It was the most soothing activity, better than yoga or meditation. With the sweep of a hand, my house’s white siding was once again white. I would disappear for two hours at a time with my power-washer, inching along the side of the house, removing stains and mildew and other offensive sights. I started power-washing while listening to podcasts but eventually found it was much more appealing to power-wash in silence.

Then, I discovered stripping your towels. A few people I follow on Instagram posted stories about how they were adding various cleaning ingredients to a bathtub, soaking their towels and removing all the residue and oils that regular laundry does not. My first reaction was, “My washing machine doesn’t actually clean my towels!?!” But stripping your towels looked easy and very satisfying. I fell down that hashtag’s rabbit hole and only came up for air to strip my own towels of their imperfections.

So for a whole week I visited Walmart, Target, and Amazon looking for the ingredients. It took three trips to find everything, but yesterday I had my first towel-stripping session, and it was extremely exciting. The water, over the course of six hours, turned a dingy greenish gray. The oils and residue were soaking off. I posted some pictures of it, mostly to make fun of myself for spending time stripping towels when I probably should have been tidying up the many other messy parts of my house. But these pictures were, outside of birth announcements of my children, my most popular photos on Instagram. People were asking what I was doing, how to do it themselves, and where I found this. People shared that they too had stripped their towels. We had apparently all gone down the same rabbit hole of Instagram.

The rise in organizing and cleaning during the pandemic is not news. People have been following along with popular bloggers as they have cleaned and organized their houses since March. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and 1-800-Got-Junk have reported increases in donations and/or sales. The Home Edit, a pair of home organizers out of Nashville, have a New York Times bestseller right now. Groups like CleanCo have wildly popular videos on Instagram that are just people cleaning window sills.

We’re all watching videos of other people cleaning. And sometimes, we try to do it ourselves.

Some have credited the isolation of the pandemic as the reason why we are all desperate to clean even the strangest corners of our homes. We are stuck at home, so we notice the dirt and clutter more. Or perhaps we are influenced by all the talk of germs and droplets, and it’s our natural reaction to want to clean. Some of it is purely utilitarian. We need all the space for virtual schooling and working from home. We have to make room for the new uses we have for our homes. But really, our newfound cleaning compulsion is probably from all the stress.

At its core, I know this is because I believe the lie that cleaning and organizing will change my life. And I’ve been through enough counseling to know that I would rather control my immediate surroundings than have to deal with what’s outside of my control. But mostly, right now, I think I am looking to distract myself from my real issue. I strip my towels and power-wash while clutter builds up in my house. I leave phone calls unreturned or emails unanswered because I’m power-washing. I think, “I’m doing something worthwhile; I could not possibly do the everyday laundry.” I don’t actually want to look at my own mess and consider why I have unopened mail or a pile of boxes in my house. I’d rather strip my towels. The pandemic does push us towards self-examination but not if we can distract ourselves enough. And when the world seems out of control and hope is just a tiny flicker of light, we are happy to head straight for the power-washer.

This is why I am so glad that my church’s lectionary is taking us through the book of Exodus right now. I’m reminded that we are not the first group of people to be led through hard times. We are not the first people to grumble and whine and not trust that God will provide. We aren’t even the first ones to do dumb things to distract ourselves from the problems that weigh us down. As I look to ancient history and my own history, I’m reminded that God has already given us all that we need and that we can hope in his continued provision. As Paul writes in Romans 5:

Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

We know that God will make a way because he always makes a way. To paraphrase Paul, God demonstrates his own love for me in this: While I am distracting myself with stirring dirty towels or washing windows, unwilling to even admit to my own clutter and broken parts, Christ died for me. And with those words in my memory, that flicker of hope grows into a flame.