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Clean A Room

By Robert Fritz

There are two reality TV programs that Rosalind and I love to watch: How Clean is Your House? and Hotel Inspector. Both are from Britain.

In How Clean is Your House, two very nice English ladies – Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie – visit some of the dirtiest houses in England, and, after being properly disgusted with the clutter and chaos, proceed to spend the next 20 minutes or so transforming their guests' burrows of filth into spotless, sparkling, and sanitary models of cleanliness.

Hotel Inspector begins with Ruth Watson, an absolute expert in hotel management, visiting a hapless hotel, often run by an overworked and underperforming couple of innkeepers. By the end of the program, what was once a money pit and ongoing stress test is transformed into a lovely hotel, the innkeepers, now able to put all of their creative energy into a business and life worth building.

What we love about these programs is that the situations move from something that seems hopeless, to something that is completely transformed into a new beginning. This is the essence of transcendence. No matter what the past has been, you can begin anew – you are given a second chance – you can turn over a new leaf.

The guests on these shows are stuck in a situation they are not able to get out of on their own. They are overwhelmed. They have given up, even as they tread water. And, with some very good help, suddenly their lives are different. Both shows come back to the guest after a period of time to see if the changes have stuck. Almost always they have. The guests have taken the lessons learned to heart, and now are able to move forward.

There is something quite wonderful about giving people another chance in life even if it is simply cleaning a house. Putting a degree of order works on many levels. One is the experience of having regained control over one's circumstances. Another is the actual sense of new clarity.

So, when things get a little crowded in your life why not stop for a moment and clean something, a room, a dresser drawer, the dishes. I know this sounds very mundane. Nonetheless, there is a principle or two involved that can be rejuvenating.

The first principle is that something small can change the tonality of life. While there might be areas that are not within your control, to take one that is and create some movement begins to establish a new structural reference point. In reality, something has changed for the better and it was by your choice and by your hand it has changed. One thing often leads to another, and soon other and perhaps even larger pieces of your life come into focus and under control. One by one, things begin to move in the direction you would like them to.

On the TV programs we are talking about there is a real sense of structural tension, although often it is the hosts that have the vision, describe current reality firmly and without apology, and chart a course to move ahead. One factor that is needed is the active cooperation of the guest. While they are not leading the charge, the creative process must be consistent with what they want. Often the result is beyond what they could have imagined. The more experienced expert was able to see beyond the guest aspirations, because often the guest begins in a problem solving mode rather than a creative one.

Your starting point is just that. It is not your ending point. And, instead of thinking "How do I get out of this?" you begin to consider, "Where do I want to end up?" new possibilities become available.

Both the cleaning ladies and the expert of hotel management bring a wealth of skill, experience, and knowledge to their tasks. Sometimes, there is something to know that you might not know, but some one else does. Often the guests on these shows go through defining moments in which they must give up their previous concepts, fixed ideas, past experiences, and resentment to change. These become value choices in that their concepts of how things should be are in conflict with how it actually is. Truth and honesty are senior to avoiding discomfort. In some of the Hotel Inspector programs, the guests have decorated their hotels with teddy bears, or angel themes, or an array of moose and dear heads looking down on the customers. These items may be loved by the guests, even though they work against the success of the hotel. The guests are faced with a value choice between insisting on their pet frog theme, or a thriving business. Usually the guest can’t see what the expert sees because they are too close to their original ideas. They can take it personally when someone who is there to help them seems to be cutting their personal tastes to ribbons. I must admit, these moments are kind of fun. Part of the drama of the show is to watch what these people go through as it slowly dawns on them that to be successful they really need to change. And because of the real talent and experience of the experts they always succeed in the end by following such good advice. That's why they've got TV programs.

But each story of every episode is, fundamentally, a human story. People lost in circumstances, asking for help even though it doesn't seem likely that anything can help, others who know what they're doing intervening, and, in the end, reaching success well beyond what was thought possible.

 © Robert Fritz 2010

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Updated: 10/24/10