Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

Keeping It Clean



I was at school when it was the praxis to give students “study lists” – conjugations; dates; facts; idioms; poems; proverbs; quotations; spellings; theorems. We got out of school just when our brains were in imminent danger of becoming pedagogic data-banks.

Yet this tedious method was a one-stop-shop for keeping us occupied, teaching us general knowledge, and encouraging our brains to create new synapses while honing long-term memory skills.

“Sabiħa l-indafa,” tgħid maħmuġa, (“Cleanliness is nice,” says Dirty) is one of the thousands of aphorisms learned in my vernacular. Like many of the rest, it has several layers of meaning, like an onion’s modified scale leaves.

At face value, it means that everyone appreciates the sensation of cleanliness. It also indicates that some people give lip service to trending topics, because going with the flow is easier than battling the tide. This may even avoid one’s being discriminated against for not conforming.

The adage also represents the combination of wishful thinking and procrastination upon which people waste time when they could be doing something tangible and positive, only to replace them with regrets when opportunities cease to arise.

English-speaking people know that, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,”… and verges, sometimes, upon obsession.

There are people who fill their shopping carts with all manner of low-fat, low-salt, and low-sugar products, under the false impression that the may gorge with impunity. There are those who grab every product that has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal or anti-viral on the label, because it not enough to steam clean carpets and wash down walls at least once a year “to be really clean.”

These people make germ warfare an art form; they scrub their children and their pets to within an inch of their lives when they come in from playing in the garden, and equate a clean house with a perfect life.

Instead of, “Keep off the grass,” with them it’s, “Don’t use the upstairs bathroom; I’ve just cleaned it,” or “Don’t sit on the sofa; I’ve just washed the covers.”

But this is not what “putting your house in order” is all about. It’s freeing the mind of suspicious thoughts about others; cleansing the mouth from gossip and innuendo; deleting useless trifles from the daily life in order to have more time to dedicate to the service of others. It’s spring-cleaning the negativities that prevent a wholesome existence, and making room for empathy, community service, and love.



Scour; scrub; swab; sluice;
Bleach; bathe; brush; blanch…
The feeling of emptiness inside
That’s filled with negativities
Like hatred, spite, malevolence and cruelty
Grows larger, deeper, further,
As the fuel for pessimism takes root
And gnaws at our inner being.
In vain do we try to sanitize
The filth of smut; the grime of gossip;
The stains of shirking; the blot of mendacity.
Unless You help us
Begin from within.

-Tanja Cilia



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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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