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The Secret of Cleaning House

I was going to blog on Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret, a few weeks back but forgot about it. Then, my friend, Brian, sent me this hilarious review at Reason.com…which got me thinking about it again…The somewhat fictionized story that follows tells my experience with the secret…

I first heard about the book The Secret one morning as I was getting ready for work. I was listening to my usual AM radio show, and the host was talking with a physicist about the book’s powerful, secret message, which can also be heard on DVD. Of course, neither the host nor the guest could say what the secret was exactly, because, well, it’s a secret. It’s not just any secret, either. It’s the secret. The Big One that no one wants you know because it’s so big. Curious, I decided to Google™ The Secret to find out what it was.

According to Wikipedia, the secret of The Secret is this: the “Law of Attraction.” This is not the usual “opposites attract” Law of Attraction or “boy-girl-theory”—this law is a New Age law that states “one should never dwell on the negative, as the ‘metaphysical principle of life’ is embodied in a ‘law of attraction’ that states ‘you get what you think about; your thoughts determine your destiny.’” Some guy named Guy Redden wrote about the secret in Magic Happens: A New Age Metaphysical Mystery Tour, in the Journal of Australian Studies. (Other, more famous people have written about the secret before, but this is the one I remembered from Wikipedia…)

Now, I didn’t know exactly what the “metaphysical principle of life” was, so I searched the internet again. The metaphysical principle of life has something to do with the theory of how Individual Mind creates matter. Well, it’s not that simple. The Individual Mind relies on the Universal Mind, which relies on the Individual Mind, and then some processes go on with these two types of minds that lead to forms, like matter and minds, only the Universal Mind, or “the whole,” is really only the Individual Mind, or “the parts,” unless you realize they are really the whole in the first place. Once you get the whole picture, you can get anything you want.

Fortunately, you don’t have to understand all of this to get the secret. You just have to accept that thoughts reshape the physical world and that you can get anything you want if you will it strongly enough and just stop thinking negatively. And, anything means anything. The Secret’s author, Rhonda Byrne—a woman from Australia who got everything she wanted—believes that if you focus on something strongly enough, with Yoda-like concentration, you can actually alter reality and attract whatever you want to you. The secret seems to work particularly well with money and cars.

You can also eat whatever you want and not gain weight, as long as you truly believe that the food will not make you gain weight. Lottery numbers will come up what you think they will; you can have a Mercedes, etcetera. The principle works in reverse, too: Think too strongly about negative things, and they will happen to you. That’s humanity’s problem. People are too negative.

My initial reaction to all this mumbo jumbo, was, “Hogwash.” My second thought was that this is nothing new. People have been wishing upon stars for millennia, hoping the flood waters will recede, their lost loved ones will come back to life, lightning will strike their enemies, and on and on. This is just Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” dictum wrapped up with a bunch of quantum physics and a dose of the power of positive thinking. Still, The Secret haunted me all day.

Could it be that people in the past have just been too darn negative? Am I too negative? Maybe people just didn’t wish hard enough or truly believe. Maybe they didn’t understand the part about the whole being the part and the whole at the same time. Of course, I didn’t understand this either, but it was worth a shot. I decided I would put The Secret to the test that night, to see for myself. I would start small.

When I got home, I looked around my apartment, which had slowly been disintegrating into a mess since I’d been sick last week. I was really hoping the mess would just go away. I started to envision a clean apartment. I mean really envision it, and I mean really clean. I could picture the surfaces, the floors, the sparkling tub, the perfectly made bed, the kitchen—all of it tidy and spotless.

I envisioned the whole thing, too, not just parts. All my papers were filed perfectly…my books were put away…I closed my eyes and willed my apartment clean. I decided to not look at my apartment too closely after I opened my eyes because part of getting anything you want, according to The Secret, is to only look at the things you do want. Real reality can get in the way of what you really want and screw up the whole thinking-attraction thing. So, I just kept thinking how clean my apartment was. I decided if I was going to stay positive about this, I needed to get out of my apartment and go look at pictures of clean places, like in Better Homes and Gardens…or Good Housekeeping

Now, I wasn’t exactly clear on how my apartment would get clean without me cleaning it, but I figured that was the Law of Attraction’s problem. Maybe the “metaphysical life principle” would somehow attract a maid to my neighborhood who would offer to clean it. Or, maybe a friend would stop by and decide that they wanted to clean it for me, as a gift. I didn’t want to get too lost in the details. I just wanted a clean apartment.

At that moment, a friend did call me. Maybe this was a sign. It was Karla. She asked me if I wanted to go to dinner and if we could meet there.

“Don’t you want to come by my apartment first?” I asked.


“Oh, I don’t know…I thought maybe you’d want to…clean or something…”

My voice trailed off. I didn’t want to jinx the secret, and she didn’t seem to know anything about my apartment.

“Uh, not really. Meet me at seven at Market Street.”

She hung up.

I guess you can’t rush the secret processes, I thought. I probably just hadn’t willed the cleanliness strong enough yet. I’d have to focus on it more. I thought about Yoda.

At the restaurant, I ordered my mango salad, my friend ordered her usual club sandwich, and we sat down to chat. She started talking about her friend Jen’s trip to New York and how the airport security lady wouldn’t let Jen take a jar of pickles through the gate.

“Can you believe that? But then the lady says she can dump the pickle juice out. She’ll let her through with just the pickles…”

As she spoke, I focused on my clean apartment. It made me happier just thinking about it. I smiled. I remembered the story of the Brownies—the little helpers who tidy up when you leave the house. I wondered who had the key to my apartment besides me anyway. It didn’t matter. My apartment was clean.

We swapped a few more anecdotes on airport security, and then I told her about my apartment and the secret. She seemed uninterested, even when I explained how the secret is being unleashed on the modern world now, opening up a whole new era for mankind.

“That’s nice,” she said. “Can you you wish for things to come to other people? I need a new car.”

We got into another conversation about The Simpsons, finished our food and headed home.

As I started up the steps to my door I was thinking about the perfectly made bed, the spotless kitchen, the organized books and papers. This secret is really simple. I wondered why no one thought of it before. Then I remembered someone had thought about it before, but evil people who don’t like other people to get what they want had suppressed the secret. I wondered if any people in Iran knew about the secret…I stood at the door and focused again on a clean place. A clean, well-lighted place, I added, but then I thought I’d better not confuse the Law of Attraction. Clean would be fine.

I opened the door—so far so good. The front hallway was in order, as usual. But, as soon as I entered the living room, I noticed the papers on the coffee table…my shoes were still in the middle of the floor…the trash had not even been emptied…my desk was still covered with notebooks and papers.

Everything was exactly how I’d left it. How long did I have to focus on a clean apartment before I would get a clean apartment? Didn’t the Law of Attraction know I wanted the apartment cleaned today? I started to get annoyed by the secret. I didn’t have time for this metaphysical principle of life to bring me a maid. I had an appointment the next day, and I needed to find my calendar, which was lost in all the mess.

I stumbled over the shoes and decided enough was enough. I began putting everything away. I washed the dishes. I emptied the trash. I reshelved my books. I filed my bills. I vacuumed. Then, I found my calendar on the couch and sat down to relax in my almost clean apartment. Tomorrow was Thursday…I looked at the day in my calendar and read: 2 p.m.—root canal—Dr. Bennett. Damn. I was really hoping I didn’t have to go that…

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