There was once a part of me which loved mowing the lawn. It was such a zen kind of moment. The action of cutting the grass shorter proved my existence and that my presence had made a difference in the world, yet it was short-lived: within days the grass grew back and there was no way to tell I'd been there.
The same is true for house-cleaning, only the "re-growing" is our clutter which is proof positive that we exist. Cleaning the house, de-cluttering, sweeping, dusting, laundry--it all gives a powerful sense of satisfaction when it's done. "I was here and I made a difference. I have triumphed over the forces of chaos and filth." But of course it doesn't last. The house, like the universe, gradually succumbs to entropy.
I suppose this might be depressing to some--that no real change can be made--that the grass and the clutter continue to grow despite our best efforts. I am oddly comforted by the encroaching chaos--the world continues without me, the community I live in will exist after we leave, the faith community perseveres through clergy and lay changeover, the earth remakes itself with each passing moment. What we do is not permanent, and we'd do well to remember it. Our towers and committees will all eventually fall apart yet the spirit that animated them will not.
The prophet Qoheleth wrote "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." Again, some read this as depressing, but it rings so truly and beautifully in my ears. Only the moment is truly available to us--the past cannot be undone and the future is only a theory--it is only the olam, the eternal now, the depth of a single moment, that is where we live.
When I took ceramics in college, our professor--a gruff, hippie sort--spent a lot of time on "non-attachment." When you make a pot, he said, you pour your heart into it. You shape it with your hands, it's messy, it's beautiful, and you love it. And then you surrender it to the processes of drying, bisque firing, glazing, and re-firing and at any point along the way it could break. Your beautiful pot containing your heart could break and be worthless. So don't get too attached. Create with your hands and heart, invest fully in the moment of creation, then let it go.