I am a cleaner
  • This latest post from Tolu Ilesanmi is a stunner. It’s actually an email he sent us when we asked him to give us an update on his social enterprise Zenith Cleaners. We got more than we bargained for. We have always admired Zenith’s devotion to inscaping – to exploring the inner experiences of its members and clients. Tolu’s reflections beautifully illustrate that inscaping doesn’t just connect people; it expands purpose. The Zenith vision is becoming grander. It is becoming wilder. Its increasing fractal force is leading to some startling programmatic shifts. 

    . . .


    Photo by Grace Ding at www.studiophotogenic.com

    Zenith Cleaners continues to evolve. Very exciting times. We are taking further the concept of Cleaning as Practice and building our future on it. In the process, we came up with this definition of cleaning, which is in itself cleansing –

    Cleaning is the process of removing dirt from any space, surface, object or subject thereby exposing beauty, potential, truth and sacredness.

    In a way, we are cleaning our understanding of cleaning and what cleaning as practice means. It continues to be about leadership development, organizational transformation, paradigm shifts, social destigmatization, culture transformation, crossing boundaries, etc. Cleaning is beautiful. I have gone from “I am just a cleaner” to “No I am not just a cleaner, I only clean” to “Wow, I am a CLEANER.” I go to places now and introduce myself as a cleaner. Who wouldn’t want to be a cleaner given the above definition? Are we not all trying to clean something in the world?

    For the first time, I am seeing even the connection between my work as a cleaner and my desire to clean the Nigerian society. This definition brings hope and it suggests that underneath the corruption, underneath the dirt is beauty.  Our work is merely  to uncover it.

    In practice, we are expanding what we offer our clients- offering our clients all of what we are, removing the dirt of fear, hesitation and tentativeness surrounding being a cleaner that cleans your windows and also the cleaner who shows you how to clean the window through which you see the world. I remember my blog post on cleaning as practice on Organization Unbound – that was the beginning of the declaration of my/our manifesto.

    We are still cleaning our mission and our vision. But now, we are in the final stages of introducing cleaning as practice in a private school in Montreal as a prelude to introducing it in schools across North America. So when we clean a school, we are not just cleaning the hallways and the bathrooms but if they permit us, there is a possibility of cleaning their system of education. When we clean a church, our intention is to introduce cleaning as a spiritual practice. When we clean for a real estate developer, we can work with them to use real estate developments to clean an environment and a culture – one of the solutions I firmly believe can work in a place like Nigeria. When we clean for an organization, we can work with them to refine their culture.

    I remember the conversation I had with you and Rennie last year about getting chief executives to clean in their own spaces. We are very close to putting into practice executives and staff being involved in cleaning physical spaces, surfaces and objects as a practice for cleaning subjects within the organization. We are starting with organizations who easily get it and it is part of our cleaning package. This is what Zenith Cleaners has been trying to birth and it is very exciting to say the least.

    I am an artist but I am glad to be an entrepreneur because entrepreneurs translate reality from the invisible into the visible where it is needed. But perhaps I am not a social entrepreneur but a spiritual entrepreneur, which is what I think the world needs now in order to clean the dirts we are confronted with and I think this ties in with the Veena Vasista’s recent post on Einstein’s call to raise our consciousness in order to address the issues of our time. This is what has been happening.


    October 16th, 2013 | Tolu Ilesanmi | 20 Comments

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20 Responses and Counting...

  • Sushrut Munje 10.16.2013

    Highly inspiring, like always. Thank you for sharing, Tolu 🙂

  • An amazing article that really resonated with me – thank you for writing it.

  • He is the modern day embodiment of Michelangelo Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.Michelangelo

  • This is gr8 innovation. Thanks for feeding the outside world the beauty hidden within the dirts. Deep message for those who are yearning not only to succeed but to be models in their community. You just had an open door. Shortly, gates will be lifted in your favour.

  • Magnificent! I am blown away by the beauty of your vision and practice, (worship)…a mirror to your soul, the radiant love that shines through your writing, infectious and inviting. It would be an honor and privilege to work with you, Tolu. You could have internships for personal transformation.

  • Tolu, Sincerely am short of words. This is mind blowing. Beyond me. But today reading this from you has just inspired me to move on. Tolu God will back you up. All your dreams and aspiration will be fullfilled. I believe in you and i know soon the world will celebrate you. I will be praying with you. Nigeria needs revolutions, not a bloody revolution, but a revolution of our mind, a revolution of our attitude, and a revolution of our perception to life itself. This is the beginning.

  • Tolu, Sincerely am short of words. This is mind blowing. Beyond me. But today reading this from you has just inspired me to move on. Tolu God will back you up. All your dreams and aspiration will ne fullfilled. I believe in you and i know soon the world will celebrate you. I will be prayimg with you. Please ome thing i beg of you every opportunity you have to carry any one along remember your siblings. Sincerely am dazed but excited. Am proud of you. Well done.

  • Wonderful article! Yes, I believe we are all cleaning something in the world on a daily basis .
    Your approach reminds me of the book “Clear your Clutter” by Karen Kingston, the space clearing process she describes and Feng Shui as a philosophy of harmony in a house… Keep up shining!

  • Tolu!!! Wow. I just read this blog and your previous one. Both touched me deeply. I sensed in each post – through your writing and your actions as a cleaner – the strength commitment to living mindfulness, presence, discipline, integrity, empathy and humility. I am humbled by this strength. I’ve recently starting thinking (courtesy of Erich Fromm) of love as a practice and I when I saw ‘cleaning as a practice’ I got so excited…they way you are practicing cleaning is to me no less than the practice of love. I am inspired not only by your actions but the way you have in this post embraced the notion of “I am a cleaner!” You have articulated so beautifully our collective transformative journey: spiritual cleansing. Gratitude. And also gratitude for mentioning the piece I wrote last month. I’m honored that you were inclined to connect your journey with with what I had to say. Sending good wishes for the on-going expansion and brilliance of Zenith Cleaners.

  • I have often described my work as that of a sculptor but you have articulated it much better. Thank you. This is the spirit of cleaning as practice, the spirit of Zenith Cleaners – uncovering the statue in each stone, the beauty underneath the dirt.

  • “Internships for personal transformation.” Thank you Madhurya. This is why I invite people far removed from cleaning into it like leaders of organizations, political leaders, etc. I was thrilled from the beginning much more about the transformational aspect of cleaning than the fact that we cleaned bathrooms. I want to clean more bathrooms and clean them amazingly well because of the possibility of cleaning the intangible. It seems obvious to me that the cleaning of an organizational or societal culture, a way of thinking, a way of seeing (an internal window) could be brought about through cleaning. After all, the universe is one.

  • Gratitude and bows to you for writing that piece. This piece ties in with yours. Cleaning as Practice is a practice in raising our consciousness. That Einstein quote is one of my favorites. I think changing how we see cleaning can change how we see everything else. It is window cleaning, which is what I was happily doing in this photo. And, there is something playful about all this. The universe is playful and joyful and I think social change should mirror that playfulness.

  • Thanks Sis. I love your comment about not needing a bloody revolution in Nigeria. I do not think we ever need a bloody revolution anymore than we need to clean with harsh, toxic products. As in cleaning, solutions must be simple, elegant and peaceful and can work invisibly. The goal of cleaning is to expose the potential underneath the corruption. Any dirt can be cleaned, including systemic corruption. We just need the right spirit, tools and methods. As a Political Scientist, I feel you are in a position to explore this.

  • Powerfully inspiring!

  • So happy to read from your blog today. Please Tolu, can I have you email address or if possible phone contact, I am GWC Magazine, The Africa’s First Green LifeStyle Magazine. Love to have some of your articles on our magazine. My email address is manuscripts@gwcmagazine.com and my mobile is 08026543028.

  • Brilliantly crafted piece of writing – cleaning indeed is a
    beautiful art, capable of transforming and restoring the latent aesthetic
    values of things, people and societies. This is a very creative, pensive,
    solemn and thought-provoking piece, yet inspiring. I can’t agree more.

  • Someone just notified me that this short documentary that was made about Zenith Cleaners called ‘I’m a Cleaner’ is ready for public viewing: http://cutvmontreal.com/videos/2992

  • So if cleaning is all that and do deep meaning and good for the soul … ?

    When are those who hire others to pick up their sh$t because they lack a soul of their own to do it with going to offer a real remuneration to those of us who are – Just the cleaner?

    You want something done right, do it yourself. You want something done by a clinically obese, clinically depressed, middle aged suicide case who doesn’t give two hoots, pay the minimum wage or less.

    You want something done with real class by happy, classy, sassy, sexy, inventive, creative, go getting young things with style?

    Pay a respectful wage.

    Also, some actual respect would be nice, too.

    Sorry but your experiences are highly unusual.

  • Thank you for your comment, the person behind “No No”. I thought it deserved much more than just a response in the comments so I wrote something longer – http://zenithcleaners.com/why-i-am-a-cleaner/.

  • I really like the way Tolulope they did course I’m really excited about cleaning our surrounding environment big up brother just keep it up I’m proud of you guy.

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