Author Archives: Linda Sarvi

A Transformational Adventure in Communications at Zenith Cleaning

A TRANSFORMATIONAL ADVENTURE IN COMMUNICATIONS at ZENITH CLEANING
Start: October 2015

Zenith Cleaning is a small team with big dreams and ideas. In addition to cleaning homes and offices, we are redefining cleaning and using it as a tool for individual, organizational and societal transformation. We are a non-traditional company attempting what has never been done with cleaning and our way of thinking and being are outside-the-box. We love people and welcome with open arms those who can thrive with us and our unique work culture while acknowledging that not everyone can.

For more information and before applying, please visit our website and find out more about us. We reiterate that we are not your average company as the average experience working at Zenith will push you out of your comfort zone sooner or later. That being said, we look to add open-minded people to our team and will contact you if we think you are a good fit.

Our previous Communications Director is moving on to do her Masters and we are looking for someone new to to take her place and take her work to a different level. The role is an unusual one in an unusual company. In her own words, “my life has been turned upside-down and inside-out in one year alone working at Zenith.” Read her full reflection here.

Criteria for working with us:

  • You love cleaning. No need to apply if cleaning is not your thing. You will be getting your hands dirty, literally and metaphorically. If you do not love cleaning, you must at least be willing and ready to explore and learn from it. Sorry, we can’t help it. Cleaning is what we do.
  • You have other passions going on in your life apart from physical cleaning.
  • You love people and have a preference for human connection and interaction over technology.
  • You are comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty and outside the box thinking. The cleaning industry can often be unpredictable and requires thinking on your feet.
  • You are curious and are a perpetual learner. You are willing to set aside what you know and learn from every interaction and situation including the delightful and the distasteful.
  • You are motivated not as much by the need to climb any corporate ladders as the need to leave a space, a place better than you met it.
  • You are not afraid to make mistakes. You take responsibility for your errors and learn from them.
  • You are ready to see your work as a paid learning experience to help you grow as a human being and not just a “job” or a cheque.
  • You embrace the fact that we all are imperfect and are constantly improving yourself.
  • You are open to continuously exploring the meaning of Communication and are ready to embody its essence.
  • You are open to continuously exploring the meaning of Cleaning and are ready to embody its essence.

What you will be doing

At Zenith Cleaning, Communication is not so much about only communicating messages as about being our message and allowing it to clean/transform the world starting with ourselves. For us both internal and external communication are two sides of the same coin and true communication is from the inside out. In other words, it is about embracing the fact that you yourself will undergo personal “cleaning” and changes within yourself, so that you can also better represent our mission.

  • We clean homes, offices, schools and churches. You will be doing some cleaning and must be ready like everyone else to pick up the slack when necessary, cleaning-wise. It would help to consider yourself a Cleaner who also handles Communications since your work must embody the metaphor of Cleaning.
  • You will be handling our social media platforms, newsletters and all internal and external communication while spearheading our I am a Cleaner, Cleaners of the World and other initiatives.
  • You will coordinate internal and external communication as well as outreach to potential partners including governments and foundations
  • In addition to communicating via social media and newsletter with staff, clients and friends of Zenith, you will be connecting one on one with them as necessary.
  • You will help organize internal and external meetings and events as well as ensure smooth flow of information and energy in all directions.
  • Your work will be very challenging and not a walk in the park and you will be loved through it all by co-workers, clients and friends of Zenith Cleaning within and outside Montreal. Are you ready for the challenge?

Time Commitment: 25hrs/week with the possibility of increasing to full time.

Qualifications: we have a preference for doers and learners who are fresh University graduates simply because we believe they will have less to “unlearn” since they haven’t been conditioned by the conventional work culture. But we are more than open to candidates who can demonstrate that they are willing to put aside what they think they “know” and be prepared to learn things in new and completely different ways. Overall we’re looking for people with a willingness to learn and ask for help, a willingness to think outside-the-box
and a willingness to be human and grow from their mistakes.

Remuneration: This is to be discussed if/when we meet but it is neither minimum wage nor the highest paying of jobs. It is at par with what we pay our Cleaners. If you need to make a lot of money immediately, we are not for you but if you want to receive a token while learning and being part of a small team that is quietly changing the world, there may be a fit.

Please send your resume and cover letter to tolu@zenithcleaners.com.

BALLE Conference

One of the perks of presenting cleaning as a metaphor is that the cleaner gets invited to many places. Tolu spoke at the closing session of the BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) conference in early June. The session was titled, “The Compassionate Way Forward.” and his topic was “Cleaning our Windows.” He was privileged to share the stage with Judy Wicks co-founder of BALLE and Tyler Norris. Vice President, Total Health Partnerships at Kaiser Permanente. Michelle Long, BALLE‘s Executive Director had this to say, “I loved what you three brought to this community. Thank you. It was an extraordinary ending…truly perfect. Thank you for being and bringing so much light. I cannot tell you how many people expressed tears, deep gratitude, and profound connection to me and I know you three were a big part of having brought that field together.”

DIY Vegetable and Fruit Cleaning Solution

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Thanks to goodgreenhabits.com, we have the perfect DIY tip on how to create your own vegetable and fruits cleaning spray at home. Many fruits and vegetables are grown with pesticides to get rid of bugs.  Although nobody wants to find insects in their food, according to the Environmental Working Group, even small doses of pesticides can adversely affect your health and are worrisome, not well understood, and in some cases are completely unstudied.

Fortunately, you can drastically reduce your exposure to pesticides and bacteria found on produce with a thorough vinegar and water wash.  Experts found that a white vinegar and water wash kills 98% of bacteria and removes pesticides.

You can concoct your own vinegar/water mixture at home to save money.  You’ll probably spend less than 20 cents  to make a homemade vinegar and water rinse, compared to around $4 for a premade produce wash.  Plus,  you can use the same bottle many times when you make your own wash!

Good Green Habits for Washing Produce

  • Mix 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar (3:1 ) in a spray bottle.
  • Spray on fruits and veggies to get rid of pesticide residue.
  • Rinse with water after spraying.

-OR-

  • Fill a bowl with water and add 1/8 to 1/2 cup of vinegar, depending on the size of your bowl.
  • Place your fruits and veggies in the bowl.
  • Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Rinse with water.

Featured Friends: Judi Cohen

IMG_0965-1At a Social Venture Network conference in April 2012, Judi Cohen, a fellow SVN ambassador and a founder of Warrior One, which offers Mindfulness Training and Mindfulness-based coaching, asked Tolu during a conversation: “So what is your most rebellious idea?” Tolu’s rebellious response: “To get CEOs cleaning.” Judi very quickly saw what was said and more.
At the time, Cleaning as Practice was an idea we were nursing. But that question and Judi’s support and coaching became a springboard for us.
We started by inviting executives to clean, and now, partly due to Judi’s encouragement we are also inviting future generations of leaders to clean as a practice and a metaphor, which they will need since they are inheriting a huge mess.
Thank you Judi for believing in our crazy idea even before it had form. You can check out her work here .

 

Lessons Learned: Linda

“Oh and of course as part of the job you will also have to clean homes and offices too”, Tolu said, his twinkling eyes examining me.

Mhm. Interesting.

We were sitting in his office after my job interview to do the communications and marketing at Zenith, which had turned into a 2-hour long conversation. Cleaning other people’s homes and offices in my gap year…It sounded novel but not without a slight emotional charge. Well, I thought, if its part of the job then let’s give this a shot. I was comforted by the fact that most of the team was curiously comprised of other graduates from my university, individuals who didn’t bother trying to interpret cleaning as anything more than what it is: to simply make spaces better. I saw it as the game “Lets Play: Being a Cleaner”, a playful and childlike tactic I use to help take the edge off of any situation or task at hand (I imagine it works for anything from “Let’s Play: Filing Late Taxes”, to “Let’s Play: Lunch with The In-Laws”). But deep down I could feel the irony in going to clean other people’s spaces and homes – after all I grew up most of my life having housekeepers and maids in a Beverly Hills inspired gated community in the Philippines, where the hyperbolic culture of servants is a disheartening reminder of the constant interplay between power, prestige, and class. So here I was, about to see what is was like to be on the other side and serving others in that way. I’ve been told that cleaning for other people is a journey of self-discovery, self-evolution, and humility.

Cleaning other people’s homes and spaces, in other words, molds the crap out of you.

Cleaning teaches you a lot, about yourself, about humans in general, and how society works. Some of the lessons are more simple and obvious, like the Art of Paying Attention to Detail. Tolu, my very own mentor like Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid, always says “How you pay attention to detail in a space while cleaning is how you pay attention to detail in life, Linda”. He says the Art of Paying Attention to Detail is in direct correlation with how present I am in whatever I do…Which is why I now make sure my keys are strapped onto me at all times after I got locked out of an office building when taking out the trash and listening to my iPod, in the middle of the night at -17C. Pay attention to detail and be present. Got it.

Honesty is another lesson. In the beginning I could hear my ego lamenting under its breath, feeling really vulnerable and quite frankly confused about telling people I’m a cleaner. I spent half my time working on communications and marketing and the other half venturing around the city to different buildings and homes to clean. I felt uneasy thinking about how people would see me after I told them I cleaned spaces, despite being able to intellectually understand the superficiality behind that insecurity. But seeing people’s reactions when I tell them point-blank that I clean homes as part of my job seems to nicely trim off the fat in social interactions. You can tell a lot about a person from the way they react to you being a cleaner after all.

I think the biggest part of being a cleaner is what you learn from being invisible. I find myself getting to know people without ever meeting them, like the guy in one office whose astounding weekly pile of cookie boxes for recycling told me he may have bought himself a one-way ticket to diabetes; or the family of reading fanatics in one apartment where every bookshelf is overflowing with enough reading material to open to establish a community library; or the one couple whose persistent trails of popcorn I find on their couch tell me they must watch a lot movies together, which is nice to imagine. I strangely feel a tender care and empathy towards these people which makes me wonder, why is it that I can feel this way about people whom I’ve never ever met in real life, yet everywhere around us people choose not to empathize with people standing right in front of them? These days each time I see another cleaner or janitor in passing in the subway vacuuming floors, through an office window late at night on my way home, or in a food court clearing tables next to me, I feel a funny jolt of silent excitement, the kind you feel when you come across another kindred being. I can’t help but smile to myself at our parallels because I remember how much I must’ve overlooked them in the past (and oddly enough, I also start eyeing their mopping game.)

Some days Playing Cleaner feels like someone is playing with my ego like its Silly Putty. Unlike in school or the corporate world where we’re always extrinsically motivated in the form of grades, prestige, or promotions, in cleaning no one is there to give my indignant nine year old self a shiny sticker or sometimes even a thank you for my hard, sweaty, and at times grimey work. Instead its all about the kind of energy I bring to the task at hand, which applies to everything in life I guess. And when it comes to cleaning homes sometimes it feels like the imperfections in my work are always pointed out, which can get under my skin. I used to clean a home which was…quite challenging. It looked like an obstacle course with all stuff they had lying around. One day after about six hours, three storeys, two dogs to vacuum around and several dirty diapers later disposed, I thought I had done a splendid job…Only to have the woman point out a small dirt mark on the kitchen floor which was arguably the size of her manicured pinky fingernail. Alas, The Art of Paying Attention to Detail strikes again. While I could puff out my chest about her noticing that out of all the things I did do, I realized I could just take it as feedback and fuel to be more present next time -even if my ego at the time wanted to tell her to clean her own damn house.

But as much as a part of me wanted to whine, every time I finished cleaning a space, I just couldn’t deny how peaceful I felt. I now look forward to how good it feels to get lost in the relaxing rhythm of wiping surfaces and the meditative concentration of focusing fully on one task at a time- a far cry from my neurotic headspace back in standardized education, where everyday I felt like too many tabs were open in my brain. I didn’t expect how therapeutic, even healing cleaning feels. The strangest and most fascinating part is how when I clean I’m constantly struck with new ideas for short stories, poems, songs and paintings, as if my creativity is no longer gated by the constraints of time or assignments. Maybe its something in the eco-friendly products, I don’t know-but something has definitely happened to my mind.

Being a cleaner makes me often feel like I’m constantly dancing in between two worlds. Its the world of being served by others and the world of serving others. The world of supposed honour and the world of supposed shame. The world of being visible and the world of being invisible. I swing between different titles and roles, which always feels trippy: dressing up to attend fancy business conferences for one part of the job to then clean someone’s bathroom the following Monday for the other feels like some type of cognitive dissonance. Being caught in the middle of these two realities I’m forced to detach, to take a step back and see the bigger picture: it just doesn’t make sense how cleaning-something that inherently makes a space better and helps others-is so looked down upon. It illuminates the truth that the stigma around it is no more than a collective illusion, just one of many other falsehoods that make up the fabric of our society. Its like fuel for our chronic insecurity and comparison games, created to just satisfy our conditioned need to understand who are based on roles and reputation, not essence or character. When you navigate both ends of the societal spectrum, cleaning forces you to shut off the noise of the world around you because its the cultural pressures of over-valuing reputation that seem to create the noise of the world in the first place.

There is an unspoken absurdity of how we’re taught to box ourselves in by chasing status over character, especially in education. I have yet to come across a required $100 textbook that breaks down how reputation is just the summation of people’s opinions about you, sometimes created over years yet can easily be destroyed in minutes. Character is doing the right thing even if no one else does, even when no one else sees you, action taken from a higher intelligence beyond our impressionable brains. This is what inspires Tolu and I to pursue Cleaning as Practice in schools, where students can experience and learn empathy, altruism, mindfulness and community through cleaning activities. For us younger generations, chasing reputation and image will only get us so far until we all have to finally face the mountains of dirt dumped in our paths by those who came before us; it won’t be long until we all have to pay attention to the looming after-math coming our way from climate change, corporate food contamination, growing inequality, and flawed educational institutions. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned overall is that everyone wants cleanliness but no one wants to deal with dirt. But isn’t it this widespread passivity that’s kept us in this mess in the first place? By teaching ourselves and children that responsibility actually means to help clean up the mess in front of us, instead of just pointing fingers at those who caused it to begin with, we bring ourselves back to some much-needed basics. Someone once said that we all have the responsibility to be more ethical than the society that came before us; for my generation this could not be more true if we actually want to thrive, not just survive.

And it can start with something as simple as this idea: I am a Cleaner. Aren’t you?

Featured Friends: Becca Stevens

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Becca Stevens, an episcopal priest who spends more time with former prostitutes than with priests, is the founder of Nashville-based Thistle Farms, an organization that is a role model for any organization involved in the work of rehabilitation. They transform the lives of women who have been in sex-trafficking, drug addiction and violence. All the women employed by Thistle Farms, from receptionists to sales directors, used to be in their program and when you visit you will find it hard to believe any of the women who work there were ever on the streets.

When Tolu had the privilege of sharing the stage with Becca at the opening plenary of the 2014 Social Enterprise Alliance conference in Nashville, he was asked, “What have you learnt from Becca?” He responded, “I am learning how to clean.” Becca is a Cleaner. Thistle Farms is a cleaning organization. She and her work are the real deal for which our work at Zenith Cleaning is a metaphor. Perhaps this why Becca fell in love quickly with what she calls our “theology of cleaning” and continues to support us. We think the whole world should learn about her and her work.

You can check out her amazing project on the official website here and also on their official Facebook page.

Featured Friends: Belina Raffy

 

belina-raffyBelina is one of the world’s leading Applied Improvisation consultants and the co-founder of the Thrivable World Quest. While in Montreal, she found out about our Cleaning as Practice program and wasted no time in committing 3 days to it. She is a perfect example of the value of being an outsider – you see what insiders miss and you see what you would have never seen had you not ventured outside. From her participation in the program, she gave to all of us and the world, the dust cloth principle, which we have shared everywhere from talks at Ivey League schools to Leadership retreats to one-one-one conversations.

While cleaning a home in Montreal, Belina observed that the microfiber cloth she was using was picking up dust and got to a point where it had picked up so much dirt that it stopped being a cleaner and started to start spreading more dirt. In our conversation after the experience, she saw the connection between that simple and obvious fact (that we all experience but never think about) and larger themes that affect individuals, organizations and society. She helped us to realize that as human beings, as leaders, as cleaners, we pick up dirt  in the form of negative thoughts, ideas and various kinds of stress. Unless we clean our own dust cloths again and again through self-care either through meditation, reflection or rest, at some point we will no longer be helping ourselves nor those around but instead transmitting “dirt”. We continue to mine and build on that insight. We and the world have Belina to thank for it.

Because of her love for cleaning and Cleaning as Practice, she is also one of our collaborators. Belina wrote a beautiful piece titled, A Cleaning Christmas, where she talks about the dust cloth principle and shows the connection between our outer and inner worlds.

 

 

 

Featured Friends: Deb Nelson

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Deb is the Executive Director of Social Venture Network, the world’s leading community of entrepreneurs and visionaries who are pioneers and leaders of social enterprise and conscious business.

At an SVN conference in April 2012 Tolu decided to talk to Deb about an idea that had been cooking in his mind and heart for a while – inviting C-level executives to a transformational experience where they become cleaners for 3 days. Tolu said (and we believe him) that he only wanted to seek feedback on the idea from Deb. He was therefore a little taken aback when Deb said, “this will be great for our members…but come to think of it, I can do this. I want to do this. I would like to come to Montreal in August to participate in your program.” Deb saw the promise of the idea and committed to it before we had even fleshed it out. She flew to Montreal and had an experience that went way beyond what we were thinking. She has spoken about her experience at TEDx Presidio, YPO, SVN, News Media and other formal and informal occasions. She was also kind enough to allow us to share her testimonial.

We deeply honor Deb as a model leader for our time, a pacesetter and ambassador for Zenith Cleaning and Cleaning as Practice. Deb’s faith in us strengthened our faith in the transformational power of Cleaning as Practice.