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Wealth Virtues Journal: November 13, 2009

Achieving Wealth Through the Practice of Cleanliness

Filed under: Franklin's Virtues: A Way to Wealth — Tags: , , — James Ward @ 11:09 am
© 2009 Poor Richard Web Press, LLC

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The 13 Virtues of Benjamin Franklin are:

  1. TEMPERANCE: Eat not to dullness, drink not to Elevation
  2. SILENCE: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
  3. ORDER: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have it’s time
  4. RESOLUTION: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
  5. FRUGALITY: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing
  6. INDUSTRY: Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
  7. SINCERITY: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly
  8. JUSTICE: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty
  9. MODERATION: Avoid extremes; forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
  10. CLEANLINESS: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation
  11. TRANQUILITY: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
  12. CHASTITY: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
  13. HUMILITY: Imitate Jesus and Socrates

To look deeper on how these Virtues can help you to create wealth, we take a look at the virtue of Cleanliness.

There are two ways to approach the virtue of Cleanliness, especially as it relates to wealth. The most obvious is that we use it is a means of how we judge others (or how others judge us). The second and least understood is how we use the concept of our own cleanliness on forming our moral judgments of others.

Whereas Order describes the cleanliness of our surroundings to help us better focus on important issues, so Cleanliness allows us to apply that detail closer to our person. Clean clothes can denote that the owner maintains them and will last longer. Cleanliness of body allows us to prevent adverse health issues stemming from personal unsanitary conditions. As we constantly hear more about health care and who should manage our own health care (government, or private industry), the real answer is that YOU have to manage your own health care. Less health issues means less money we have to spend on health care. Are there things we do that prevent Cleanliness and affect our health? Smoking is one. It is not hard to look at our own sanitary habits to ensure a high health standard for ourselves.

Ironically, we tend to judge others and others make assumptions about us in relation to our appearance. Though not very “virtuous”, we can use this reality to our advantage.

Realtors have a great term to describe one aspect of a house called “curb appeal”. It is a term used to describe the initial impression of a home. They say that a home that has “curb appeal” will entice more prospective homebuyers to view the inside. In human terms, we are taught, “it is what’s inside that counts” in regards to judging others. How many people have passed up quality homes because the unkempt appearance of the lawn? Regardless of the moral obligation to give people a fair chance, others will make first judgments on the impression they have of our clean appearance.

People who run typical brick and mortar businesses understand the concept of cleanliness as a means to attract customers. In a 2008 survey by SCA Tissue North America and conducted online by Harris Interactive among a sample of 2,175 adult U.S. foodservice customers, found that of the 97% of U.S. adults who visit convenience stores and restaurants, 86% think restaurant hygiene is very important to their dining experience . People also make judgments about other parts of the store as well to include food preparation areas.

The other side of Cleanliness is interesting. I do not know if Ben Franklin came to the same conclusion, but in 2008, research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science has found that the physical notion of cleanliness significantly reduces the severity of moral judgments, showing that intuition, rather than deliberate reasoning can influence our perception of what is right and wrong.

Does this mean that we tend to be less rational about our assessment of others, or just less harsh in our moral assessment? Perhaps the perception of our own cleanliness helps us with our practice of the previous virtue, Moderation.

Another interesting tie-in between Cleanliness and wealth is the push in the marketplace and government for more use of “green” technologies. Whether we look to satisfy our energy needs from non-polluting technologies for national security reasons or for the mere fact that people generally feel they can thrive and live better in a less polluted environment, jobs and new means of creating wealth will be created from the push for “clean” technologies.

In the end, I feel that Ben Franklin promoted Cleanliness as a means of prevention of ill health. Though he used this famous quotation in fire-fighting advice, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can accurately describe how attending to simple personal care can save us from the cost of neglect.

Begin to Use Cleanliness in Improving Wealth

  • Examine your personal habits to see if they affect your health. Take steps to eliminate them
  • Examine easy ways to improve the cleanliness of your living spaces. Do this in conjunction with the practice of Order.
  • Are there items such as furniture or tools in your home that look like they need replacing? Instead, look to clean/paint and repair them to save a lot of money.

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