Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When home is... mindless housework

Or should this title be ‘mindfulness housework’? I have always struggled with housework. I think my teenage arguments with my mother were always about the state of my bedroom and more specifically making my bed. I have the bed making under control these days but my mother still can’t help but sweep my kitchen floor whenever she visits.

I have no problem dealing with filling the pantry or washing machine, keeping the kitchen tidy, folding the washing and putting it away but for some reason I have always found scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming and cleaning the floors... overwhelming.

The more I talk to friends, I realise I am not alone. One friend recently told me that she volunteers at school as a way of avoiding doing housework, another tells me that her mother offered to look after her daughter for the day so she could ‘do something about her house’. My mother hasn’t gone that far... yet.

I think my problem with housework lies with my looking at the bigger picture rather than the detail. What’s the point of sweeping the kitchen floor after breakfast when we still have lunch and dinner to get through? And what’s the point of sweeping up after dinner when it will be covered in cereal again by 7am?

Lily learnt this lesson first hand on the weekend. There is a tree right outside our house that is dropping all its autumn leaves. The yellow leaves on the driveway and pavement look very pretty but seeing the ‘mess’ had been upsetting Lily all week. Finally, on Sunday morning, armed with a broom and her father, she went out to sweep all the leaves up. In the afternoon, on our way out to the park she proudly showed us how tidy the driveway now looked. ‘So much better after all that sweeping’ she said.

On returning from the park, however, there had been a strong breeze and – surprise surprise – many more leaves had fallen.

She was shocked. ‘What was the point of all that sweeping if the leaves are just going to keep falling and ruin my work.’

So true, so true.

BUT, that night while reading the wonderful Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren by Sarah Napthali, something shifted for me. Sarah interviews a woman about housework:

‘I wish all the world’s problems were as simple as housework because with housework you get a result. Compared to really difficult world problems or even problems with our children’s behaviour, the solutions for housework are very immediate. I have this whole load of dirty dishes: I wash them and here they all are clean.’

So, instead of resenting the work because I’m too busy thinking about how quickly I will be faced with the same task again, I should enjoy the moment of achievement.
Shouldn’t I?!

After all, life really is made up of the little moments. Here and now.


Anonymous said...

I agree with 'Sarah' - instant satisfaction having everything in its place and only then can I tackle the bigger and more difficult problems of the day.

Glad to hear that you make your bed every day and I don't mind sweeping the floor occasionally!

Anonymous said...

hi G - enjoyed this article...think i may know the friend who volunteers instead of doing the housework ;) Noone likes to live in a pigsty but i do wonder why our society is obsessed with kicking over the evidence that we have actually been living in our spaces?! i live with three males and am tired of clearing up after them - they don't seem to care about dirt or mess - and it's become plain to me that if you are the one spending most time at home, you will spend most time cleaning the mess but more importantly SEEING it! hence the immportance of finding other more constructive distractions...! - Jx

Paula said...

Totally with you! I have to confess to outsourcing my floor scrubbing...

I got a cleaner (who uses enjo) when I was recovering from some surgery a while back and I just can't kick the habit. I love coming home to a house that's sparkling knowing I've also given the economy a little boost ;)

Anonymous said...

i like this. I also think what's the point sometimes but then i can't sit and relax if i see housework around me to be done! Mum arrived the other day with a fancy new mop thing for me, she said not to be offended but she thought it would make things "easier for me"! Which i guess in my current pregnant state is true, I was down on all fours trying to wipe the kitchen floor the other day and it impossible! (and no doubt a very unattractive sight)
manda xx

Robyn S said...

Lovely post Germaine. My opinion on this topic has shifted somewhat in the almost 30 years that I've been responsible for my own home. Initially I thought that as the wife/mother it was a reflection on me if the house wasn't clean/tidy. Now I realise that I'm the only one who notices and so make it less of a big deal in my and the family's lives. Also I'm all for reducing housework by whatever means possible...smooth the t-shirts/jeans down on the line so that they don't need ironing, replace open bookshelves with units with doors (where possible), reduce clutter so there's less to clean/dust around etc. Lots of small changes like this make a big difference. Also, remember, when you visit friends' homes, why do you go (to spend time with them not to check out how clean their house is!!) Worth remembering.


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