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