HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE HOUSEWORK

RETIREMENT COACHING – DEBBIE DRINKARD GROVUM“Love housework” may be a bit strong for how I feel, but I have learned to appreciate the presence of housework in my life.  When I worked full time, I paid someone to clean my house.  Each week, like magic, I would come home to a clean and tidy home.  It was great.  Hiring someone to clean my house was like buying time.

After I retired from my full-time career, I had more time and less money than I did before, so housecleaning seemed like something I could and should do for myself.   My housecleaner came once a week, so I decided to clean once a week.  At first I dreaded cleaning day, and I wasn’t very good at it.

I needed a new approach and better skills.  I googled how to handle my greatest cleaning challenges and used my “tried and true” approach to dealing with a big job-break it up into smaller pieces.  Now I clean a little bit each day and seldom feel the sense of dread I did when I did all my cleaning on one day.  My attitude needed some tweaking, so I decided to focus on the fact that I am grateful to have the time and ability to clean my own home.  Zen monks teach that there is something to be learned in menial tasks and that in every action we shape our lives.  What could I learn from housecleaning and how could it shape my life?  My goal became to take a more mindful approach to cleaning.  Mindfulness is a state of paying attention to the present without judging our thoughts as either good or bad.  One way to be mindful while engaged in menial tasks is to focus on breathing and the sensation of what we are doing.

Approached mindfully, my simple household task could yield great benefits.    Green living expert Annie B. Bond identifies 10 reasons to practice mindfulness meditation. When compared to the many problems caused by mindlessly living our lives, mindfulness helps us to:

  1. Improve focus, concentration and precision.
  2. Enhance the quality of communications and relationships.
  3. Heighten the clarity of our thinking and intentions.
  4. Improve efficiency and safety.
  5. Deepen peace of mind and sense of flow.
  6. Master stress.
  7. Deepen insight and intuitive wisdom.
  8. Awaken more authenticity, heart, soul and caring in our lives and work.
  9. Increase resilience to change.
  10. Strengthen faith and self-confidence.

Every day we have multiple opportunities to practice and benefit from being mindful.  Margarita Tartakovsky offers seven tips to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives.

  1. Practice mindfulness during routine activities. For me it is housecleaning, but any routine activity works.
  2. Practice right when you wake up. Mindfulness practice first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day.
  3. Let your mind wander. Notice that your mind is wandering and gently bring it back to the present.
  4. Keep it short. Being mindful several times a day is more beneficial than one long session and even though twenty minutes seems to be optimal, starting with a few minutes a day is helpful.
  5. Practice mindfulness while you wait. Although waiting can seem like a huge waste of time, it can be a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness.
  6. Pick a prompt to remind you.  Something you encounter every day can serve as a cue to practice mindfulness.
  7. Learn to meditate. Learning to meditate can lead us in to mindfulness more easily.

Now I approach housecleaning each day with a more peaceful mind and give thanks for having time in my life to focus on this task.  I am starting to take pride in each cleaning task I do well and the welcoming home environment I create.  Rather than being something I rush to complete, housecleaning has become a calming and centering endeavor. 

Don’t
underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

— Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, by A.A. Milne

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