By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
You’ve heard the Zen proverb, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
There’s something significant – even spiritually significant – about the mundane tasks we must do around the house every day.
Make the bed.
Wipe down the bathroom.
Wash the dishes.
Sweep the floor.
Pick up toys.
Yet minus Martha Stewart, most of what we hear about housework is how to make it: Faster! Easier! Painless!
Now, I’m not into spending every minute scrubbing, that’s for sure, but I do feel that our daily chores have a lot to offer us personally, even spiritually. Not to mention a well-kept home gives a lot to our children.
Here are 6 reasons to stop begrudging and start embracing our housework:
1. It’s meditative.
At least when small children aren’t under foot. A lot of us would like to actually meditate – it sure has well-advertised benefits! – but that’s one more thing parents have trouble fitting in.
Whereas the housework must be done…why not turn that into a form of meditation? Wiping, washing, sweeping, folding – these are repetitive, orderly tasks that can have meditative practice written all over them! Plus a recent study shows it really does make us happier when we focus on these tasks.
2. It’s a way to be thankful for what we have.
When we do housework, we handle our belongings. Instead of rushing and begrudging cleaning time, we can focus on our belongings, really recognize and appreciate them. (If you begrudge organizing or cleaning something, maybe it’s time to get rid of it?)
Taking care of what we have makes us more grateful for our things and we enjoy them more – and might feel we’re content without needing more.
Contrast that with how we feel when things start to fall apart at home and we feel overwhelmed and just want to escape the chaos.
3. It serves our family.
I learned this from Fly Lady. One of her many wise mottos is, “Housework blesses your family.” (Actually the whole saying is, “Housework done incorrectly still blesses your family.”)
She calls the weekly power hour of house cleaning our “Home Blessing.” It doesn’t have to be perfect, she reminds us, just make an effort and get it done! Taking care of our home is another way we take care of our family, including ourselves.
I don’t think most parents begrudge having to take a shower or give the kids a bath, but when it comes to cleaning our homes we often treat the task as something that’s robbing us of our valuable time.
How about reframing this! Housework is valuable. Taking care of the home is taking care of the whole family.
4. It connects us to our home.
Our house is the womb for our family. It shelters and protects us. It serves as our launch pad as we go out into the world every day. Then at night it takes us back under its wing while we rest and replenish. Think of the care it deserves!
In one of my favorite books on keeping house, Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure, Maxwell Ryan talks about really getting to know your house, intimately. Sitting in areas you don’t usually sit in and quietly observing. Touching all of the walls, feeling their temperature and texture. He suggests deep cleaning all the floors, as another way to get to know your house. These aren’t cleaning projects, but spiritual practices.
Marie Kondo suggests greeting your house when you come home. After all, she says, it works hard for you and you should have a relationship with it.
5. It shows our children how to keep house.
What a valuable lesson, for children to see and experience all that goes into keeping up a home.
I was raised by a single dad. He grocery shopped every evening before dinner – often walking the three blocks to the neighborhood store – and made a homecooked meal every night. On Sundays he made brunch.
He didn’t spend hours gardening, that’s for sure, but in the fall he managed to get bulbs into the ground, and in the spring we had fresh tulips and daffodils to cut for the table.
It can’t be a coincidence that decades later, I cook all of our meals and prioritize having fresh flowers. The habits of our childhood homes stay with us.
Ever meet someone “lucky” enough to have grown up with household help? It might seem luxurious but I’ve noticed that these people still need help keeping house. Not only do they not have the skills, but they might view housework as lowly or beneath them, which I think is sad and means they’re really missing out.
I sure do want my sons, in bachelorhood and beyond, to keep a tidy, well-run home, to enjoy that process and to take pride in it. What better way to set that in motion than for them to see Bob and me taking good care of our home, and not begrudging all the work that has to be done.
6. It feels really nice to be in a well-kept home.
I love hotel rooms, don’t you? I think it’s because they’re orderly. There’s no clutter, everything is where it should be, and white folded towels are irresistible. It’s all quite soothing. (The prospect of a room service cart showing up at the door with breakfast is also very enticing!)
Keeping our homes clean, tidy and well-stocked gives us and our families that same feeling of calm and order.
Embracing housework can also give us the home environment we need to relax and feel supported.
It can even be a spiritual practice. After enlightenment, sweep floors, tidy up.