My house is a mess and the pantry is bare. I haven’t even put my clothes away since my return home four days ago from a professional conference!
I’ll admit that for several months I’ve been feeling a wee bit bitter. Why don’t the little creatures living in our back yard help me clean my house like they do in Disney movies? I’ve been using my recovery from a concussion and working overtime as my excuse to avoid housework. But it has taken a toll on both our physical space and my mental space.
This morning, as I read my older sister’s recent blog post on attentive living (go read it, I’ll wait here while you do), I realized I had forgotten why housekeeping is so important. You see, I had forgotten that housekeeping is a spiritual act of love. It is a way of showing The Mister and me how much I treasure our relationship.
For the past few months, I was shoulding all over myself while doing as little housekeeping as I could get away with doing. And when we start shoulding, we start avoiding the activities causing the shoulding. Or we do the activities but keep our minds distracted so that we can’t should all over ourselves. It becomes a downward spiral.
How to Make Housework a Meditation on Love
So, how do we stop shoulding on ourselves and remember that housework is a meditation on love? Especially when it comes to chores that we hate (see: cleaning toilet and shower)? Here are a few thoughts that come to mind:
- Be present in the moment- Instead of being distracted by listening to a book or NPR, embracing silence allows us to be fully engaged in our homekeeping.
- Reframe the negative into the positive – Instead of thinking “I have to clean the bathroom,” think, “I get to create a spa-like environment where The Mister can wash all of his cares away at the end of the day.” It may be a stretch, but try to find the positive in the activity.
- Bless each activity with love – I remember reading somewhere that food tastes better when we throw plentiful amounts of love into the pot. The same principal applies to our housework. We leave a trail of energy behind us. Isn’t it better if that energy is love and not annoyance (or, worse, bitterness)? It only takes a moment to say, “I love you and here is why____” while we are doing our chores.
- Find the gratitude in each chore – If we have a roof over our heads, we have something to be grateful for. If we have indoor plumbing that works, we have something to be grateful for. If we have money to buy groceries or a food bank to tide us over, we have something to be grateful for. I found out a couple of weeks ago that one of my graduate students lived in the jungle eating leaves before making his way to a refugee camp when he was fleeing from the wars in Rwanda in the 1990s. Despite the horror he lived through, he is grateful for each day and the opportunity of a new life given to him by an American pastor. Hearing and reading Theo’s story reminded me of how many blessings I have in my life. Finding the gratitude in my chores reminds me of those blessings.
- Be okay with thinking thoughts – Sometimes we don’t want to do our housework because our minds begin to think about things. And sometimes those thoughts can be uncomfortable. Our inner selves may want us to sort some things out that we’d rather ignore. But we need to be okay with these thoughts. And maybe crying, if need be. Because if we don’t think these thoughts, our inner selves will try to get our attention in other ways.
How We Spend Our Days
In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells us
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
Our housekeeping schedules help us create order out of chaos. Our routines are our safe havens. If we make housework a meditation on love, they enable us to live a good and gracious life.
What suggestions do you have for making housework a meditation on love?
To Your Fabulous Technicolor Life!