[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end. I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]
I know. Super-exciting start to the Year of Intentional Living, right?
But hear me out…
While it’s not as inflammatory or glamorous as other Quits, this particular Quit is actually fundamental to the rest of this year going according to plan. It’s the foundation on which all other Quits will be made more successful. And I have a feeling a few of you will find yourselves relating to it.
Don’t Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One
It’s no secret that I have a hate-hate relationship with cleaning and chores. If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you’ve likely heard of my everlasting feud with doing the dishes I’ve tried before to come to terms with the menial tasks that demand part of my waking hours, sometimes to more avail than others, but never to any lasting sort of avail.
This is because my fundamental attitude toward my house, and the things it takes to keep it nice and livable, is thoroughly out of whack.
And until I get it back in whack, I’ll have trouble moving forward with anything else on my to-change list, because this one area irreparably affects every other aspect of my life.
I am a neatnik. There is no getting around it. While I can tell myself to ease off a little on how much I allow this to influence my mood and actions, I can’t turn it off entirely. Tidy, pleasant-looking surroundings make me happy and peaceful, and messy, dirty surroundings make me agitated and mad. That’s just the way things are, and I owe it to myself to start working with that instead of against it.
I can either create an environment in which I will thrive, or I can neglect my environment and have it bring everything I do in it down a couple notches.
Guess which option fits the Year of Intentional Living?
Treating My House Like a Home
So, what will this Quit look like in action (and how can you get in on it if your environment is currently less than happiness-conducive, whatever that means to you)?
The overall goal is to turn this place I’m existing in into a place that contributes to, rather than distracts from, an awesome life and the quest to make it awesomer. This includes revamping both the state of my house (mission: make more enjoyable) and the steps it takes to make it that way (mission: make less loathable). In other words: love my home more, dislike the housework that makes me love it as little as possible.
Here’s the basic breakdown of what I’ll be doing to achieve this. Feel free to add, subtract, or revise this list as best fits your current place-you’re-existing-in needs.
- Acknowledge the fact that neatness makes me happy. (If you are opposite, you could accept the fact that you’re o.k. with a little chaos and let go of caring what others think about that, for example.)
- Stop seeing housework as an evil ruse by life to distract me from doing more “important” things with my time. It is important because it contributes to my happiness. Plain and simple.
- Start seeing housework as an opportunity to nurture and care for my environment and my happiness in that environment, much like you would tend to a garden. (Totally ignoring the fact that I cannot keep an actual garden alive for anything.)
- Practice Zen mindfulness when doing chores. Enjoy the exercise, the methodical steps (OCD heaven), the process of turning yuckiness into neatness. Enjoy also doing something that lets my mind wander free. (Potential for some great creative brainstorming? Perhaps!)
- Keep up with chores in a mannerly and reasonable fashion. Passive-aggressively neglecting everything, then having a meltdown every time people are coming over and I have to clean the entire house from top to bottom, could, maybe-just-maybe, be contributing to my overall hatred of housework. Stop procrastinating. Do a little bit as I go each day, and stop being such a drama queen about it.
- Acknowledge the fact that our little house will continue to fall apart, as all houses do and as clapped-together starter homes do in particular, and stop using every new fall-apart as an excuse to start daydreaming about downsizing to an apartment. We’ve considered that road several times now, but we like our space, our autonomy, and our puppies too much, so it’s time to stop ducking and running every time architectural and mechanical shit hits the fan. We’re in this at least for the immediate haul.
This Quit is not about becoming a domestic goddess or trying to out-Martha-Stewart Martha Stewart. I won’t become a slave to housework.
I won’t be trading my passion for tail-kicking for a passion for Swiffers. (Wonderful though they are.) My floors will still be visited by dog fur tumbleweeds (unless we shave the dog), because that shit is impossible to keep up with.
What I will be doing is respecting the fact that I deserve to live in conditions that boost my happiness, and that life is not made up all the time of tail-kicking moments. Sometimes dishes need to be done. Sometimes Swiffers need to be Swiffed. It won’t save the world like writing a manifesto will, but it will save my sanity and make me better poised to do things like manifesto-writing without distraction.
And it could do me some good to stop being 100% hustle and devote 5-10% to simple, inglorious tasks made more meaningful by what they symbolize.
So, who’s in? If you’re joining the January Quit, say hello and share your story in the comments!
Image: Rachel K / Flickr
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