October 11, 2011

On hating housework (and what to do about it)

 Nature abhors a vacuum. And so do I.
~Anne Gibbons

Housework has never been my strong point. I don’t seem to notice the dirt. I have no patience for it. And I don’t think I have the necessary skills.

When it was time to move out of my last rented place, I gave myself a week to give it a deep clean.

On Monday morning, I stood and looked. Cobwebs. Marks on the walls. Dusty skirting boards. Inside-drawers-dirt. Underneath-sofa-cushion-fluff. Overwhelming feelings of overwhelm.

For a while I stamped my foot. I didn’t want to do it all on my own. I wished I was rich and then I could hire someone else to do it. I couldn’t do it properly anyway. Stamp foot.

Then I remembered something I’d read.

It was a story about Suzuki Shunryu (as told in his wonderful biography, Crooked Cucumber), cleaning the communal toilets every morning while he was at University simply because it was ‘good practice’.

This story helped me to remember. It was MY dirt behind the sofa and in the drawers. And if I was cleaning up anyone else’s dirt, that didn’t even begin to make up for the benefit I’d received from living with my cats in this lovely place for a year, using someone else’s furniture, enjoying someone else’s beautiful grounds, and with kind people living around me.

I started to feel grateful. I gently told myself I only had to clean one drawer or one patch of floor at a time. And I got cleaning.

I even enjoyed some of it. Getting rid of cobwebs can be better than sitting zazen. Just like anything, if you bring enough mindfulness to the task, feel grateful, and settle in.

Things to be curious about

Which tasks overwhelm you? What anecdotes have you heard that might help you approach them? How could you find a way to be grateful?


There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.

~William J. Bennet

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