This past weekend I reached the phase of quarantine where if it was sitting still, I either vacuumed it, wiped it down, or put it in the washing machine. Turns out, my kids do not enjoy being vacuumed. Ha! And it got me thinking about how household chores don’t have to be this big downer. I know, when you’re running every direction and feel like you never have enough time in the day. And you walk in to the kitchen and see a sink full of dirty dishes it can feel like a punch in the gut. I know that doing household chores can feel like a grind, but sometimes doing chores is good for the soul.
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But Here’s The Thing…
Chores provide us many many wonderful things that we need now more than ever.
For one thing, doing the dishes, sweeping, carrying the laundry up and down the stairs is all movement. It’s using your body to do something productive.
Completing a chore is also really gratifying. It might be fleeting. Especially cleaning up the kitchen. Because it’s going to get messy as soon as the next meal. If not even before then. Especially with everybody home all day, every day, for days on end. But doing something like changing the sheets, making the bed, or, this past weekend I bleached and then ironed the white curtains in our bathroom that I had been watching slowly turn yellow—is really REALLY satisfying. You get to see a transformation that you instigated and brought to completion with your own hands. There’s not a lot that we have control over these days. Except maybe the laundry.
Cleaning Is Also Cathartic
Take a toothbrush to that grout. Scrub your frustration out!! Clean out under the bed. Oh man you will feel so good lying in bed tonight knowing just how many dust bunnies and used kleenexes AREN’T under there anymore. Really let yourself get in to the zone. Maybe put a bandana on, play your favorite music, invite others to join you but don’t get attached to whether they say yes or not. There really is no better way to get someone into cleaning than letting them see you having fun doing it.
Chores Are Also An Activity
I mean I love binge watching as much as the next person but how much of it can you do without your brain turning to mush? I remember one time my daughter had the flu. She was probably 6 years old and she spent four days down for the count on the couch, watching movies and shows. At the end of the fourth day she said to me, mommy I feel like my brain is in my foot. I knew exactly what she meant. Don’t let your brain migrate to your foot. Get up do something menial and while away an hour or two in happy, low stakes activity.
Doing Chores is good for the soul, and also Great for your Brain
There is something magical that happens when your body is doing something that doesn’t require a ton of dexterity or thought.. And that is that your brain waves shift into a different rhythm. That’s when you get good ideas, or connect dots that you’ve never connected before.
And doing the dishes is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. The Buddhist monk and world famous meditation teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh says that Washing the dishes is like bathing a baby Buddha.
He also says this about it: “The idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur to us only when we are not doing them. Once we are standing in front of the sink with our sleeves rolled up and our hands in warm water, it is really not bad at all…
Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end—that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes and live fully each moment while washing them.”
Doing your Chores is an Invitation into the Present Moment
And in the present moment, your fears haven’t come true yet. And even if your fears have already come true, in this moment, right now, the world hasn’t ended because your fears have come true. You are safe. You don’t have to worry about the economy or your elderly parent going out to lunch and not taking quarantine seriously. You’re just here in this moment, just you and the dishes, and it’s basically ok. And really, I think basically ok is a great benchmark to aim for during nutty times like these.
I hope listening to this has planted a seed in your mind that doing chores ins’t awful, in fact doing chorus is good for the soul, and that the next time you see that the kitchen sink is filled with dirty dishes, you walk over to them and start washing them as if they were a baby buddha, or a baby Jesus, or one of your favorite people as a baby. And that it helps you remember that in this moment, you are basically ok.