I know, I know, we’ve all been cleaning this and that in an excessive manner for the last two months.
It’s exhausting. But that is not the kind of cleaning that I’m talking about.
When I was a senior in high school, one of my daily chores was to do the dishes, the ones that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher or Mom didn’t want to go through the dishwasher or pots and pans my sister didn’t rinse after cooking and needed a bit of scrubbing.
She got annoyed until I made it a habit. I would save it for the last thing in the day and there were times I went to bed without doing it. That was when she was annoyed, but after I was actually doing it, she didn’t care that I waited a couple of hours to do it.
You see, after everyone else went to bed I would go down and do the dishes in the kitchen.
It was quiet.
There weren’t other people to get in my space to distract me.
I got a lot of thinking done.
It was a mindless task that I didn’t really have to think about what I was doing and could sort through thoughts that were swirling around in my head and dealing with things that I didn’t have the experience to know what tools and tricks would actually work.
But that mental state that I was getting into is a space that meditation really wants you to be in. As such, I don’t do meditation well, I get distracted and my thoughts and hands need something to do.
I can’t do the perfectly still sort of thing. It’s just not how I process effectively. Every May I get a reminder that May is the month for Mindfulness and I try and it does nothing for me.
So this year, I decided to try a little something different. I decided to do the mindless tasks that I do something similar to the meditation (aka the not having active thoughts in your head) and just try to watch my breathing while I was doing them.
I have this with knitting, with washing the dishes, with cleaning the bathroom (though I do save that for when I’m angry about something and I need to control my impulse to pick a fight—something about scrubbing gets that dangerous aspect of anger out of my system), and with other tasks that require little to no active participation.
I know people who do this sort of processing on walks, but they also tend to be the people I need to pull out of a car’s, or bus’s, way so I don’t really recommend that activity myself.
Cleaning is a contained are activity and for some reason, people hate doing it.
Granted they think that it should take all day. My mother warned me these people existed but I didn’t really believe her until my fourth roommate or so. Before that was dorm life, and I lucked out with very cleaning oriented people so I didn’t really believe that it should take a whole day*.
I was also raised by my mother who discovered FLYlady somewhere in the early on and I was not yet a teenager filled with rebellion in all forms and learned a few things. Those two-minute tasks, the maintenance tasks that are a fifteen-minutes every night sort of thing that just keeps everything looking spiffy. The pick your clothes out and put the old ones away at the same time.
Those things that they make us do for children work just fine for adults.
So far, this has been a success in letting emotions that I don’t have any need of go. Especially when the tension of what’s coming next in 2020 is ever present.
I’ve made some changes to the process that I used when I was younger. Since it’s only me cooking for me, I do the dishes the next time I’m cooking. It gives me something to do while I wait for noodles or rice to boil. And then I don’t stand there watching them the whole time and it just takes forever.
So what are some tasks that you dislike doing that could be multi-purposed?
Is it the dishes, like myself, or mowing the lawn or crocheting or finally painting the house so that it’s no longer that awful shade of pink which the builder told you was ‘historic tan’?
Take a moment to try bringing them intentionally into your life, maybe five minutes at a time, or thirty if you’re really going to be painting, and watch your breathing and let your mind ponder.
You might just be surprised what areas in your life start to sort themselves out to.
*Excluding winter and spring cleaning where everything gets cleaned all at once. And yes wiping down every single blind in the house as well as inside/outside windows.