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Chore Wars

A horrible death occurred to my vacuum – it accidentally fell down the stairs and died. My husband would add that it accidentally fell down the stairs 11 times before it died, but I’m not sure if that’s something I want to reveal…

Well, with that exposed, I supposed I can share that one of my least favourite ‘things to do’ is clean house. And I had done very well in the past, delegating that task to someone else. However, now in my household this undertaking appears to fall on my list – which causes some stress but then provides me an opportunity for meta-analysis of the concept of duty and chores, the battle that can stem from them, and what the mind has to do with all of it, anyway.

By the way – if you love cleaning, insert some other chore or task that you don’t like so much into this article (it will work just the same). And if you feel like bringing a vacuum over to my place…

Vacuums suck! (pun intended…)

When many other people look at cleaning devices – vacuums, dusters, mops etc. – they don’t see what I see. I see frustration, bruises, confusion, and time wasted. I feel I’m very good at a few things, acceptable at a fair number of things, yet completely incompetent at a small group of things as well. Cleaning is in this latter category. While our ineptitude is often a creation of our own mind, I have witnesses who shake their head in wonder at how I can twist myself up in the cord of a vacuum cleaner within minutes of starting and bash myself with brooms and dusters without any reason. My general coordination seems to abandon me as soon as I start this particular job.

Is it a creation of the mind? Possibly. We know that the mind is where the action is and the body is where the reaction is, so I would suppose over time, there are a few mind rules that seem to contribute to this self-fulfilling prophesy. Firstly, the mind works by association, so as soon as the instruments of torture (vacuums etc) come into the picture, my mind instantly travels back to earlier times of clumsiness and irritation. Secondly, the mind remembers the emotional and physical discomfort and has them at easy access when the cleaning begins. Thirdly, the mind imprints meaning to an event when emotions are involved, so a cleaning day = bad day within my subconscious. Fourthly, even as I write about this I know that I’m giving my mind suggestions of disliking the cleaning process – just as someone who forgets something under pressure might say “I have a bad memory” which reinforces something that person “doesn’t” want over and over again (becoming real in the mind).

When is a vacuum not a vacuum?

Maybe now is the time to ‘dust off my past’. I grew up in a tidy and clean home with lots of ‘stuff’ (imagine a duster’s worst nightmare). While cleaning was a regular part of household life, and there was pride in presentation for the inhabitants and guests, I recall the process being more of a ‘necessary evil’ rather than a ‘joyful experience’. To be able to function and have friends and family over, the house had to have a certain level of cleanliness that was acceptable in our home, so certain activities were begrudgingly done.

Later, on my own, I decided that my personal mental health was better spent working, leaving cleaning to experts – who, in my opinion, did it much faster and better, with no apparent self-inflicted wounds. So, for many years I resourced out – until recently, when the jobs around the house are done completely in-house.

So whose job is it anyway? The person with more flexible working hours, the one who can’t put up with dirt or disorder, the one who likes cleaning less-least? Traditionally, this job has fallen on the female gender – now with full-time working women (whether paid or not), does that rule still apply? How quickly can a cultural ‘habit’ or stereotype be changed?

As I’ve found out later, different people have different levels of tolerance with clutter, mess, dust and disarray than I have.  I found that dust tigers in my mind are merely dust bunnies in my husband’s mind. I’ve found that killing the vacuum doesn’t kill the need for a vacuum…

I highly respect people who clean, for pleasure or profession, but have found that it is a burden of resources for me. And while my husband doesn’t mentally shift cleaning into a feminist/power/fairness issue (which I am told I’m want to do), it still doesn’t inspire him to pick up a duster… so what to do?

Cleaning up your act

I’ve offered to support my husband with hypnotherapy sessions to make cleaning easy and fun for him to do – strangely, he has declined. I know that probably the best suggestions I could make are ones to myself to change my perspective on ‘doing the house’. How would I start? First, I’d focus on the benefits – “what I would gain?” and when I think about it I’d gain a lot of advantage. We’d save time and emotional energy by not locking horns and just doing the work that needs to be done. And probably much more.

Then I’d have to look at the negatives – what would I lose (real or imagined) by doing the housework? Maybe I’d lose my free time while someone else isn’t, I’d feel taken advantage of especially if there is more of his stuff around than mine… whether it is true or not, it’s important to see where the ‘brakes’ are happening that stop you from doing what might bring greater peace and purity to a relationship (because it tends to come down to relationships, even if the start point is a home).

I’d need to realize that my feelings and reactions are the only ones I have control over – even though I struggle with the fairness of some of the alternatives. And that’s where the creative subconscious comes in – needing to release what isn’t working for me, and come up with a wider variety of alternatives – solutions to the problem that may not be traditional, but are fully within our expansive and inventive mind.

I’ll admit that I haven’t gotten as far as the last stage. I continue to have a magnet on my fridge saying, “Make yourself at home – clean my kitchen!” and still struggle with the necessary shift within me that still needs to happen. But as I finish this off, I realize that a clear and comfortable home, just like a clear and comfortable mind, makes a lot of things easier in the long run. Off to do the dishes…

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