Do you start with good intentions to keep a routine with your housework, but inevitably find that it slips after a few weeks?

You might feel like everybody else has it sorted out, but you never quite do. Or maybe things just seem to not go according to plan for you. But in fact, while some people might appear perfect on the outside, the truth is that everybody needs some time out occasionally. Everyone sometimes has those days where they just can’t face the world, and that’s ok.

When that happens, it’s simply a reminder to step back, refocus, and concentrate on the day-to-day activities of living.

If we have a lot on our minds, and many commitments taking time out of our days, it’s easy to start to see cooking and cleaning as a chore. Having a lot of tasks to do all ‘at once’ often manifests as stress, and the feeling of being under pressure can make completing those tasks more difficult.

Taking some time out, even if it’s only an hour or two, to reframe and recentre on the basic tasks of daily living and taking things one step at a time, can be greatly helpful to your mental health and your overall success in the long run.

Buddhist monk and mindfulness movement founder Thich Nhat Hanh taught that when you are doing household tasks, you should not be waiting for your chores to be over, because then you will miss the opportunity of fully engaging with those precious moments in your life. Instead, he says that you should engage even with the things that do not bring you pleasure, because they are still important moments that teach you life’s lessons.

So why not reframe those more tedious chores into a meditative practice? By taking some time to reorganise yourself and to improve your environment, you can help to reduce your stress in the present and make your life easier to navigate so that you can also reduce stress in the future.

In this article, we will outline how to make small, manageable steps towards de-stressing, staying more organised, and keeping a cleaner, more peaceful home.

 

Laying The Groundwork: Meditation

If you have just come from the office, or the kids have finally left the house, you might just feel like collapsing into the nearest seat and putting the television on.

But bear with us, this will be worth it.

Instead of turning your brain off and switching on the TV, instead try going to your kitchen. Find yourself somewhere that you like to sit. And just sit there quietly for a little while.

You may want to turn on some gentle music, or otherwise, simply find yourself a comfortable seat, and tune in to your breathing. Don’t try to adjust your breathing in any way, just sit and observe. If any other thoughts come up, gently bring yourself back to your breath. There is no need to judge yourself for any thoughts that might arise, just keep coming back to your breath.

When you feel settled, softly bring your attention back to your surroundings. Notice, without judgement, the tasks that you need to focus on, but do not get caught up in overthinking each task. Just gently note what needs to be done. You may want to write it down somewhere, while your focus is fresh.

If you find that you cannot sit for a long time without getting restless, don’t worry. Meditation takes practice, and a regular routine will help to embed this into your daily life. Just reuse this guide weekly, and you should be able to build up your practices.

 

Goal Setting

When you have identified the tasks at hand, it’s time to think about goal setting.

In Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, a treatment often used for individuals who struggle to manage stress in their day to day lives, there is a module on effectiveness.

This effectiveness module focuses on being able to work on and complete day-to-day tasks in an effective manner. If tasks are completed ineffectively, the objective is unlikely to be achieved, meaning that the individual is left stressed, unhappy, and with poor motivation and self-esteem. This means that they are less likely to attempt a similar task in future, and are unlikely to try other new things. This leads to poorer life satisfaction.

On the other hand, if tasks are completed effectively, the individual is fulfilled, motivated, and has greater self-esteem. This means that the individual is more likely to do this task again, and to try new things. In this instance, the individual has much better life satisfaction and is likely to go on to achieve more.

Remember to use SMART goals:

 

Specific – What do you need to do? What steps do you need to make to work towards it?

Measurable – What are you aiming for? How will you know when you have achieved it?

Achievable – Is this goal realistic?

Relevant – Why are you setting this goal? How does it relate to your overall situation?

Timebound – Is this achievable in the time limit you have set yourself?

 

For example, you might want to clean your whole house in the hour before your kids go to school so you can have a nice glass of wine when you get home from work. However, this is not a SMART goal, because:

 

  1. You have not identified each task that needs to be done when cleaning the house (i.e. it is not Specific)
  2. It is unlikely that you can clean the house before the kids go to school because you have to help them get ready for school (i.e. it is not Achievable).
  3. It is unlikely that you can clean the whole house in an hour. (i.e. it is not Timebound).

 

An easy way to go about this is by creating a ‘to do’ list on your calendar or mobile phone. Here you can check off any tasks you have completed (so they are Measurable), and also set time limits and targets – e.g. do 3 lots of washing by Thursday.

Here, you can also schedule other tasks in advance.

 

Short Term And Long Term Thinking

It is also helpful to divide tasks into short term and long-term goals when you need to take the pressure off. For example, short term household tasks could include daily or weekly tasks that are quick and easy to do, for example, cleaning household appliances such as the oven and microwave, or preparing food in bulk for the next few days – preferably using healthy, nutritious ingredients that will keep your body strong.

Longer-term tasks could include fortnightly or monthly tasks, like washing the windows, cleaning the car, or doing household DIY. Here you can also include deeper floor cleaning for carpets and hardwood floors to keep them fresh and hygienic for the rest of the month.

It’s also worth asking yourself if there is a more efficient or enjoyable way that you could be doing things. If you hate cleaning the floors, perhaps you could schedule your cleaning rota by room instead of by task, so you don’t have to hoover all your floors at once. Or maybe, if you can’t bear cleaning out the fridge, you could make a routine of doing it when you unload your shopping, so there isn’t so much to do?

Get creative with your solutions and see what works for you and your lifestyle!

 

Choose One Thing To Start Your New Routine

To finish, choose any chore you need to get a start on. Anything at all. As small as you like. In fact, the smaller the better.

The idea is just to get the ‘achievement ball’ rolling. When you feel like you’ve achieved something, it will be easier to do everything else. So why not roll up your sleeves, and make a start on the washing up?

Plunge your hands into the warm water and be aware of how the soapy water clings to your fingers. Feel how it feels to wash the dishes.

And remember, as Thich That Hanh says,

‘Life is available only in the present moment.’

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