Cleaning is not an activity that brings me joy. Perhaps, after the deed is done, I take comfort in my small accomplishment that I get to avoid for another few weeks time, but for the most part it makes me angry. And I’m not sure if that anger is due to the bitterness I feel for having to do it regularly or is a byproduct of the way in which I clean. Perhaps a little bit of both.
Allow me to elaborate on the way in which I clean. I speed clean. I rip around my kitchen, living room and bathroom with gusto, attacking every corner with the vacuum and every dust fleck with a cloth. While this mode of cleaning often leads to a clean house in a very timely way, I am often sweaty and aggravated by the end. Picture a tornado with hair. That is me cleaning.
So this past Wednesday, after finally shifting out of denial regarding the state of my house (I hadn’t vacuumed for at least a month; I’m sorry), I decided to engage in mindful cleaning. I’m not sure if this is a legitimate practice, but you can do anything mindfully if you want to and I guess on Wednesday, I wanted to mindfully clean.
Instead of raging with the vacuum nozzle, I gently moved it across the carpet. When old habits (e.g. a too vigorous arm movement or aggressive walk) started to flair up, I brought myself back to the gentle movement of the back-and-forth-back-and-forth-of-the-vacuum-over-the-stain-that’s-never-coming-out-because-I-actually-never-tried-to-clean-it motion. I stayed in the moment as best I could and worked to quell the rage-against-the-clean voice in my head.
Interestingly, I started out cleaning in a terrible mood, but ended in a much better one (I won’t go so far as a “great mood” but it was much improved). Earlier in the day, I had spent two hours waiting at the doctor’s office for a needle that usually takes 30 seconds to administer (this is too long and boring a story to share). I had come home to my husband’s clothes and towels strewn across the floor. I was grumpy. And amazingly, I turned to the one activity that typically amplifies the grumpy state, but with my new approach of mindful cleaning, I transitioned to an improved state of mind.
I’m not sure if I will engage in mindful cleaning every time I pick up the vacuum (which is 12 times per year if I push it; gross, I know). I don’t know if I’m mindful enough to remember to be mindful while I clean. Yet, I’m going to keep trying it and let you know how consistent a tool it is. It shall be my quasi project. Perhaps by writing this article I am already priming myself to always have a better mood following mindful cleaning; only time will tell.
If you love cleaning, I don’t understand you and this approach won’t be necessary. If you are ambivalent towards cleaning, this technique may make for a better experience. If you despise cleaning like me, this tool may come in handy and your partner, or cat, or dust bunny friends will appreciate it.
Happy cleaning (I can’t believe I wrote that…)
Photo Attribution – Richard West