I have a long history of running from chores. They’re generally not fun, and why should I spend my time on something that’s going to be messy again tomorrow?
Whenever I find the strength to buckle down and clean, I feel strong resentment. Cleaning cuts into time that I could use for working on something creative.
However, the flaw in my aversion to chores is this:
I am a sensitive person.
So the more untamed my environment becomes, the more I have feelings of unease. As the pile of dishes grows in my sink, my inner spirit sinks into agitation.
Being visually sensitive is a gift because nice aesthetics bring me a lot of joy. I could stay in IKEA forever. However, I cannot mentally handle an off-kilter living environment. Add that to my other sensory sensitivities and the dirtiness is overwhelming–although sometimes it’s not that bad when I look at it objectively. But it’s too much for me.
I have improved when it comes to keeping up with my house. I know my top pain points: the dishes, the bathtub, and the floor. This is nice because if I do nothing else, cleaning those areas gives me the most relief.
Before these pandemic times came along, I let go of the idea that I needed to clean every crevice of the house before company came over, which relieved a lot of stress.
Also pairing my chores with podcasts, audiobooks, and music has made cleaning so much easier. Yet, although I had all this going for me, I struggled with cleaning regularly. This means the pile in the sink was large, and the floor needed some serious attention.
Recently, I flexed my minimalist muscles and let go of a lot of my dishes, which reduced the sink pile. But it’s a pain having your dishes dirty when you need them, and this seemed to happen regardless of how many kitchen items I own.
After publishing my last book, I had a mini-housekeeping breakdown. I had fallen so far behind, I wanted to cry. I knew something had to change, but I didn’t know what. I had tried cleaning schedules before but failed to stick to them.
One day while browsing through my audiobook wishlist on Hoopla, I came across the book How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White. This book had been on my wishlist for a while, but this time it grabbed my attention. It’s weird, but sometimes specific books call out to me, as if they know I desperately need them.
So I checked out the audiobook, and my hunch was right. And if you prefer creating over doing chores, this could be the right book for you too.
I’m the One Responsible
I knew this was a book for me when White described herself as being an “Idealist.” Much like me, White had the mindset that doing the dishes once in a while should be enough. When I do them, they should stay done, right?
As much as I wish, this is not reality. We use dishes every day. And even with the powers of minimalism at work, it’s not good enough to keep the plates and utensils I need clean.
White made a statement in her book that was groundbreaking for me, although it’s so logical. She said, “People who have clean kitchens do the dishes every day.”
It’s like how writers who publish books write every day.
My mind went back to living with my parents and how they insisted on doing the dishes every night before going to bed. Honestly, I thought this was draconian. I believed that in the 21st century, it’s more than fine to go to bed with dishes in the sink. Yet, White is right. My parent’s kitchen is usually clean. And mine was–you know.
So yeah, I needed to take responsibility and do the dishes. No excuses. Nothing else will get my house clean except for my efforts.
Do the Dishes
With some skepticism, I decided to give White’s advice a try. For a week, I washed the dishes before going to bed. By the way, I don’t have a dishwasher, so this took an even bigger leap of faith. Also, every morning after waking up, I would put the dishes away.
The first day was painful because that’s when I had the most dishes. However, each day after that got easier. Cooking lunch and dinner without having to wash dishes is addictive. I got addicted to the clean.
I didn’t feel the full benefits of reducing the number of dishes I own until I started washing the dishes every night. It takes less than 20 minutes to hand-wash all the dishes we use for the day. I think the effect is probably similar for people who own a lot of kitchen stuff. When you wash dishes every day, you are only working with what was used for one day.
Since I wash the dishes so quickly, I can move on to cleaning other parts of the kitchen, such as the microwave, the counters, and the stove.
Beyond the Dishes
Once I saw the impact of doing the dishes daily for a week, I was hooked.
Now, after washing the dishes and cleaning a few other kitchen items, I also:
- Sweep the kitchen floor
- Restock the bathroom and wipe surfaces
- Take 5 minutes to tidy the house. Basically, just going around putting things back where they belong.
Doing all of these usually takes less than an hour. It stuns me every time how these small actions make my home so pleasant.
Doing the Big Stuff
Once I got my daily cleaning down, I picked one day a week to work on bigger things, like cleaning the toilet and shower.
After taking care of the small chores daily, I have more energy for challenging tasks.
Laundry is my husband’s domain, and I’m thankful for that. To me, folding clothes is an esoteric art.
Make It Fun
When I pair daily chores with my usual trick of listening to audiobooks and podcasts, time flies. If I’m engrossed in what I’m listening to, I sometimes try to find other things to clean so I can keep listening!
The Bliss of Forgiveness
My favorite thing about having daily chores is that perfection is not a requirement. I try to get the dishes done every night because that makes the most household impact. But if I have an off night, and I’m not able to get to sweeping the floors or tidying the bathroom, it’s okay. I will do it tomorrow.
Recently, I suffered from heat exhaustion, and for a while, I only could wash dishes every other day. Still, things were manageable.
Unfortunately, my experience with heat exhaustion snowballed into a major panic attack due to not sleeping, not eating regularly, and having constant mental visions of my demise. Even when I had recovered from the heat exhaustion, I thought I was sick.
Fortunately, when I went running to my husband feeling faint with sweaty palms, he was able to confirm that I was hyperventilating and was in the midst of an anxiety attack.
I am now on day two of sleeping and eating all day to recover (I am writing this post between falling asleep, lol!). There are two and a half days worth of dishes in the sink. But the cool thing is that it bothers me way less now. I know that once I’m better, it will only take a few days of daily chores to catch back up, no matter how long my recovery takes.
Seeing how this method holds with the ups and downs of my life makes me confident that when I take on my next batch of writing projects, the entire house won’t fall into chaos. And even if it does, I’ll have what it takes to recover without stressing out.