For most of my adult life, I have loved having a clean space but hated cleaning. Sometimes this tension meant I would avoid cleaning for a long time and then go manic, making everything perfect. Other times I keep up with things for a little while but then fizzle out. My methods for solving the tension never worked.
Then, I read How to Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty, and my perspective changed. Jay said:
If something, like cleaning up after the cows, made me uncomfortable, instead of turning away, I pushed myself to understand the feelings that lay at the root of my discomfort. I quickly identified my hatred for some of the most mundane chores as an ego issue. I thought them a waste of time when I could be learning. Once I admitted this to myself, I could explore whether cleaning had anything to offer me. Could I learn from a mop? Practice Sanskrit verse while planting potatoes? In the course of my chores, I observed that mop heads need to be completely flexible in order to get into every space and corner. Not every task is best served by something sturdy like a broom.Shetty, Jay. Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day (p. 94). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
My issue with cleaning was one of ego. It usually took the form of, “I work so hard, I can’t deal with cleaning right now.” Needless to say, that attitude wasn’t helpful and never produced the results I hoped for.
After realizing my issue was with my ego, I could let go of that attitude. I found that I could learn while cleaning, not just from what cleaning has to teach me, like in the quote above, but also by listening to books and podcasts.
One of my favorite things to do now is vacuum. It’s mundane, simple, and a little rhythmic. It’s a great time to learn while listening because I can focus on the words since vacuuming doesn’t require much focus.
All of this reminds me of the power of perspective. My enjoyment of a chore changed because my perspective on it (and myself) changed. The tasks didn’t change. The messiness of living didn’t change. I changed, and that makes all the difference.