With apologies to Shakespeare:
Housework is neither good nor bad,
but feeling makes it so.
When housework blues are a problem, the source of our angst is not the work, as such – it’s how we feel about it. There are people who aren’t troubled by their domestic workload. (It’s true!) Some even enjoy it – and there is certainly something soothing and comforting about restoring order or bringing back the shine. But if housework is not your thing, yet it’s very firmly on your plate – it can get you down.
So, until we can reduce or delegate the drudgework, there’s one type of essential maintenance work that we can’t afford to neglect…
I’ve previously explored the importance of looking after body and mind, in keeping us fit and up to the challenge. But if we find our schedule demoralising, depressing or soul-destroying, then it’s our spirit that needs some attention. Until we can escape the work that saps our spirit, we need to ensure that we redress the balance. We need to actively restore our flagging spirits. We need to feed our soul.
When life gets us down, we need to respond with what lifts us up.
So, how do we do that?
Easy! Just do something that you love to do. Every day.
It needn’t take long or cost much. All that’s required is a little attention to whatever lifts your spirits. Think about what that could be for you. Even better, make a list – either a mental note or pen on paper, or do it digitally, if you prefer. Think of all the things that make you say, aaaaahhhhhh. The things that make your shoulders drop. The things that make you smile. The things that make you sigh with relief and relaxation.
Here are a few examples:
- having plenty of time
- beautiful interiors
- fresh flowers
- fresh air
- your favourite book/blog/magazine
- your favourite drink
- having a meal cooked for you
- a change of scenery
- a clean and tidy home
- lighting a candle
- cuddling your little ones (or big ones)
I could go on all day, but you get the idea.
So, your homework this week, should you choose to accept it, is to make your list of what soothes and delights you. Your soul food. Your Ups.
Then pursue them! You need no other reason than they make you feel good. Revived. Ready to resume your post with a smile.
You probably do this already, to some extent. Maybe it’s a restorative glass of wine after a busy day, or a bubble bath, or dinner with friends. When we feel the need for these things, that’s our spirit calling. And it’s in our best interests to listen.
But we can do more than just indulge in the odd treat. With just a little thought, we can be more alert to when we need these soul vitamins. We can be more conscious in making time for them, before it all gets too much (and more drastic measures are needed).
We can make lifting our spirit a daily habit, like our morning cuppa or evening meal. Among the round of daily busywork, this could turn out to be the most effective and meaningful task of all. Of course, we can still take steps to reduce what bothers us, but until we find the solutions (more on that coming up!), we need to refresh the life force that keeps us going when the going get tough.
It is, after all, what makes the going worthwhile.
As human spirit expert, Sonia Choquette, says;
So what does yours need? And can you do it today?
Regular readers will no doubt know I’ve recently been working on another book. (I’m afraid I’ve never been very good at hiding my excitement.)
My new book chronicles my writing and self-publishing adventures over the last few years.
And to think – it all began with a loathing of housework! (I suppose writing about it is one way to deal with it…)
If you’re interested in writing, or you’re planning to write a book, or just curious about my self-publishing antics (I spill the beans on all kinds of hard-won lessons and lucky breaks) – you can get more details and a sneaky peek at the first pages here.
But what about the ‘Free Book’ bit….?
Well, as part of my launch excitement, I’m including the Make Peace with Housework Book of the Blog ebook (Vol 1), as part of my new book’s download package.
It’s a BOGOF!
(Actually, it’s a BOG(Two)F as I’m chucking in my Recommended Reading List as another bonus – featuring the books that cut years off my indie-author learning curve.)
So, if penning a bestseller is on your wishlist, you can get all of the above over on danielleraine.com. You’ll also find my Writers’ Corner blog, where I share my tips on how to write a book (the easy way…). And if you need any encouragement in getting started on that book dream… Million pound advances buy A LOT of help around the house! (Cue wistful music and visions of maids aplenty….)
However, if writing is not your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that normal services will resume here next week, with a lovely post about the things that make you happy.
Kindness, charity, generosity – all virtues. All good things to aim for, in a bid to be a valuable and worthy (and likeable) member of the human race.
But is it possible to overdo it? Can we give too much?
However much we may resist it, the female of the species is renowned for her caretaking inclinations. Of course, we have so much more to offer besides, but giving, and very often overgiving, seems to be part of our makeup.
Being generous and taking care of others are noble acts and can be rewarding for all involved. But overgiving can, and does, lead to resentment. And who wins then? It’s very likely that the person on the receiving end will pick up on the resentment, either consciously or subconsciously. Or if resentment is stifled, only to erupt sometime in the future, the unsuspecting recipient has no clue what it’s about, let alone how to make amends.
Whilst it may well be good for us to stretch our generosity muscles in the interests of personal growth, is it ever good to give to the point of bitterness or ill-will?
If we adopt the caretaking role, yet we are enraged by the injustice or the repetition, or if we make an effort for others, yet we feel they don’t deserve it, we shouldn’t have to, we don’t want to, etc… – why are we doing it? Obligation? Charity? Because they won’t do their bit?
But what is the worst that would happen, if we did only as much as we can do with a generous heart – then no more?
What if we stopped short of resentment? We may do less, give less, but by removing an insidious dark force from our relationships and our hearts, it may actually turn out to be the bigger gift. And not only to those around us. Resentment, like all negative emotions, can have a serious effect on our health and wellbeing. So whilst it may seem selfish to do less for others out of interest for ourselves, when the result is a happier, healthier, more peaceful and loving person to live with, this may be the kinder act – the best option for us and our families.
In an ideal world, a serene and comfortable home is preferable to a chaotic mess. But when reality calls for a compromise (at least in the meantime), maybe the state of our hearts and minds should take priority over the state of our home. The domestic front may well be an important battle, but isn’t it worth ensuring that health, harmony and happiness are not among the casualties?
Wishing you a lovely Christmas + a fabulous New Year.
Don’t forget the merry!
It’s Christmas. Again.
Do you remember when you were little, and it used to feel like an absolute age before Christmas came round again? Now, though, the years tend to fly by a little quicker. Christmas seems to reappear ever faster. But then, it is a yearly event and a year is not that long a time, really. Plus, by the time we are grown-ups with homes to keep and maybe families, too – we will have clocked up a fair few Christmases. And hopefully, we will have many, many more to come.
During this frenzied time of year, it’s possible to get overwhelmed with the practicalities of creating The Perfect Christmas. So, it can be helpful to remember that, in a lifetime, this festive season is just one of many. This perspective can take the pressure off any stress-inducing To Do Lists or it’s-got-to-be-perfect tendencies.
It can be calming to think that, as wonderful and fleeting as Christmas may be, it will be back next year.
So, relax. It’s only Christmas. And the only real essentials on the list are:
Everything else is just trimmings.
• • •
Wishing you much merry – this, and every Christmas,
Coming up in the New Year….
If you’d like to read all about my rollercoaster ride to becoming a writer – the highs and the lows – click here for details.
I was recently listening to the brilliant Danielle LaPorte talking about how you need to scale back your life when in the middle of an intense creative project (writing a book, starting a business etc….). She suggested creating a list of things you could - temporarily - stop doing. These include the usual day-to-day trivia, things that could be postponed without too much harm.
This makes perfect sense – if you’re adding something time-consuming to your life, something, somewhere will have to give. Deciding in advance to ditch the unimportant stuff means you can keep on top of the things that really matter.
Then it occurred to me that raising a family and keeping a home could also be described as intense creative projects.
But do we create space in our lives to give them the attention they require? Or do we just try to squeeze in the extra commitments, on top of everything else (and then get downhearted when we fail to do everything).
I recently took the Strengthsfinder test. (I’m planning a little reinvention…. watch this space!) I don’t know if you’ve heard of Strengthsfinder but if you’re at all interested in discovering why you are the way you are and why you do the things you do, I highy recommend it. There is something comforting about seeing all your quirks and foibles so accurately drawn (how do they do that?). It is even more of a delight to see the details of your ‘you-ness’ highlighted as strengths. I’m a huge fan of the Strenghsfinder philosophy, ie working with your natural inclinations, rather than trying to force yourself into a mould that’s not an easy or happy fit.
(Which could explain why I am not, and will never be, a Domestic Goddess…)
Anyway, as part of the process, you recieve a personalised report. Maybe it’s an ego thing, or maybe it’s a quest for self-discovery, but I do love anything personalised, just for me. There is so much that is mass produced and meant for a generic audience, that to have something tailor-made, with your name and personality stamped all over it, is quite special.
This report is a joy, it is basically a songsheet of your praises – why you are so wonderful and unique and what you do so well that only you can do that way. I welled-up with happy tears of recognition as I read the explanations for my behaviour and preferences, as well as my angst. For example, one ‘strength’ is that I yearn to learn. I thrive on new challenges and discoveries. So, any untaxing or repetitive activities will drain the life-force out of me. Do you think this could possibly explain my ‘issues’ with housework….?
However, understanding why I’m not naturally domestic is all well and good, but that may be of little help if I’m responsible for the care and maintenance of my own home and family (which I am). Although I’m hopeful that one day, I will have so successfully played to my strengths that I am compensated with a small army of domestic helpers, in the meantime the dust/dishes/dirty socks are a-gathering (as is their wont…).
Well, happily, the fabulous folk at Strengthsfinder also include in thier report; Ideas For Action. So I have it on good authority that I really ought to try very hard to schedule a) time to learn and b) time to think. Oh, the happy sigh of relief when I read those words! So, I needn’t feel guilty about sneaking off to curl up with my latest book? Or feel like a wierdo because I sometimes like to hide from everybody and just think about stuff? It’s such a pleasure that a professional personality-analyst has instructed me to do these (joyful) things for the good of my health, sanity, wellbeing and achievement – even for the greater good of family, community and the world at large. Happiness is being told that not only is it OK to be the way you are, but also that you might be quite useful/successful/appreciated in doing so.
But how does this marry up with the disappointing reality that my housework schedule won’t go away?
It’s that New Year time of year again….
I love it – I love all the optimism and Fresh Start energy. I love to think of the coming year, a clean slate, just waiting for our lives to be written across it.
However, I know not everyone is a fan of the conventional New Year, New You activities.
So here are two options – pick whichever suits you:
• If you like to make New Year Resolutions, then this is for you.
• If you don’t, you might like my previous musings on the whole resolutions business…..
Whatever you opt for, I wish you a wonderful 2012 – it’s going to be great! (I can just feel it.)
Happy New Year!
PS Have you done a review of the year’s successes yet? Do it now!
Picture credit: Stephen J. Sullivan
Tis the season, once again. Christmas.
Whether you celebrate the religious feast, or the culinary feast – or both (like me) – this time of year is dedicated to all things merry and bright. It’s a time for focussing on the joyful, turning our attention to the wonderful and celebrating all that’s good.
Depending on your spiritual persuasion, the actual reasons for celebration may vary. Perhaps you are honouring the arrival of a Saviour. Or maybe your reveling is a bid to get through the long dark days before the welcome return of Spring. Or perhaps you just enjoy the caroling and carousing and goodwill to all men (like me). Either way, the shift of our day-to-day perspective towards the fun stuff is not only a joy, it actually has beneficial effects. Positivity, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, charity – all these things are good for our own health and happiness. Whilst the act of celebration has powerful effects on our psychology – it can influence our future mindset. Celebrating causes us to become primed toward….causes for celebration! In other words, The Good Life.
The benefits of celebration apply to increased success, too. In success psychology, any celebration of current circumstances is good for future results. The more you celebrate successes, the more successes you will have to celebrate. Ask any successful person what they do after a major achievement – they may be oblivious to how it works, or they may do it intentionally, but chances are they mark it with a significant celebration. When we celebrate a success, we are reinforcing our belief in our own abilities. This boost to our psyche is effective and far-reaching, long after the poppers and party hats have been cleared away.
So, if you would like to experience more joy, better health and improved results in the domestic realm (or indeed in any endeavour) – start celebrating! Look for any successes you may have had over the past year – the end of a year is a great time for reflection. But this is a great habit to establish all year round. It shifts your focus onto the good stuff, making you feel more confident and capable – feelings that naturally lead to increased success. So, consider your past year and look for any signs of improvement, any successes, victories or triumphs, however small – then big ‘em up! Big yourself up, too! Acknowledge that you did good. Celebrate!
Now you may feel, at first glance, that the year passed with little sign of improvement. This is unlikely. Even if all you achieved was another year’s experience of what you don’t want and don’t like, this is still useful. You can use this as information to refine more clearly exactly what you do want. You can use it as motivation for going after what you want to see more of in the year ahead. Life is a forward motion. With every passing year, we learn and grow – maybe a little, maybe a lot. If may feel like a baby step forward followed by a stumble back, but slow progress is still progress, so celebrate that. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the more you set your mind to seek the mini triumphs, the more examples it uncovers.
On the other hand, of course, you may well have had your best year ever! In which case, a round of applause for you! (And what’s your secret?) But whatever sort of year you’ve had, now’s the time to celebrate the best bits. Recap your successes, and mark them with family and friends, food and drink, fun and laughter, even retail therapy – whatever jingles your particular bell.
This is not pointless (albeit fun) recreation. It’s a powerful anchor for bringing you more of the same.
Photo credit: Ed Saxby
This year for Mother’s Day I was presented with some spa vouchers.
Now you may think that I have extremely thoughtful children (with a generous father). And you would be right. (Though this is the first year my hints have been heavy enough. It seems, subtlety is wasted in my home.)
So, last week, I booked my treatment and pootled of to my favourite spa for an Ocean Detox Wrap (Ahhhhhhh…….) I returned a few hours later feeling pampered and lovely and totally at peace with the world. In fact, I was so blissed out that I didn’t even mind the post-breakfast kitchen carnage which was awaiting my return. Nor did I object to a spell of the obligatory laundry. Or some light tidying. Or making the tea. After all, I had been so thoroughly spoilt and looked after, it put me in the mood to do the same for my family.
Which got me thinking….
A combination of busy lives and generous hearts means many of us put our fun-things-to-do quite low down the list of priorites. Yet, when we carve out the time and space to refuel our joie-de-vivre, we have more to give. When we feel happy and fulfilled, we are better placed to take care of others. Enforcing a brief sabbatical from the daily grind can reboot our desire to love and care for our families. Which can really help in the battle against housework blues.
So the lesson I learnt is this: it is in my family’s best interest that I take care of myself. This includes not just the important diet and exercise stuff but also the fun, joyful, just-for-the-hell-of-it stuff. (Which for me tends to be spa-based…). In other words: R&R as a selfless act.
You are unlikely to get a better
excuse reason than that to put yourself first for a change.
So what are you waiting for?
email • twitter • facebook
(Let me know what you get up to and how you feel afterwards!)
…deserves breakfast in bed.
In the optimistic hope that you are going to be treated like royalty this weekend, allow me to offer you my musings on the whole Mother’s Day business from the early days of the blog…
There is a phrase that I mutter to myself, on days when it feels like the world and his wife wants my attention: “To be needed is a blessing, not a curse”. Some days it comes easier than others.
Despite the absolute joy I felt when my children first said ‘Mummy’, there are days when I am summoned so many times that I want to ban the word.
I’m sure (I hope!) many mothers can relate to this. But I don’t believe this makes us bad mothers. We’re just human. We just need a bit of moderation. Buddha would back me up here – too much of anything is never a good idea.
With motherhood, though, meeting the demands of others goes with the territory. So it is only right that the balance be readdressed at least once a year, when the mother gets to do the bidding. Cue…Mother’s Day!
The sun is shining, the snowdrops are out and children are casting off school jumpers with merry abandon. I think spring may well be here. (Not that that rules out snow flurries next week….) But just in case these seasonal stirrings are turning your attention to housework, I thought I’d repost my musings on spring cleaning from this time last year;
If you’re even remotely considering a spot of Spring Cleaning – just hold that thought!
Though spring may undoubtedly have sprung and you may be keen to revitalise your home after the dark days of winter, before you do…
I have a tip that will help make this seasonal maintenance work much easier. In fact, this simple step may even bring wondrous benefits to you, your home and your life, long after you hang up your marigolds.
Happy New Year!
I know I am fashionably late but I have spent the last few weeks busily converting this entire blog into an ebook format, for your reading pleasure. During this process, I was struck by how many useful ideas I’ve stumbled across over the last year or two. Despite the fact that I’ve relayed them to you on this blog, even I had forgotten some of them, or at least forget to implement on a regular basis.
So in the spirit of new decade reviews, (can I still get away with that?), I thought I’d offer you a quick reminder of the best of the best from the last year of MPWH.
Inferiority is relative. It needs something or someone else to be compared to.
A sense of inferiority arises from comparing ourselves to someone else, someone supposedly superior. Why do we do that? Is it helpful? Very often, it isn’t but it can be automatic and unconscious. It’s a natural human tendency. Everybody does it. But whereas men tend to compare sizes (car, salary, appendage…), women tend to compare appearance – figures, clothes and inevitably, homes.
An extract from Housework Blues – A Survival Guide.
“People with goals succeed
because they know where they’re going.”
~ Earl Nightingale
Write it down.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of your goal, write it down. Advocates of list-making will tell you there is magic in the written word – even if you never look at it again. This is because the process of writing forces you to crystallise your ideas. However, there is definitely merit in revisiting your written goals. They’re a great tool in charting your progress and a useful visual reminder that reinforces your aims.
If you’re in any doubt of the power of written goals, I suggest you read Mark McCormack’s book, What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School. In it, he quotes some compelling statistics from a decade-long study of Harvard MBA graduates. For example, in 1979, 3% of the participating graduates had written down their goals and made plans to achieve them, 13% had unwritten goals, and the rest had no specifc goals. When the graduates were interviewed 10 years later, those who had unwritten goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the graduates with no clear goals. However, the 3% who wrote down their goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as all the other graduates put together!
So write down your goals!
Wherever this secret power comes from – make use of it. In fact authors Tom & Penelope Pauley (of richdreams.com) believe that writing it down is all you have to do! In their book, I’m Rich Beyond My Wildest dreams, I am, I am, I am, their suggested route to riches is simply making detailed lists of what you want. It’s a fascinating and fun technique and one that I’ve already had some success with.
Now, you may need an open mind for this and a little faith, at first. But it’s not necessary to explain or understand the forces at work to make use of this trick. Once you try it and see the evidence that it works, you’ll be convinced. In fact, you’ll probably be so excited and amazed that you’ll want to share it with everyone!
So, get yourself a nice pen, and maybe a smart new notebook in honour of your new regime, then grab a cuppa and a seat – and write down the blueprint for your perfect home-life. Then prepare to be amazed. (Note: If you’re like most people, you will now be nodding and thinking, Yeah, yeah, I get the idea, I don’t really need to actually do it… If that’s the case – reread the statistics above! This stuff works – why not make use of it to help you? It’s a small effort that will reap dividends - but only if you do it!)
It’s worth noting here that it’s not necessary to know the exact route to your desired outcome. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, you don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step. There is a school of thought that believes the answers will find you. Personally, I’ve had much experience of this method and ?nd that in the act of setting a goal, a few ideas ‘magically’ crop up. I’ve learned to trust these nudgings and take inspired action. There may be times where I can’t see how these actions could possibly result in my goal, but invariably, by some route I could never have imagined, they do. So my personal belief is that the route will occur to you once you make the decision to go for it. If you have faith in the process, you only have to know what you want to achieve and the answers will appear as you go along. For me, this path is not only successful, but hugely enjoyable and full of magic and awe.
It’s possible, though, that a more structured technique will appeal to you. If you find it helpful to map out a series of steps that could get you to your goal, that might be the best process for you. Many success experts recommend this. In The Success Principles, the hugely successful Jack Canfield has dedicated a chapter to this idea of ‘chunking down’. To do this, take your end-goal and reduce it down to all the steps you believe you’ll need to take to get there. Make these smaller and smaller chunks until you find one you can start with.
Which brings me nicely onto Step 3 of the process…
(If you’d like to read the complete article, visit houseworkblues.com for details of the book.)
For all the joy and magic of this festive season, there’s no doubt that Christmas brings with it a good deal of extra work and things to do. There are the parties and visits to and from friends and family… Then there’s all that present planning and buying, wrapping and giving… There’s all that extra food shopping and cooking and baking… And on top of all that, there’s also a considerable seasonal serving of extra housework.
Now, before I get all Ebenezer on you, let me just stress that I am a huge fan of Christmas. I absolutely love it. I think I enjoy it even more now than I did when I was a child. Having two small children of my own definitely adds to the magic and sense of excitement and wonder, but even in the quiet moments of planning and organising, the Christmas season always makes me smile.
This is in spite of the extra work, though, rather than because of it.
So, in my attempt to get maximum enjoyment from the festivities with minimum amounts of stress and frantic frenzies, I have a few ideas for a Calmer Christmas Karma. These are lessons I’ve learnt about what makes for a happier time for all concerned – not least, myself. (And why not, Christmas is for grown-ups, too!)
“Is this it?”
“Is this what my life has come to?”
“I’ve got so much more to offer.”
If your life is consumed by housework, no wonder you feel superior – of course you have more to offer! I don’t believe that any woman on the planet has nothing more to contribute than cleaning and tidying. However, that doesn’t mean we should never do it. We have more to contribute than pretty nails but that doesn’t mean we should avoid manicures!
Any regular readers will no doubt be aware that I have a natural aversion to housework. This is not to say I don’t do it – I want to live in a pleasant and comforting home, so needs must etc… But generally speaking it’s not top of my list of things I want to do.
So you probably won’t be too surprised to discover that when I do eventually shift my gears into housework mode, I race about at a frenzied pace, trying to get the jobs done and dusted (literally) as quickly as possible.
Now there is nothing wrong with working quickly, if that’s how you work happiest. Also, there may be times when a brisk pace is essential (ie impending guests are looming). Quite often, though, I have no need to rush the housework, other than my in-built urge to get it over with. And I have also noticed that these domestic frenzies don’t leave me feeling satisfied and competent, instead they actually they wind me up. They make me anxious and tense. So not only do I begrudge the work as I’m tearing through it, but when it’s over, I feel slightly glum or more than a little snappish. Hardly domestic bliss.
Looking after a home and family is physically demanding work. Without health, energy and emotional calm, it can be an uphill struggle. So it makes sense to prioritise your well-being, make it non-negotiable. Looking after No1 needs to be Job #1.
However, the life of a House Slave is a busy one and there may be times when what should, in theory, be top of your To Do list, can drift and slide to the nether regions of your Things That Get Neglected list.
So what to do?
This week sees the return to our screens of the lovely Nigella Lawson.
Her new series, Nigella Kitchen, begins Monday 30th September at 8pm on BBC 2.
So to celebrate this happy event, I thought I would mark the occasion with a Nigella-flavoured blog post.
I recently got my hands on Nigella’s new companion book (also called Kitchen) and although I’m only on page 92 (I like to read her books cover-to-cover), it has already struck me with its helpfulness in answering one of life’s most challenging questions:
What’s for tea, mum?