Room to breathe

 

The ‘Not Enough Hours In The Day’ Trilogy – Part III

Keeping our homes and feeding our families are innate human habits. And, thanks to today’s mod cons, this domestic stuff has never been easier. Why, then, do we still struggle to find the time for it?

One answer lies in the position of housework on our to-do lists, (ie not very high.) But there is another explanation: if we have so much to do that such a primal and essential need gets neglected – perhaps our lists are too long! The existence of housework isn’t the problem – it’s a side-effect of being alive – but if we don’t have time for it, the problem is: our lives are too full. If we lack the time to take decent care of ourselves and our families, something, somewhere has gone wrong…

Modern life is busy. Firstly, there’s the obligatory stuff, ie the merry-go-round of work and responsibilities (which too often is not so merry at all). It’s true that keeping a roof over our head and food on the table are vital uses of our time, but the social trend is that we are working ever harder. There have been times, throughout history when survival has been tough, but even after these millennia of ‘progress’, the norm seems to be overwork and exhaustion. But to what end? And more importantly, where is it going to stop?

There are volumes of ideas on this uniquely modern phenomenon, and the point here is not to document the hows and whys. But in our bid to find time for housework, I urge you to consider this: Is your life working? Or is working your life? I don’t claim to know the answer to the eternal question: Why are we here? But surely the point of existence is not a joyless struggle of ceaseless labour?

Perhaps, just pondering this is a move towards tipping back the work/life balance. Besides, the harder you work, the more you need a comfortable and supportive home where you can recharge your spirit. This makes the home’s upkeep vital and valuable – worth making time for.

The secondary reason for our packed timetables is our voluntary commitments. These are all the things we choose to cram into our days in our insatiable need to fill our lives to bursting. Right now, in this and every moment, there are a million potential options, things we could feasibly spend our time on. (And much of this is all far more glamourous or interesting or financially beneficial than a bit of self-care or family-nurturing…) But even though this range of opportunities is too vast – far more than one person could accomplish in a lifetime – we seem to be driven by an urge to do, or get done, as much as possible.

Again, I believe it can be helpful just to pause and ask – what does all this getting and having really bring us? Is it adding to our quality of life? And if not, why are we doing it? Of course there are more tempting and enticing ways to spend our free-time than doing housework, but will they result in the same kind of life-support? Maintaining home and family may be mundane and repetitive tasks but they contribute hugely to the quality of our lives.

When we have ‘just too much to do’, something always has to give. So, it’s tempting to scrimp on the domestic schedule. It’s an easy option (in the short-term). However, if we bump housework up the list of priorities and sacrificed something less vital instead, our lives would benefit overall. If we truly have a mind to, it’s possible to find a little more breathing space in our lives, a little more room to meet our basic human needs.

Once you accept that the maintenance work isn’t going anywhere, it’s clear that if you want to manage it, you’ll have to build it into your schedule. And if you truly don’t have enough hours in the day, it’s time to assess what is eating your life. Ironically, it can be more effective to do this evaluation away from home. With a bit of distance and perspective, you’ll see more clearly what really matters. The solution may be pruning some less-essential areas, but it’s a trade-off. What you lose elsewhere, you will gain in the home with a renewed vitality, comfort and competence in the place where you live. Not a bad swap.

Downsizing, de-cluttering, simplifying, minimalism, going back to basics – these recent trends are backlashes to the spiraling busy-ness of recent years. These philosophies are designed to help us step away from the madness and regain our lives. They help us find time for the essentials of being alive – rather than just existing. These ideas are becoming increasing popular because, deep-down, we know that modern life has gone awry.

By embracing these practices, we can claw back some of our free-time, we can ease up on the work-pressures. In short, we can get our lives back. We can still live life to the full, but where possible, let’s ensure that what we spend our time on will support our health, nourish our soul and enrich our life.

Taking care of your home is one such activity.

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As always, I’d love to hear what you think!

Danielle Raine

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