mindful living, effortless style


Book Club: Week 6

First off, a big mea culpa for dropping the ball on our virtual book club.  So sorry guys!  I could fib and say I was saving this chapter for this month but the truth is things got crazy the last few months and stuff like writing my own book got in the way of reading anything else.  Nevertheless, we’re back on board now and I’m thinking of picking up every other week again.  How does that schedule work for you all?

This week’s chapter is so appropriate for POYEL, it’s eerie.  Today in our discusion of Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children: Becoming a Mindful Parent we’re discussing, wait for it, Chapter 7: What Can I do About all the Housework? Ha! Do you love it or what?

I was pulled into this chapter from the very first paragraph:

Two and a half hours each day.  Not counting time spent with children, this is the amount of time a mother spends on housework, such as cooking, laundry and cleaning… From a Buddhist perspective, the most important question concerning this workload is: What is the state of our minds throughout these hours?

The overarching theme of this section is that housework exists, for everyone, there’s just no getting around it.  So what can we consciously do to make sure that the time we spend emerged in it isn’t spent being resentful or even trying to numb our minds (the author points out that these behaviors for a potential sixteen hours a week can only have an adverse effect on our well-being).

The answer, as it so often is in this book, is to use the time to practice mindfulness and consciously rethink our attitudes.  I had a total light bulb moment, as they say, when I read this:

Housework may be the best opportunity to practice being present.  If we choose, mindful house cleaning can be space away form the noise of our racing thoughts and feelings.  The back-and-forth motion of a broom creates a rhythm to focus on.  The act of preparing a meal invites all the senses to attention.

Whoa.  The idea of seeing housework as an opportunity for focus and calm – a gift even – in the midst of a busy day – that kinda turned my world on it’s head.

Of course having a realization and actually making peace with housework is two very different things.  On that note, I really appreciated what was written about focusing on the process.  The author makes some very helpful points about our tendencies to postpone happiness until the housework is done. “Then you can relax,” she writes. (Umm, guilty!). She then makes a recommendation:

I chanced on a magical little book that can transform the act of home care into a pleasure. Zen Buddhist and lay monk Gary Thorp’s Sweeping Changes offers perspective on housework as a chance to reconnect with yourself.

A book that can transform the act of home care into a pleasure?  That’s going on my library reading list for sure.

Finally, if you read the chapter then you know I had to point out/celebrate one last point:

According to Zen teachings, we increase our capacity to live mindfully in the present when we value simplicity.  A Zen approach to household maintenance challenges us to rid our home of clutter, freeing ourselves of any object that is no longer useful.

Amen sister.  So what do you guys think of all this?  Do you think it’s actually possible to use cleaning time as a sort of me time?  Have any of you actually been successful at it?

P.S. This is a really nice post on the topic from Word Play House: Clean Calm – Enjoying Homekeeping with Children.

P.P.S. Meet me back here in two weeks on Wednesday, January 23rd, for a chat on Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children: Becoming a Mindful Parent Chapter 8: Can I Change My Ways? and catch up with all the chapters we’ve covered so far here.



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Destri January 9, 2013 at 6:38 am

” A Zen approach to household maintenance challenges us to rid our home of clutter, freeing ourselves of any object that is no longer useful.” Amen.
Especially with clothes. I used to do load after load of laundry, and have cut our closets down to only what we wear. All clothes all fit in one suitcase – my kids all fit into a carry on – okay, well except the girl :) she might have more than me. Anyhoo, life changing I tell ya. I do about three to four loads a week now.
I love the idea of changing the mindset while cleaning – I tend to do it with a silent annoyance :).


mpmk January 9, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Silent annoyance is SUCH a great descriptor of how I feel too. Congrats on the clothes cleansing – that’s truly amazing!


domonique @ a bowl full of simple January 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

I definitely agree with this. I find that when I’m able to find the time during the day when my youngest is at preschool to cook and clean, I actually enjoy it. I think it also ties into the guilt I feel when i’m cleaning house when my kids are home instead of being with them or trying to cook a meal in the last minute at dinnertime, not so enjoyiable. Cooking especially gives me a zen peaceful feeling. Chopping, slicing, noticing textures, smells, + colors are all simple pleasures that add up to ‘me’ time. I also just spent the day purging drawers and cabinets – felt like ‘me’ time for sure! http://abowlfullofsimple.com/purging-feels-good/
Thank you for your thoughtful post.


mpmk January 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm

You bring up a very good point – a lot of the stress that I feel when cleaning, picking up, etc. is from trying to do it while multi-tasking… I often feel like I’m not getting in the one on one time with the kids as I’m always putting them off “hold on, just a second” so I can get the dishes unloaded, the laundry done, etc.

Maybe part of the solution is to make some of these tasks things we do together. It always takes longer and is never perfect when I get the kids involved in the cleaning but if we can do it in a calm, relaxed way while actually enjoying each other it would be worth it.


Leslie January 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm

EVERY BIT of this is so very true. Growing up, my mother cleaned houses for a living. We tagged along with her on her jobs until we were old enough to go to school. And we hated it… we hated to clean our own rooms… why did we have to help clean other peoples houses too!?!? Looking back… honestly… I would trade my whole career to do what my mother did… I have to say, some of my favorite “me” times are the times I’ve set aside for cleaning my house. I work in a very FAST company and work a 30 min drive away from our home… so… needless to say… I’m on the GO GO GO all the time and my mind is constantly thinking about the next big project or what our family schedule looks like for the next week… When I enter into my cleaning mode… I crank up Enya… and embrace the act of blessing our house and beautifying the space we call home. :)


mpmk January 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Love that attitude Leslie!


Naomi January 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Oh I agree about the clothes clean out! My son has two outfits he will wear. I LOVE it, although it can put some urgency into the laundry rotation. :-)

And I agree about the calm time – I treat it a bit like a yoga session, feeling my body move to clean, trying to empty my mind but solving problems while I do that (as you do!) and I love my laundry hanging out time – so peaceful!


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