This article has been contributed by student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.
I had to let the cleaner go last week.
For over a year now I have been scrimping and scratching in the household budget to keep her coming for just a couple of hours each week. Alas, we have some exciting things to save up for this year so something had to give – and switching the electricity off just wasn’t flying with My Darling Husband.
I have embraced the frugality required to stay home and keep house and raise a family. I shop at Aldi and Cotton On rather than Leo’s and Country Road. I take small delight in life’s daily rituals (formerly regarded as monotonous drudgery) – I fold a bit of love into the beds each day; sprinkle tenderness into the lunchboxes each morning; inhale the unspoken appreciation from my family’s clean washing – oops sorry, that’s Snow White and I haven’t any dwarves. Sometimes, I even hand-wash dishes which don’t fit into the dishwasher! So why have I decided that scrubbing the shower recess is beneath me? Maybe Meatloaf was onto something when he sang the words “I will do anything for love – but – I – won’t – do – that”?
Cinderella only swept a bit before frocking up and finding her prince and even then I bet she engaged at least one of her ugly step-sisters to keep the new palatial digs sparkling – how else could she have lived Happily Ever After? Maybe there’s something vaguely erotic about my husband picturing me tying an apron around my waist and licking batter off a spatula Nigella-style whilst slavingat work. In my (inside only) track-pants, reeking of bleach and up to my elbow in porcelain registers a little lower on the raunch-scale.
Then I remembered attachment and how “having a cleaner” is all tied up in the vision of how my life is supposed to “look” (FYI – in my head, it looks a lot like a Donna Hay magazine). The first step is letting that go, completely.
The other problem is I hate cleaning. Formerly, as a perfectionist, I made a sweeping mountain range out of a molehill of a task. Rather than just clean the shower recess, I would end up with the entire contents of the bathroom cupboards over the floor for sorting and cleaning; which led to a clean-out of the make-up bag including cleaning all the make-up brushes; which meant a trip to IKEA after much research on the net to find the perfect storage solution to get the bathroom paraphernalia back into the cupboards by colour, size and product type. At the end of it (24-48 hours later) I would be so exhausted that I couldn’t bear the thought of cleaning the shower recess for another six months!
My GP calls this “catastrophising” – both in thought and in action; a common habit of people suffering from anxiety or depression apparently. For me, catastrophising meant building the biggest, most devastating, worst case scenario in my head prior to engaging in an activity – then completely over-doing the activity – then worrying about where I fell short in said activity afterwards and beating myself up about it. Around and around and over and over again. For Ever After.
This is where yoga and meditation has really helped me the most. With a quiet mind it is virtually impossible to catastrophise; to make mountains out of molehills; to build up the worst case scenario so vividly that you are paralysed into complete inaction and fear. With a yogic approach and a still mind I can just breathe, and then do, and move on.
I have stuck to my kitchen wall “7 Small Things to Make Life Effortless” from the zenhabits blog – one of which is to Clean as You Go. I need to remember that cleaning the shower recess is just cleaning the shower recess. I am not selling the house. I am not preparing for a photo shoot. I am not entering the National Bathroom Cleaning Titles. Be quiet, just breathe… and then clean the shower recess.
I also recognized that I had fallen into an old thought pattern regarding the cleaner. I was thinking “poor me”, “we don’t have enough money for this”, “we need to make more money”, “I am missing out” and once I caught myself, I flipped the way I was thinking. How lucky am I to have a home to clean and the time to clean it when so many don’t have either?
Om & out.