Last weekend my wife and I drove north a couple hours to visit our granddaughters. The last time we saw them was in the pre-pandemic days of yesteryear. We spent most of Saturday afternoon in the backyard playing little-kid games in the makeshift pool and breaking out a plastic Tee-Ball set. Later on after a barbeque, it was time to clean up the toys. My son and his wife promptly requested the “The Clean Up Song” from Alexa, and my granddaughter hopped to it. Watching her I caught myself thinking, can’t I help with the clean up too?
Google The Clean Up Song and you’ll find several dozen versions to choose from. Cleaning-to-music for kids has been around a little while now. I wish we’d used this approach more often when our own children were little. It’s a song! It’s a game! It’s almost whistling while you work.
For me, household chores morphed to something more therapeutic as the kids grew up and out of the house. Taking out the trash became extra steps towards my ten thousand (we have a long driveway). Washing dishes became a mini-spa of warm water and soap bubbles. Making the bed and arranging its pillows channeled my inner Marie Kondo. Folding clothes was how to avoid lazing on the couch while watching TV. (On that note, an ironing board should be called a “clothes-folding board”, if you go by my folding minutes (100%) vs. ironing minutes (0%).
Lest you think me compulsive, a recent Wall Street Journal study comes to my rescue. During these stay-at-home times – locked-down residents find similar stress relief in housework. Washing windows allows the slow, deliberate wax-on-wax-off zen of “The Karate Kid”. Cleaning countertops tempts flowing dance, like Julia Stiles in the diner in “The Prince and Me”. Ironing doubles as light weightlifting. And vacuuming? Nah, I got nothing there. Vacuuming’s still just a chore.
The lovely Ms. Stiles and her diner dance
Headspace, a software company focused on meditation and better sleep, includes housecleaning exercises on its app. They recommend “quiet housework in dim lighting” just before bed (but then how do you see what you’re cleaning?) They want you to sweep the floor and wipe the counter in smooth, restorative motions. Laugh all you want but the use of their “cleaning-related content” is up 20% since mid-March.
Household products are trending the same way. Swiffer wants you to mop with “a clean home and a clear mind” and suggests a facial treatment while you’re at it. They switch “clean the counter” to “give your surfaces a little TLC” (as if your surfaces are close friends). Proctor & Gamble fortifies its “Gain” laundry detergent with essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus, touted for their calming effects. “Clear Your Mind with a Cooling Clean! A Soothing Scent with a Mindful Twist!”
Call me one-in-five (not compulsive) because P&G research claims 20% of us clean to relax or reduce stress. Sure, but we also clean to clean.
I never thought about laundry this way but the Journal article likens clothes-cleaning to problem-solving (which we guys are all about). Sort the clothes, dose the detergent/softener, fold according to best-fit in drawers, and then put everything away. It’s a process, and it’s a new puzzle every time.
To take it one step more spiritual, household chores are considered seva – a form of selfless-service. Says one yogi about dirty dishes, “You’re reminding yourself you’re washing for the divine grace that flows through your husband, your wife, your children, or your parents.” Whoa now. Me, I’m just washing dishes.
I’ve neglected to mention another household chore: cleaning bathrooms. It can be “healing” sponging the porcelain to a sparkling-white shine, conducting the bowl brush in large, lazy circles, or returning to nature in the gentle flow of the sink (waterfall) or toilet (whirlpool). No, no, NO. I don’t do bathrooms. Not even if you ask Alexa to play “The Clean Up Song”.
Some content sourced from the 5/27/2020 Wall Street Journal article, “Sick of Cleaning? Turn It Into Meditation”.