Even mopping can be enjoyable when we practice mindful cleaning.
I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Peace is every step for the nth time last week. Especially wonderful are the mindfulness exercises related to mindful cleaning, eating, listening and many more. It is a lovely book that brings a sense of serenity with the learning.
I was thinking of the book today while washing the dishes—one of my favorite mindfulness meditations. I love the concept that the act of mindfulness can be applied to everything we do, including housework. And as we all have to clean our home at some point, why not start applying a more mindful approach there?
Mindful cleaning can make mundane housework enjoyable, as I have discovered. While I’ve always found household chores therapeutic, over the years, I’ve learned to make it even more rewarding by following the tips I am about to share with you.
Eight mindful cleaning tips to make even mopping enjoyable
1. Begin where you are
One of the key tenets of mindfulness is to accept things as they currently are and mindful cleaning is no exception. When I say accepting I am not saying leave things as they are (although that can be quite tempting!) instead, it’s about assessing the level of care and attention your home needs right now. This I learned from my husband.
I was the all or nothing type when it came to cleaning and as life grew busier, nothing got done. Of course, while the clean as you go approach is vital here, there will also be times when deeper cleaning or more intensive tasks need to be done like when that glass stove top needs to be cleaned, or the appliances need to be moved so you can sweep underneath.
After all, not all dirt and grime are always visible to the naked eye. However, since mindful cleaning is the point here, I have learned that these things need to be done only when they are truly necessary, not because of a strict routine or due to aspirations for perfection in your home.
2. Clean as you go
Cleaning as you go can be a very mindful way of taking care of your surroundings. This basically involves being aware of our environment and the tools we are using and decide to deal with them now, rather than letting them pile up for later. So guilty of this.
The great thing about clean as you go approach is that it can be applied to so many tasks including wiping down counters when you are done making food, washing up dishes when you are done eating, and even doing a quick clean of your toilet bowl when you are done doing what you do in there!
As I often like to say – I am not sure if I’ll leave the world a better place but I certainly leave my bathroom a better place when I step out after a shower!
3. Make sure to keep tools handy
This is very important in your mindful cleaning routine. It’s so much easier to give the surface in front of you a quick wipe down if you have the cloth and spray you need to hand, right? Indeed, by placing these items within view it can even remind you to slow down and make time for such tasks as you go about your day.
Here are more mindful cleaning tips.
So with that in mind, be sure to stock each room with the basic items you need to keep them clean and tidy. Don’t forget to maintain and take care of these items! Just yesterday we were laughing at the sight of our vacuum cleaner covered in a thick layer of dust—and because of this, we skip using it, preferring a damp cloth and a mop to tackle the dusting and mopping! By doing this you will enhance the overall cleaning process.
And while you are at it, try and go natural with your cleaning materials. Mindful cleaning is also about reducing our carbon footprint. It makes sense to avoid toxic chemicals while you’re purifying your inner and outer environments. There is a lot of information online about natural cleaning methods and products. For example, there is a lot you can accomplish with vinegar and baking soda instead of expensive cleaning products with ingredients we cannot pronounce.
4. Focus on your task
Cleaning can feel mundane and even boring, and it can be so tempting to do something else with our minds when we are cleaning—such as listening to a podcast or even just drifting away into our imaginations. Let’s face it – it is convenient to do that, isn’t it?
However, being mindful is about being in the present moment whether the experience is pleasurable or not, so the next time you pick up the duster or vacuum try really being present for the experience and just note any objections or judgments that the mind throws your way.
Try and participate fully in what you are doing. And as you go about your work, pay attention to the texture of your cleaning cloth. Listen to your vacuum cleaner humming. Enjoy the sight of spotless areas as you finish cleaning them.
Mindful cleaning is about being present for every activity. Consider letting go of past issues doing the rounds in your head. Resist the temptation to make lists or plan for the future when you are cleaning. Enjoy every moment of the cleaning process.
5. Slow down
There are busy days when there seems no choice but to rush through everything. But doing this often creates stress. I am thinking of the times when I spill something just as I think I am done with my cleaning tasks simply because I was in a hurry to finish them. Stressful! These days, I set aside time in my day to comfortably do the job. There is joy in being slow and steady!
6. Follow your breath
Housework is strenuous, no doubt about it. And if your day is anything like mine, it also means dealing with hot sweaty weather. I consciously pause for a few minutes of deep breathing before I break out the mop and bucket. And believe me, it is actually possible to create a natural rhythm that coordinates your actions with your breath. So soothing!
7. Use both hands
It is always amusing to see housemaids working with one hand while the other hand holds the phone against their ear. Sure enough, it triggers mini wars with the lady of the house about not doing the job properly.
Working with two hands is definitely more efficient. And here’s a bonus mindful cleaning tip: using your nondominant hand is a powerful mental exercise because you force your brain to think about what you’re doing.
8. Chant something
During my childhood, the elders in the house would always be chanting slokas as they went about their work. And they would be absolutely focused on what they were doing. So if it helps, go ahead and choose a mantra or a word or phrase you like and chant as you work. Me, I enjoy humming and playing antakshari with myself.
We can even go a bit further along the mindful cleaning path and turn each simple cleaning task into more meaningful life-lessons.
Some life-lessons from mindful cleaning
As I vacuum my space, I think about the following:
- What if I could vacuum my mind clean?
- Which habits and self-limiting beliefs would I want to clear out?
- Without this emotional baggage, what would my thoughts look like?
As I dust the shelves:
- I think about change
- Like the dust I am removing, I remember that things will eventually turn to dust
- I feel grateful for my present life
As I wash the dishes:
- I fill the sink with warm water and soap
- I enjoy the feel of the suds
- I take my time with each dish and movement
- I remember each moment of life is a miracle
As I scrub my bathroom:
- I think about the issues in my life that I’ve been trying to deal with
- I pause for a moment and think about what caused them
- I think, maybe I can resolve the issues better
As I do my laundry
- I think about how soft and fragrant the clothes will feel against my skin
- I appreciate how the clean clothes will help me stay healthy
- As I watch a load spin around in the washer/dryer – I find it soothing
As I clear the clutter:
- I realize (guiltily) that a neat house makes mindful cleaning easier
- I pledge to consciously buy less stuff
- I review what I own and make a plan to get rid of what I don’t need
I believe that housework can be an opportunity for practicing mindfulness. By taking a mindful approach to housework, it is possible to achieve two objectives: cleaning your house and clearing your mind. In fact, you may enjoy your chores more when you combine the two activities.
Do you practice mindful cleaning?
Do share your views in the comments!