One of the most basic processes that we all engage in is the cleaning process. Cleaning is not only related to home-making. Each one of us does some or the other kind of cleaning in our daily routine unless we are filthy rich. Even if we are not cleaning our home frequently, we might be cleaning our study table or office cupboard or organizing our work desk. It can be any type of cleaning.
Let me give you my background regarding cleaning. I must have been the messiest kid and a teenager. It would take me a festival or some other occasion to clean my clothes or my desk. My books would be scattered all over and my study table always resembled the site of an earthquake. But I considered it natural, in fact authentic. I used to think that only the ones who study would keep their tables messy. After all, I had all the important work to do in the world. And cleaning was definitely not one of the mentally exciting things that I would like to focus on. I thought that there is nothing sensible to focus on cleaning and it must be delegated to lesser brains. Now I can safely say that I have improved my thinking. I love cleaning now. It is a fundamental process to our healthy and happy survival and I really respect the process of cleaning now. Love of cleaning led me to accept minimalism. Minimalist cleaning hardly takes any time as there is not much to clean J . And now what I do is mindful cleaning and really enjoy it.
Now it is my personal experience that normal cleaning activities like dusting, mopping the floor, dishwashing, laundry etc. can be done easily without active supervision of a conscious mind. Besides, these are normally considered to be second-grade no-brain activities. many people tend to procrastinate cleaning activities unless it is absolutely necessary to clean up. Therefore, these are the activities where we can easily turn off mindful attention to the task at hand and drift into the imaginary world of thoughts, emotions, and imagination. The mental space that these activities provide can easily attract a lot of negativity if we are not careful.
There is always so much funny stuff available about the grumbling housewife or the homemakers. Why do they grumble so much? Probably, this might be so because these people normally have a lot of the above-described activities in their daily lives. In fact, their whole day can be full of cleaning and decluttering if they have small kids at home. They can spend their full day doing odd jobs that are not mentally challenging and inspiring. Thus the mental vacuum or numbness that builds up gives enough space for all kinds of thoughts. Unfortunately, most of these thoughts can be negative as a homemaker does not earn money, might not be considered important enough or sharp enough to engage in any other intellectual pursuit. It is natural that most of the time; such life can trigger lack of self-identity, loss of self-respect and depression. Therefore, it is especially important for home-makers to practice cleaning mindfulness.
I have described below the way I try to maintain mindfulness while the cleaning activities like the kitchen cleaning, washing and drying clothes, wardrobe cleaning, floor cleaning, and other odd jobs. I am sure that there can be better ways and I hope that we find them together.
Some tribal cultures have the practice of removing all useless things before the new harvest season begins. They throw all such things in a bonfire, dance around it and celebrate their harvest! These people are mindful of what they need and what they don’t, unlike us. We are told what we need by the advertising and marketing agencies. We have almost nil awareness of our real needs. Therefore, mindful cleaning starts with the process of decluttering. Physical decluttering can be used as a good example later for mental decluttering.
The first big step towards mindful cleaning is decluttering. If you are cleaning mindfully, you will ask yourself “why am I cleaning this thing?”. You should look for a sensible answer. The next mindful question that you can ask yourself is “why do I own this thing?” or “does it brings joy to me?” or “is it really useful to me?”. I used to have a lot of show pieces that I collected from my travels. After my daughter was born, it became a real pain to be able to maintain all of them. It took me 4 long years to realize that I don’t want them. They might look nice but if they come at a cost of my priceless time that I could have spent with my daughter instead of cleaning them, I don’t want them at all. They offer very little value for the time spent on cleaning them. I gave away all of them, every single one and now I never miss them.
Another big cleaning happens around the clothes. I used to have cupboards full of clothes, just because my mom was very fond of buying clothes. And she would keep buying my gifts. Besides, I kept storing all the clothes so that I would wear them SOME day, which actually never came. I highly recommend reading Marie Condo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”. There are youtube videos also available, that will give you a zest of the book. I sincerely wish that I had read this book year back. I would have so much of my time and energy on senseless work. Cleaning is not senseless; however, there is nothing more idiotic than mindless cleaning.
I knew that we should throw away the things that are not useful to us. But I would keep clinging to things that I would be able to use ONE day. So my rooms were full of such things and never looked clean in spite of all the cleaning. There was not enough space. I failed to realize that I need to keep things that I am going to use frequently and not all the things that are usable in some way. After a few years of failed attempts of cleaning, I came across the documentary “The Minimalist” and it changed my whole life. I loved the idea and made a strategy to achieve minimalism. Actually, it was my strategy of getting rid of excessive anger, might work for you too. I started throwing 5 things per day that I have not used for more than a year. Over a course of 6 months, I donated some 35-40 suitcase full of clothes and other usable things to a nearby orphanage. I felt so relieved and free immediately. After 6 months I could see that my house remained clean without doing any extensive cleaning. It was because there was no trash left in the house. I was blind to the trash in my house and I was trying to manage trash instead of cleaning it up. Mindful awareness of my real needs helped to figure out what I really need and remove the rest. Marie Condo, the tidying expert suggests onetime cleaning which is actually the best way. However, if you do not have the moral strength to do that, go by “5 things out every day” method. This process really makes you more mindful o the things that you value and would want to keep at home.
Once the house is properly decluttered, you must be mindful of anything that is not required in the house. Such things are believed to block the natural flow of energy in the house. In Indian tradition, it is believed that Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth comes to the home which is clean and pious. And interestingly, the broom is also worshipped during the worship ritual of Lakshmi. Therefore, cleaning is more than a mindless job.
After the mega-decluttering of the house, I believe that you need not spend more than 30 min cleaning the entire house, that too when you have a small messy child at home.
Initially, I would several ideas running in my mind, especially that I am losing time in cleaning and that I should be using this time to earn more. But I flipped that idea into another belief that as I am dusting my things or mopping the floor, I am removing dirt from my good luck. As I shine my house, my fortune will shine as well. With thorough faith in this idea, I became completely aware of the way that I am cleaning. I am attentive to the fact whether the things are getting cleaned properly or not. This thought works for almost all of us because we all face little financial crises here or there. When aligned with prosperity, cleaning becomes far most important than it would appear otherwise. Since I have few prized possessions that are useful to me after a massive decluttering, I really have time to clean and manage them properly.
Again gratefulness helps a lot to stay in the moment. When I am washing my daughter’s favorite plate, I feel grateful that I have a beautiful family, an adorable child, good food and comfortable life! Positivity connects everything in life, just as negativity does. This feeling helps me to be more aware of the pretty plates and other utensils that I have.
When I am mopping the floor in a mindful state, I am aware of each and every inch of my house. My house looks like a living entity in its own right. I work better and faster. What’s best is that I have less work, since I know what I should do and what I don’t need to. Mindfulness might not help you to work fast. However, it sure can sweep away all useless things and work from your life and you are left with few crisp and clean things to do.