Do you ever spend hours on a household task, and wonder if it really makes a difference?
Your toil simply brings the room back to zero, or returns the space to how it was before.
Last weekend I cleaned the upper walls in the kitchen. Dust had gathered, so first I got up on a ladder and brushed the dust from the walls with a broom. Then I washed the walls by hand with a sponge and soapy water, to remove the thin veneer of grease that seems to gather in a kitchen. Next, I had to clean all the kitchen surfaces below to remove the particles of dust that had floated down. After several hours of work, the only thing I had to show for my efforts were walls that look normal-ish and un-dirty.
Perhaps you, too, have spent an hour on your knees pulling weeds from a flower bed in the heat. Later you gaze at the garden and it hardly looks any different at all. Will anyone even notice?
The Absence Of…
As regularly as the sun rises and sets, it seems that we humans are called to perform many repetitive, humble tasks.
And what do we have to show for our actions?
Many times, only The Absence Of.
Often, the space we have painstakingly made tidy quickly becomes untidy.
We clean the kitchen, and the sink quickly refills with dirty dishes. We prune the bushes, and soon they are wild and unwieldy again. We rake up all the leaves, and a wind storm fills the yard again.
Sometimes we might wonder about the worth of our faithful actions, too.
You refrain from joining in when everyone else is badmouthing the boss. You quietly check in on an elderly friend. You return your shopping cart and straighten out the other haphazardly placed carts while you’re there. You make dozens of decisions every week to try and be a good steward.
Do our small acts matter? I think they do. Here are some techniques and thoughts that have helped me when I’m doing unseen, repetitive chores.
I’ve noticed that multitasking isn’t a very satisfying way to get things done. I’m so much happier when I don’t try to, say, combine a phone conversation with housecleaning. Studies show that the quality of our work suffers when we try to do two things at once, while focusing on one thing is actually more efficient.
2. Practice mindfulness
You might pause for a moment to notice the fragrance of the fallen leaves while you’re raking. Listen for the sound of the birds. Take time to deep clean the kitchen counters, and appreciate the way they shine when you’re done.
3. Give thanks
I try to remember to be grateful for the privilege of having a home and a patch of earth to care for. I want to be thankful for the ability to perform many tasks, knowing that there are countless people who would love to be able to, say, crouch down and pull weeds.
4. Let go of perfection
I often repeat the FlyLady’s mantra: “Housework, done imperfectly, still blesses my family.” I love this so much!
5. Take heart
When it feels like my efforts are in vain, it helps me to remember that God sees my small acts even when nobody else notices. We can trust that there are unseen rewards when we do our best to be diligent and thoughtful, and care for what we have.
How About You?
Have you ever experienced the feelings I described? Do you have other suggestions to add to my list? I always love to hear your thoughts and comments.
May you experience many blessings and joy as you perform your chores and daily tasks.
P.S. You might also enjoy “The You’re Not Doing Enough Club.”