Monday, August 31, 2015

Home as an elegant sanctuary

I talk about housework motivation a lot, but it’s because I’m always looking for some.  I know that what I focus on grows, so I need to focus on the good things and that inspires me to do even better.

Today I found it in the form of imagining what I would most like my home to be.  An elegant sanctuary immediately came to mind.  I also decided to rename ‘housework’ to ‘housekeeping.  ‘Housekeeping’ sounds much better to me than ‘housework’ so I decided I am not going to say the HW word anymore. 

But ‘housekeeping’, that is a word I don’t feel too bad about.  Housekeeping sounds crisp, clean, efficient and inviting.  It makes me think of a luxury hotel with their housekeeping staff making everything look sparkling, polished and neat.  It’s funny how different words can make you feel.  Because housework has the word work in it, I resist it and eventually do it begrudgingly. 

I also need to change my beliefs around housekeeping.  I want it to be fun and enjoyable, because believe it or not, even when I am doing something like cleaning the toilet, if I am in the right frame of mind I am happy to do it.

But for the longest time I have not been in the right frame of mind.  This produces resistance and then guilt when I don’t do much or any, because I do want a home that feels good, and I feel so much better when I’ve been pottering and cleaning.

And it’s not like I don’t have time.  If I apply the time I spend mucking around not being productive on the computer or lounging around needlessly snacking, there is plenty of time to make our home an elegant sanctuary.

I thought I’d try doing Gillian Riley’s four step method that she uses with food (I wrote about it here), because it seems like it would apply to everything.

Step one is naming something – what I am feeling now is guilt and resistance towards doing my housekeeping.

Step two is to let myself know I can do whatever I want, whenever I want – I don’t need to do housekeeping now or ever, I can go the rest of my life without doing any housekeeping if I choose to.  However I also need to accept the consequences of avoiding housekeeping, which are things like:

Our home will be dirty, messy and unpleasant to be in
It will be embarrassing if someone comes around
I will find it hard to find things when I need them
The energy won’t feel good
People may judge me
We won’t enjoy spending time at home
I will feel lazy and like a failure as a wife and partner in this marriage
The guilt!
I can imagine a downwards spiral of momentum if I don’t clean our home

Step three is to allow myself to feeling the resistance towards housekeeping.  Allow myself to be in it and feel it through.  Don’t resent it or feel guilty.  Just be with it.

Step four is to remind myself how good I feel when I have organised and cleaned our home.  Remember all the ways my life is better when I keep up to date with my housekeeping.

How I feel after a day of ‘home-loving’:

Satisfied with a job well done
Our house feels peaceful
I am proud for Paul to come home
I have no guilt
I discover things to use that I forgot I had
I have plenty of time and enthusiasm for cooking dinner because I know what ingredients we have on hand (from organising the pantry, fridge and freezer)
I tidy, clean and reorganize areas that are bothering me, one every so often.  I get the thrill of something new which means I am happy with what I have rather than thinking I’d like to buy something new


Not being so black-and-white about things has helped too.  I don’t need to clean every single thing in the house on one day, that’s just ridiculous.  Having my core tasks that I do each week means everything else gets done a little bit at a time when it needs to.  Sometimes a chore might go a bit longer and really need tending to and that’s ok too.  I’m sure if I compared my home to someone down the road it would be cleaner.  And isn’t that a crazy thing to think to make me feel better?

If I’m ok with it then it’s ok.  And I don’t want to make this an excuse to live in filth, it’s not that.  I’m not sure if we are more cleanliness-phobic than our ancestors and really, it’s a never-ending task that you could work all day on and never have it finished if you allowed it to rule your life like that.

As long as I feel peace and ease when at home, I’m happy.  Plus I have been remembering that I will get done today everything that needs to get done.

What about you, do you have as tortured a relationship with housekeeping as I seem to?


  1. I read your blog (and many others) frequently, but hardly ever comment. I really liked your idea of Athe home as an 'elegant sanctuary'. I had not thought of that term, but my husband and I like to keep our home nice for ourselves every day and not just for the occassional guest.

    In my mind keepinng the house neat and orderly is separate from cleaning. If a room looks inviting, it doesn't matter so much if there is a little dust on the tables. Cleaning - with the vac, buckets, dusters and mops - only takes an hour or two a week at the most. But if you invest a few minutes at a time to keep things in order as the day goes on, the house always LOOKS clean.

  2. I really loathe cleaning but as we are about to move house it has forced me to get in and finally clear out items that haven't been touched for years. I think I am finally beginning to get the idea of minimalisation of possessions. I think I will really enjoy this new way of life. Less items means less cleaning.

  3. I like cleaning, but I do resist deep cleaning those pain in the ass areas that I don't get around to often like baseboards or window blinds. A spring cleaning type list will overwhelm me, but breaking it up into simple little tasks feels good.

  4. Greetings Fiona,
    This topic really resonates with me as I am happiest as a homemaker, a paid job is just the means to an end. I got this tome out of the Library recently and wanted to share the title, "Home Comforts:The Art and Science of Keeping House". I'm sure I will pick up some tips.
    Just love reading your blog and your attitude/slant on things.

  5. Thanks for the book tip Marguerite - I've heard of it but don't think I've ever read it. Time to change that!


  6. Hi Fiona,

    I quite enjoy cleaning in bursts -- I really enjoy being surrounded by clean and well organized surroundings. The key to this though for me is energy levels. When I'm very tired or not feeling well, it feels like there are 10 pound weights strapped to both arms and both legs and anything really physical (or even mentally draining tasks) becomes a real chore.

    So, I find the main thing is to pay attention to energy and when it is starting to dip, to try to figure out what's behind it. Sleep deficiency, something to do with diet -- like not getting enough iron, protein, B12 etc, or perhaps I'm very stressed about something to the point that my adrenals are overtaxed.


  7. Alison, that's true, energy levels play a big part. I find I'm better doing physical things in the morning and less strenuous tasks in the afternoon. A deadline helps shift me as well - that can create energy out of nowhere!

  8. Like you, having the right mindset towards housekeeping really keeps me motivated. Just the thought of having a messy home stresses me greatly, so I can push through the cleaning because I know I'll feel so much better coming home to wiped down kitchen counters and swept floors. Organization and clutter comes a bit more naturally to me, so that's not too big of an issue. I agree with Mrs. Bill, if my home appears orderly and calm, it's much more pleasant. That little bit of dust doesn't bother me TOO much...

    I organize my cleaning into categories. I have quick daily tasks such as wipe counters, sweep the floors, and quickly sanitize my shower or bath afterwards to prevent mildew from forming. Also, I focus on one room per day of the week, so on wednesday I'll tend to the living room, thursday the bath, and sunday the kitchen. Finally there's monthly and seasonal tasks, such as flip the mattress, clean the oven, or wash the windows. I find that a little a day is the best for me, that way there's no marathon cleaning which is just exhausting!

  9. Well, I love cleaning! I know, I must be slightly mad. But it has actually been a work in progress for at least 12 months now, with children leaving home to remodelling kitchen and bathroom projects, to just general de cluttering, I have tried to find the most efficient and time effective ways to keep the house "95%" or so. That is where I find my fun, if I can think of any way to cut down the time or energy to do the same thing, I really get a kick out of it, it then gives me more time to do the more important things and make time for family and friends.

  10. I like using the term 'Homemaking'. I'd far rather be doing something more creative than cleaning, etc., but then I decided to remind myself that I was creating: I'm making our home nicer by Creating Order. Silly idea, but it works for me.

  11. I found establishing a weekly routine for cleaning helped when I was living on my own. One day was sweep/mop/vacuum, one was dust and tidy shelves or whatever, one was laundry. I had a small apartment, so it didn't require a whole lot of time- maybe half an hour to 45 minutes each day, three days a week (running laundry took longer, obviously, but I'm only counting the time I spent sorting/loading/folding.) As long as I kept up with basics like dishes and keeping the counters clean, it wasn't bad and I'd have a nice place with not a huge amount of work.

    I also had a small budget for fresh flowers and rewarded myself each week with a pretty bunch of something- frequently carnations because they last well as long as you change the water regularly.

  12. Hi Fiona,
    I love this post! This has been an ongoing struggle in my house. While I despise housework I despise a messy home even more. Previously I refused to clean up after the others in my home that made a mess and all the while I'd stew in frustration and resentment - hours or days. The time I took to tidy up say 15-30 minutes left ME with hours and sometimes days of peace, calm, and serenity. I felt more than rewarded for my efforts. Kind of an aha moment for me :-)


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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