50. Chores

Good morning and welcome to your fiftieth meditation. Do you ever put off cleaning the house for so long that it’s actually more work to navigate your cluttered space on a daily basis than it would be to clean it on a weekly one? Do you ever do your laundry, but then stop short of folding it, so that your clean clothes end up wrinkled on a now-unusable surface? Or do you tell yourself you’ll exercise and then keep coming up with excuses not to? Odds are, if you can’t identify with any of these examples, you probably have your very own equivalent. We all have certain activities we enjoy doing, and others we don’t. And that’s fine. No one likes everything. Of course you’re going to prefer certain activities to others. Unfortunately, sometimes those activities we don’t enjoy also happen to be integral to a clean, healthy, comfortable, and ultimately happier life.

So what can we do? One option is to go on avoiding the tasks you hate, accumulating clutter and anxiety along the way. This, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not the approach that this podcast will endorse. Another option, for those with the means to do so, is to hire someone to take care of it for you. That’s fine, however the majority of us don’t have that luxury. No, we in the majority will have to work a little harder to change our habits and our attitudes toward tasks that we view as chores. 

Let’s start with habits. Like anything where you experience resistance to getting started, it is a good idea to have a designated time in your schedule set aside to get it done. Don’t think that simply knowing it has to get done is enough to motivate you to do it promptly. There will always be some other activity that seems more important or pressing until you actively carve out time in your schedule for that undesirable task that needs doing. This is just how our brains work. There are always things to be done, and, without a schedule, we will tend to pick the task that appears to cause the least friction, i.e. not the thing you don’t want to do. Added to this, having a schedule means that you can rest assured that it will get done at the assigned time, meaning that you don’t have to think about it until that time, and so you won’t have to deal with the mounting anxiety that tends to accompany the knowledge that you still haven’t done that thing that you need to do.

Next is the attitude we take toward these bothersome tasks. Do they have to be bothersome? Do they have to be chores? Often our problem with these tasks is that they require time, physical energy, and very little mental energy – in other words, boooorrrring. But this lack of a need for any mental engagement can also be the saving grace of chores. It means that we can fill that space with something that is interesting to us such as podcasts, audiobooks, TV, or just our own private musings. And for those of us who work too hard and think too much, these mindless activities can be a welcome excuse to shut our brains off and go on autopilot for a while. In this case, these activities become more like a break than chores. A simple respite from what can be the serious and cumbersome demands of real-life. So although you may never love doing the dishes per se, if you pair the chore with something that you really enjoy, you may even find that you get excited about that particular activity because you have established a pleasant association with it. And poof, it’s no longer a chore. 

Try it. Schedule specific times for your chores, and pair them with something that you enjoy. And don’t be surprised to find that your anxiety levels drop, that you enjoy a sense of pride in your responsibility, and that you actually come to enjoy the time spent doing these ostensibly unenjoyable activities. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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