Happy Housekeeping Help: Enjoy Household Tasks

Happy Housekeeping Help: Enjoy Household Tasks

the heart of household help

Is it even possible to learn to enjoy household tasks? Not just to get them done, but even to like them? I believe it is.

When we as homeschooling mothers realize that education is about living well more than about subjects and tests and getting into college, we also begin to see that education applies even to us in our day to day life. As Augustine & C.S. Lewis tell us, education is about shaping our loves, making us love what we ought to love and hate what we out to hate.

So, fundamentally, we need love more than skill. Sometimes love follows skill (the heart follows the time the body puts in) and sometimes skill follows love (the body goes where the heart leads). But the important element either way is that the love is being shaped in the right direction. Continued growth in skill without growth in love leads to frustration, burn-out, and bad tempers.

So before we work at improving our skill or our children’s skill in housework, we need to open up our hearts to the process and be willing and ready to say, “I want to learn to love keeping my house.” Not tolerate it, not get it done most efficiently because it’s a necessary evil, but to learn to love that which must be done, as Goethe has said.

Our Attitude About Our Work

How is that even possible? In my experience, as someone who has considered housework a necessary evil and am in the process of recovery, it begins with small, seemingly insignificant steps:

  • Don’t allow yourself to bad mouth housework. Love does not insult or belittle.
  • Don’t keep an internal ledger of what you did that has been undone. Love keeps no record of wrongs.
  • Don’t use housework as a beating stick on yourself, berating yourself for what needs to be done. Love is patient and kind.

But learning to love something must also include positive actions.

  • Look at a small bit of the house made clean and notice and enjoy it.
  • Rename the time. Call folding the laundry in your bedroom a retreat. Call washing dishes or sweeping the floor meditation time. It can be.
  • Remember that it is transformative work, not mundane and useless work.
  • Break up the routine work into “short lessons” Charlotte Mason style: don’t do the same activity (folding, washing, sweeping, etc.) for more than 10-15 minutes. Use a timer, beat it, change up what you’re doing, keep active and moving to remain upbeat.

The small step that has yielded the most attitude-transformation for me has actually been to just stop and look and notice after I’m done with a job. Noticing has helped me feel like I did something, know how a clean space feels, and given a moment of peace and rest as reward. In creation, God stopped, noticed His work, and called it good. Mimicking that pattern in our housework is surprisingly fruitful for our souls. It is like a 5 second Sabbath in the midst of everyday life: acknowledge that the work is good, that you did good, that God is good.

When we image God in our work by stopping to see it and call it good, by bringing order from chaos, we find true satisfaction in the mundane details. So often we think of cleaning house as something we do for ourselves: a clean house is what I want, so I’ll grab it for myself, cranky at everyone who frustrates my end goal of clean house. Or, perhaps if we decide we don’t want a clean house, then the frustration will go away. But both of these attitudes assume that it is work we do unto ourselves, for our own good. A clean house is for our good, but secondarily, not selfishly. It is for our good because it is where God has placed us and what God has put before us to do. It is stewarding the resources He has entrusted to us.

True satisfaction comes not in the (fleeting) end result itself, but in the obedience along the way.

Our own attitudes as we tackle our work affect us more than we realize, as well as the rest of the household. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy. But we can be happy, even in housework, because it is one of the good works God has called us to walk in – it is from Him and for Him.

Those of you who do love a clean house, or even the actual cleaning, please do share any insights you have had over the years!

17 Responses

  1. April
    | Reply

    The kitchen always looks way out of control when it needs to be cleaned. We all think it will take forever to get it cleaned. One day I decided to set a timer for 15 min and then we would move on to something else and guess what! The kitchen was clean in 15 min. So I did it the next day and the next and realized that it only really takes 15 – 20 min when it looks like an hour long clean up mess. Then the kitchen started getting cleaned more often because we knew it wouldn’t take that long and now it takes about 10 min. Time those miserable jobs; they may take less time than you think!

  2. Gina
    | Reply

    You have such a beautiful way of calling our attention to the good in keeping house! I loved this post; it really spoke to things on my heart. Now…to clean house! ;)

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Yes, I told my husband this morning that my goal for today was to actually do some housework instead of only writing about it. :)

  3. Jennifer Ott
    | Reply

    I love a clean house and still vacuum all the floors at least once daily. But 4 kids in 5 years has made me ease up a bit. I do utilize the timer method with my kids, too. It really does work! We work with each other, which does slow things down, but keeps them from making more messes as we go. When you live (and do school) in a small house, it won’t look perfect all the time. There are some jobs that I realize I like to do myself and give myself liberty to be possessive of them (cleaning bathrooms and laundry since I hang all the kids’ clothes by outfit).

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Yeah, I hope to get to working with the kids, too, in this series. I feel like I did a better job when the first 3 were all small, but the younger set needs better training and consistency and the older crew needs a refresher and a challenge appropriate to their years. :)

  4. Heather
    | Reply

    I don’t exactly love housework. I mean, I’d rather be reading or sleeping. But I do love a clean house, so I don’t hate housework either. Even cleaning the toilet (my least favorite job) isn’t so bad, because the bathroom looks so great after the kids and I have cleaned the whole room. And then it stays looking great for at least 4 seconds. :-)

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      That’s right. We have to enjoy those fleeting seconds while we can! :)

  5. Catie
    | Reply

    “Rename the time. Call folding the laundry in your bedroom a retreat. Call washing dishes or sweeping the floor meditation time. It can be.” Love that!

    As for doing it CM style..I don’t remember which book it was, but I read once to time some of your household chores to see how long it really takes. I’ve done that with dishes and it NEVER takes as long as I think it’s going to. Sometimes for me, the task itself isn’t the problem; it’s the anticipation that kills me! So if I know that it really only takes me 15 minutes to do something, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal and it’s easier to start.

    Great series! :)

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Yes! I’ve experienced that same thing. :) I think you’re right: it’s the anticipation making it a bigger deal than it is and bringing on dread. Just starting is the hardest part.

  6. kellyinpa
    | Reply

    My bathrooms NEED to be cleaned today; I came here for inspiration:) Thanks, Mystie!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      You’re welcome! I hope you got to your bathrooms. :) I got my floors cleaned after dinner!

  7. Lisa H.
    | Reply

    A clean house also means clean hearts IN that house….and if my heart is grumbling at yet another load of laundry, or the dining room left unswept again, then it won’t be clean even if I do it myself, rather than find the little “culprit” (cute one, I might add) responsible and make him do it.

    How grateful we ought to be for those messes, the crumbs, and those mountains of laundry… there is real blessing evident there!

    Something that has helped me, is imagining that the Lord is right there directing my hands as I hold the broom, as I iron a shirt (and Elisabeth Elliot taught me to pray for the person whose clothing I am ironing), or clean out a shelf in the fridge. How would I like it if He were really there…..but guess what? He really IS there! And do we ever stop to marvel at the amazing bio-mechanics of our arms, hands and fingers that can so beautifully open a jar, hammer a nail, form a pie crust, or bathe a toddler? It’s those seemingly little things that make all the difference in the world…. the apparently mundane that make us who we are. Are we truly rejoicing “always” or only when we think we’re having fun? Because the true “fun” comes in the rejoicing and marveling in all these things, however seemingly insignificant. They are our great works, and done in love and care, they may not shout much to the world, but they sing scores to our God, and He doesn’t miss a note, or a crumb!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      That is so beautiful, Lisa, thank you so much for sharing! It’s so true. You really show what “rejoicing always” looks like in everyday work.

      “A clean house also means clean hearts IN that house” – I love that! What a great way to put it.

  8. Sunny
    | Reply

    This morning I had set my timer for 15 min to work on the kitchen (Flylady’s current zone) and determined that I’d do my flatware drawer and my tupperware cabinet (I don’t keep many containers, so it wasn’t hard). After the timer went off, I re-opened the flatware drawer and paused for a second to smile and appreciate the order restored. I didn’t realize I was imitating God’s creation process until I read this post! I looked and saw it was good. Very satisfying!

  9. Amber
    | Reply

    This series has made me stand back and realize how much I have changed in my attitude towards the work of taking care of my home. I can dimly remember having a bad attitude about the work and about how quickly it is all undone, but I very seldom have that anymore. One turning point for me was to realize that I’m going to be doing this work for a very long time, so I might as well get good at it and I might as well learn to enjoy it! Also, my maternal grandmother was one who always grumbled about housework and seeing that negative example made me realize how much I didn’t want to be like that.

    I also found Keeping House (which I think you mentioned in your last post) to be transformative. For several years I read it every year around Jan. 1st, although I didn’t end up doing that this year. (with a new baby and all it just completely slipped my mind!)

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