Rhythms of Cleaning

I know something that can prevent people from getting on top of cleaning and organising can be how overwhelming the tasks feel. This is made even harder on the days when our personal lives feel difficult; cleaning can be the last thing we have energy for. If someone isn’t even motivated to get out of bed, why would they be motivated to spend hours on a daunting task?

But something I’ve learnt since moving has been the rhythms of cleaning.

Without getting into too much detail, in a month there are two weeks when I’m energised, motivated, and inspired. These two weeks are my happiest. Then there are one to two weeks of feeling unmotivated, having a low mood, and am exhausted or feeling sick.

While the house will need cleaning regardless of what week it is, by paying attention to patterns and understanding energy levels and different moods, we can change the routine to fit in with how we’re feeling. Maintaining the home should be something that works with us, not against us.

When I am my most energised, I tackle bigger projects and those random things that pop up and stay on our mental to-do lists for months because they feel too difficult. Tasks we don’t need to do most of the time. Decluttering a cupboard, cleaning the fridge, any sort of maintenance I’ve been putting off. For me, this is when I would also start a writing or sewing project. Hemming a skirt, sewing on a button, writing my newsletter. Being energised and motivated correlates to creativity as well!

During the harder weeks, I keep a list of things I need to do that aren’t urgent. This way I can handle them when I feel up to it but it gets them out of my mind. Before I write them down, they’re taking up room and stressing me out. Sometimes all we need is a plan, or a plan to plan, rather than an immediate action to help us feel better about a situation.

This is when I will also cook simpler meals that don’t take as much time or thought – definitely no new recipes! I will do my usual cleaning, but won’t go overboard. I might skip cleaning the shower, for instance, because it takes (so much) extra energy (for some reason) and if it was done the week or two before, it won’t be that bad. I still vacuum, but I might not mop.

This is what works for me, especially as I don’t have a large household. Of course if I spilled something on the floor I would wipe it up immediately which then prevents the necessity for mopping every single week. By maintaining a home in small pieces, the large tasks are less daunting and even less urgent.

The key is to not panic and feel like it all has to happen at once. A house is always lived in which means it will always be in a state of needing something more to be done. As soon as I’ve cleaned the kitchen sink, I make a cup of tea and the kitchen is no longer finished. We have to be okay with the home being a certain level of lived-in. Maybe there will always be an area that needs decluttering, because we tackle a cupboard and then something else seems out of order. We will always have more laundry to do, the floor could always use a vacuum.

But by breaking these things down into a rhythm, they are no longer problems. Monday night is when I do my ironing. It’s a natural routine which means on Friday night, when I have some things in the ironing pile, I don’t worry about them. They don’t make me feel stressed because I know I’ll get to them on Monday. I can relax even though there are things to do. If I’m having a bad week, the routine is actually quite calming because it is consistent and a physical symbol of accomplishment and satisfaction.

The way we go about these things varies for everyone. We all have different priorities in life, obligations and work schedules. Our homes have different needs, our households have different lifestyles. But it saves a lot of stress and work down the road if we figure out the system that does work for us.

When I moved from Sydney and lived temporarily with my sister, I was so focused on getting used to my job and settling down emotionally that my routine looked different to what it does now. Different seasons require energy spent in different ways. Getting used to a new job will take up more mental space; figuring out a meal plan will not be the top priority during this time. But when you’re used to the job, it might become worth doing. We figure it out as we go.

Speaking of, it is time for me to continue the to-do list for today. Onwards!

Sarah xx

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