The Joy of doing Chores
When I moved to Berlin I unpacked, cleaned, did a big shopping tour to IKEA, bought a washing machine, a fridge, and a lounge set for my balcony within the first 10 days, driven by my desire to do everything efficiently. I had installed everything, except some things I needed some help with and there was only one box left to unpack, which content would go on a shelf that I still needed to assemble. I was very proud of myself.
However, a nagging voice in my mind kept telling me “You still need to unpack this box!”. I resisted until when, 2 months afterwards, I finally felt the desire to unpack it. At that point, I truly enjoyed taking the time to check out everything and deciding where to put it. Then I looked at what I had done, and felt surprised by the joy of this relatively simple achievement.
This discovery reminded me of something that I had learned years ago but still keep forgetting because of my efficiency drive: the simple joy of doing one thing at a time and taking all the necessary time to complete it, without rush. I can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment more often when doing one thing at a time than when doing everything at once. It is like buying new things – it generally makes us happier spreading our purchase over a period of time than buying everything at once. While I don’t think we should obey to consumerism, we can take advantage of our adaptive brains. Instead of cleaning the whole house or unpacking all the boxes at once, we can do a little bit at the time and draw joy from these little accomplishments.
However, cleaning up the house, filing documents or going shopping are all annoying and stressful chores. We tell ourselves “I still need to do…”, “I haven’t done … yet”, “I should have already done …”. This makes us feel guilty for all the things we think we should have done already. We perceive ourselves as lazy or incompetent because “it took us too long” to accomplish them. Ultimately, this negative feedback loop makes us dread performing those chores.
In the case of the box, however, I realised that actually I do like chores such as unpacking, cleaning, and shopping; what I don’t like is stressing out thinking that I should have already done them or should do them quicker.
Now, I keep reminding myself that I feel more joy from little accomplishments. I am learning more and more to listen to my inner voice when I feel like doing something. This process makes even the most boring chores enjoyable!
Naturally, there are things that we can’t postpone indefinitely, waiting for a moment when we will feel like doing them. Yet, I question whether something need to be done right now. Do I really need to unpack that box now? Do I need to clean the floor immediately? Most of the time my urge comes from growing up hearing the maxim “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. As for grocery shopping, it surely helps to have a plan to avoid having to make a trip to the supermarket every day. However, I have to admit that I like strolling around the supermarket and spontaneously decide what I’d like to eat on a particular day. As for cleaning, I bought myself a vacuuming robot, relieving me from the part of cleaning that needs to be done most frequently. While I enjoy cleaning as a form of relaxing meditation, I don’t like being forced to do it. Thanks to my robot, I can clean my house only when I feel like doing it.
Do you perceive getting chores done as accomplishments? Let us know how you motivate yourself getting things done 🙂
Written by Julia Heuritsch | Last edited: 15th June 2022