Feminism and the Art of Home Maintenance

Posted by Claire Edwards
30 January, 2013

About 20 years ago I spent some time at an ashram in India. For about a month I practiced work meditation for a couple of hours a day with the cleaning department, where I joined a humble group of young Indian men and women,  in lovingly cleansing, polishing and caring for the apartments of senior members of the ashram staff. After cleaning we would spray rosewater onto the marble floors and surfaces mindfully enhancing the energy of love. It was a devotional practice and as I remember, always well appreciated by the residents.

How to share the load

I’m not a particularly tidy person although I do prefer to live in a well ordered home which looks and feels beautiful and where I can easily find things when I need them. 20 years on I am very fortunate to be sharing a home with a loving husband and two energetic boys aged 4 and 6, along with an elderly dog.  As I’m sure you can imagine this brings with it some challenges, especially in the area of hygiene. There’s a constant stream of mucky clothes, damp towels and dog linen to be washed dried and put away, endless quantities of cooking and washing up and a deluge of dirt in all forms, constantly penetrates the sacred boundary of my home,  creating the need for sweeping and vacuuming on an industrial level.

Being a woman who believes firmly in equality, in fact I even dare call myself a feminist, I find myself in an awkward quandary. Do I a) clean up after these mucky devils, angelically devoting myself to a daily practice of humility and love, get out the rosewater and rise to the saintly domain, b) live in a stinking pit of dog hair and clutter (this has been my chosen path thus far), or c) try a new path of harassing and cajoling and being a stand for the men in my life, to join me in my feminist utopia, where the cleaning is shared. (yes I know they are only 4 and 6 but one has to start sometime).

Respect for each other

Having chosen to be the stay at home mummy until recently, I firmly believe that equality must involve not only equal rights and opportunities for all, but respect for each other’s special qualities, differences and different roles in the home and in society. Cleaning should be as respected a role as medicine or plumbing and mothering and homemaking should be respected as the important and skilled vocation that it is. But there’s got to be a limit surely. I am ready now for someone else in the family to wash my sheets, cook my dinner and join with me in the divine practices of devotional cleaning.  I’m ready to get out that industrial sized bottle of rosewater and share the love.

But where to start? If, like me, you are missing the cleaning gene, but crave the peace and tranquillity of a tidy household, you might need a little help and guidance on the road. In my search I discovered  Danielle Raine’s blog: http://makepeacewithhousework.com/blog/ where she provides helpful tips for frazzled modern householders and this piece of information struck a chord: A clutter free home can reduce cleaning by 40%!! Well I need no more encouragement than that. Other benefits include being able to find things, being able to receive guests spontaneously and increased self-esteem and quality of life. As I start to think about spring cleaning, in my desperation to make a new start and create a harmonious home, in which my children can grow, thrive and learn how to be tidy, I have decided to begin by de – cluttering.

The attraction of a clutter-free home

It’s not always easy to let things go though, so again I have turned to an expert: clutter busting and feng shui guru Mary Lambert, who’s latest book Living with Less: How to Downsize to 100 Personal Possessions, takes a radical approach to the ‘things’ we gather around ourselves, stating that although we think accumulating possessions will make us happier and more fulfilled, often the opposite is actually true. She first describes the benefits of eliminating un-needed objects from our homes and liberating ourselves to move forward more easily in life. Then the process of reducing our possessions is explained using an easy to follow goal-setting programme. With Mary’s expert guidance it’s a whole lot easier to choose the minimalist and Zen-like peace of a clutter free home.

I have started the process myself. My husband and I have gathered several boxes for the charity shop over the last few evenings which I fear may only be the tip of the iceberg, but the energy in our home feels lighter already and we have discovered space we didn’t know existed. I must say it’s fairly challenging. There are boxes of letters and birthday cards, gifts from dear friends, children’s artwork, possessions that invoke happy memories, all of which lie gathering dust and clogging up the flow of energy around our home. But it’s also very exciting! I’m focusing on the benefits. I’m thinking of the time, energy and space that will be available, I’m creating a space in which to live, love and celebrate life rather than to simply exist and I’m feeling energised and organised and happy to be living in the now.  I’m making it an act of devotion.

© 2013 by Claire Edwards

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