3.16.2010

Update: On Why We Are All Sisyphus



I recently did a post On Why We Are All Sisyphus, where I continued the discussion from Alexander McCall Smith’s book, The Lost Art of Gratitude, about the sad, repetitive nature of certain cyclical tasks. Many of you responded and told me reasons why you are like Sisyphus. I loved your answers… there was talk of blow drying hair, making beds and even mother-in-laws!

I have tried to take my own advice from this post (you know… treat each dreaded task as a meditation, not wishing I was doing something better, etc.) and I have to say it has paid off significantly…

Primarily, I have noticed that my house is a lot tidier. When the mood strikes me, I love to clean, but this elusive mood does not strike every day. In fact, I generally dread the small tasks- such as cleaning the kitchen every night, sweeping the floor, the constant flow of laundry, etc.

Normally, in the kitchen, for example, after a late night if there are a few dishes left in the sink or some crumbs on the counter top I leave them there because I cannot think of anything more dreadful in that moment than cleaning them up...

The trouble is, when I wake up, and sleepily wander into the kitchen the next morning, I still can’t think of anything more dreadful than clearing it all up!

So this past week I have completely cleaned the kitchen every single night. It does not take more than 5 to 10 minutes. Instead of wishing that I was in bed or reading a book I have treated the cleaning of the kitchen as a meditation. I even hum while doing it! And in the morning it feels glorious to walk into a spotless, serene space.

And now… it’s time for the laundry…

I would love to know... how have you been approaching you Sisyphean tasks lately?


Sisyphus by Peter Vinton is pictured above

Peter Vinton's artist website can be found at http://www.petervintonjr.com

15 comments:

Alan Burnett said...

I missed the beginning of this and so I went back and caught up. It is an interesting thought. I find myself pulled between two competing forces both of which have their own attractions : On the one hand I love to experiment and do things differently, even the most routine task can benefit from a different approach. The other force pulling on me is the comfort and sustainability of routine. Every time in my life I have managed to maintain a project long enough for it to be meaningful it is because I have turned it into a routine. Thanks for making me think.

Kristi said...

DC,
When you lived in France and when you visit your neighbor in LA, have you noticed their housekeeping? I known Italian women put a maybe too much emphasis on clean homes, but I really don't. I like what I have read (which may be false) that French women have better things to do then endlessly clean. My French friend in my town is an example, but maybe that is just her. She had a messy kitchen with stuff on the stove from a crepe party two days before when I came over. I was a little surprised. thoughts?

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

I like thinking about this topic! Right now for me it's painting the house. It's really not difficult. It looks fabulous and is so satisfying when you finish. It just takes huge effort to get started. But once I start...I can't stop. Just finish room 3 yesterday and I have two more that I hope to finish by the weekend. A huge job but well worth it.
I battle with my kitchen all the time. For some reason and I am so happy......my husband has started to help me with the kitchen after dinner each night. I LOVE waking up in the morning to a clean kitchen. I used to spend many mornings cleaning up last night's mess. What an awful way to start the day. Much happier now!

Marsi said...

I first read about "shining your kitchen sink" every night before bed on Flylady.net years and years ago. She said that there's nothing worse than starting your day off by looking at a messy kitchen. I've come to agree with her. It starts your day off in a deficit for sure, rather than making it relaxing with your coffee, tea, the sunrise, ....

As for my own personal Sisyphus (my mother), I have her well balanced at the summit -- for the moment.

Julie said...

On cleaning: I read somewhere years ago an interview with a now forgotten interior designer. He discovered that if he spent 30 frantic minutes each day doing as much cleaning as he could possibly fit in the 30 minutes, that his house was always sparkling. He would set a timer and when the timer went off, he stopped cleaning.

I tried this technique and it has worked perfectly for me because cleaning used to be my Sisyphus. I could hire a cleaning lady but on the other hand, that is money that I could use for new shoes!

Michael Rivers said...

I've been doing the same with my kitchen. It took a few weeks to get in the habit, but now that I am, I don't even think about it. Each night I spend a few minutes taking care of things. It's been great.

LPC said...

Yoga breathing, oddly enough. If not in actually, at least in imagination. I try to make these kinds of things their own meditation. Although I admit, the dishwasher and its relentless cycle gets the best of any zen I might muster.

The Coastal Chicster said...

i've been just completely slacking on Sisyphean tasks. i need to do some hand-washing and i've been putting it off for weeks to the point where it's just overwhelming to even think about. i'm feeling inspired by your post though...and i'm going to get it done.....tomorrow. definitely tomorrow. :)

Cherie said...

Lately I've been thinking more in terms of "Groundhog Day" than Sisyphus! I've been a fan of the Flylady for years and do find that I have more sanity when I make sure I take care of those Sisyphean tasks than when I let things go. Tasks that seem to take an enormous amount of time really don't. I find I waste more time and energy fretting over whether or not to do them than actually doing them. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

The best part about this blog is reading all of your comments- thank you for contributing to the discussion!

Alan- I am a creature of habit too and I do love my routines. I generally love routines but not for the unpleasant things like cleaning :)

Kristi- That's a great question. I have noticed with the three French women I've known (Madame Chic, Sportif and Bohemienne) that they all keep really clean houses. So I do think that keeping a tidy house is important to the French. I also think it is easier for them to keep a tidy house because they do not have a lot of clutter. They only introduce something new into their house if it is completely needed/ special or beautiful...

Lisa- You are lucky to have a helping husband. I don't think there are many of those! Mine has his moments... but I can't tell you how many midnight snacks I've cleaned up that weren't mine :)

Marsi- I'm glad to hear your own personal Sisyphus is going better :) It is so true about starting the day with a deficit when you have to clean your kitchen first thing in the morning. It really is terrible.

Julie- I love that bit of advice and I'm going to use it! 30 minutes is a good amount of time and I think I would be more productive if I knew that I had a time limit on what I was doing. Thanks for the tip!

Michael- isn't it the best feeling??

LPC- me too! I try to be zen about the dishwasher but I really do detest emptying it in the morning. Now I've even started to empty it before I go to bed so I don't have to do it the next day...

Coastal Chicster- LOL you and your hand washing! I remember you saying you needed to do the hand washing in the winter and were dreading it. I am with you- I really don't like doing it. Sometimes I get lazy and wash on delicate in the machine... I've ruined a lot of pretty clothes that way...

Cherie- that is so true. It is all in the attitude. If I'm dreading emptying the dishwasher it's going to be that much more miserable isn't it? Who is this Flylady- I must research her!

Marsi said...

I am taking Julie's advice on the 30-minutes-per-day routine myself -- starting tomorrow. ;o)

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Loud, beautiful music. It helps me sort of dance through the drudgery. Sinatra, Bach, something.

Of course, my home is always the furthest thing from spotless. Presentable, yes. Spotless? Not by a long shot.

Have you checked out The Happiness Project blog?

BigLittleWolf said...

Finding health again - in a system that mitigates against it - is, indeed, a task for Sisyphus. Especially after living in France where health care and GOOD health care at that, isn't a crap shoot.

And without your health - every other task - parenting, working, loving (forget tidying the house) - is a whole other set of challenges.

That said, I remain ever hopeful (and, it's the first day of spring besides). I just keep pushing that damn boulder up the hill (in the best possible shoes, with cherry crush nail enamel on my petits pieds)!!

Noel Figart said...

Interesting post.

Mr. Vinton is quite flattered that you are using his image for your post. He would like to request that you kindly include a link with the credit to his website at http://www.petervintonjr.com

Thank you very much and we hope you continue to enjoy his artwork.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Thank you, Noel Figart, for providing me with Mr. Vinton's website and allowing us to use his beautiful image. The website has been added above.

Kind Regards,

The Daily Connoisseur

 
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