Living Your Life: You’ve Gotta do Your Chores

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I’m currently living with one of my childhood caregivers. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. But it’s one where I didn’t have a lot of other options to choose from. All in all it’s been a good decision. We’ve gotten a second chance to reconnect and learn what it means to be a family. So with that in mind, the subject of this blog post wasn’t in the initial outlined plan. But it certainly fits with the theme of this series of posts. Also, doing chores, I’ve come to realize is foundational. I’ve learned this after cohabitating with people I’ve come to rely on, to take care of our shared living space. After all, taking care of your house or apartment is essential to your overall happiness and speaks a great deal to how we feel about ourselves.

How We Feel in Our Surroundings

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit uneasy when I’ve been in my bathroom. I wasn’t entirely sure why at first, but as the days went by I couldn’t help but to notice that the unease I was feeling would not subside. The bathroom has been left unfinished for many years now. This has something to do with the feeling. But there was something more to it than that. Something that was growing more tangible with each visit.

So to try and feel more at ease, last week I decided that the bathroom needed new bath mats. I made a plan to go to a local home furnishings store and get a few to replace the ones already in use. As I was going to the store, during my commute home, I made plans to clean the bathroom after getting the new mats. I wanted the feeling of walking into a freshly cleaned bathroom. Crisp and new. So when I got home from the store, I lighted a pine tree scented candle, rolled up my sleeves and got to the task of cleaning my bathroom.

It was dirty. I had swept up a sizeable hairball from the dust that had accumulated for however long. And the shower curtains were in the same shape as the bathmats. It was in such bad shape that the plastic lining was flaking off and the bottom was discolored from the mildew. The plunger was cracked and the cabinets needed a good purging as well. It was at that point I realized that the bathroom looked an awful lot like one of the bathrooms in my first apartments. And that’s what was making me feel so uneasy.

Present Meets the Past

To give you some context as to what my bathrooms used to look like, there was a constant layer of mold on and around the bathtub, sink and floor. There was trash plastered to the floor and walls. And the floor was missing pieces of tile in strategic places showing the subflooring.

This was a shock for sure. Everyone in the house is an adult, we should be on top of this type of thing. Now the bathroom wasn’t in as bad shape as my early apartments were. But sadly, things had been left unattended by every house member. We had been treating our living space the ways we had been treated; with neglect instead of care.

Not only that, but we were shirking the shared responsibility of keeping something alive. Our household. We were collectively avoiding cleaning as one way to make our house feel more like a home. There are other things that bring people together to feel more connected as a family as well. Such as shared experiences and meals to name two. But making your living space a place you want to be in, surrounded by things, scents and a feeling of cleanliness, is a huge part of feeling at home. Comfortable. This is what we were missing from our shared space. A feeling of collaboration, responsibility to our surroundings and comfort in knowing that we are taking care of one another by taking care of our dwelling.

Taking Charge to Make Changes

After I made this realization, I shared it with my childhood caregiver and their spouse. It all became clear to me then. I had been feeling as though I wasn’t really part of the family. There were only certain areas of the house I felt comfortable or safe in. My bedroom and the kitchen. The rest felt like it was off limits. Add the fact that we are all too polite to ask one another to do something for one another, like helping clean the bathroom, and you have a pretty cold environment. At least one that is inhospitable towards forming tight bonds.

The act of buying something for the house, even something so small as a couple of bath mats, or a basil scented candle for the kitchen, made me feel more secure as a member of the family. I felt as though I were trying to create a more home-like environment. By taking care of those I live with while also taking care of my own needs. And I have to say, it feels good.

I also spoke with them about putting candles in the bathroom for when I shower at night. It’s a way I help myself to decompress from the stress of the day. But this is also a way for me to express myself and a part of my personality in our shared space. More ways of feeling connected on a more intimate level. We all felt more connected after the talk and the conversation flowed a little more freely. They agreed that they had been a little lax about some of the cleaning responsibilities and I agreed I could have been doing more to help out.

Coming Up with a Plan

So I decided to make doing chores more of a routine. The same way I meal prep for myself, I am creating a schedule and a general maintenance list for the house. This way we can create our home together, by sharing the work of caring for each other and by caring for our shared spaces.

I divided the house into two parts, with the two most important rooms in the house as focal points. The first is the upstairs with the focus being in the bathroom. The second part being the kitchen and downstairs. I will switch off doing these two parts every week with someone else in the house.

With any luck, the house will begin to feel more warm and welcoming. One where we want to create memories and cook meals in together. Instead of the cold and somewhat distant place it has been for so long. A place where we’ll learn to rely on each other and feel comfortable just inhabiting our shared space together. We’ll start feeling like a family again. Only a healthier version. One without the untrusting attitudes and unhealthy boundaries we had previously been used to. So let’s go over the “how” in how I create a sense of shared responsibility among the household.

How to Share Responsibility: A Tick list

I began with a quick mental checklist of what needs cleaning in the house. I started with the two most important areas of the house (for me) and radiated out from there. The two rooms I chose are the bathroom and the kitchen. After I chose these rooms, I created two zones in the house around them that could be cleaned and cared for in one cleaning session. Something that would take one to two hours, depending on the level of clutter and mess.

I then went through the zone and took down another list of the specific tasks that need doing. For example, the bathroom zone needed to be; cleared of general clutter, dusted, the bathtub and toilet needed a scrubbing and the floor needed a sweep and mop. The hallway leading to the bathroom needed to be swept and vacuumed. And the stairway needed to be swept and dusted as well.

After making these more specific lists of tasks, I now have a jumping off point for where I can begin cleaning. So as each cleaning day comes, we have a set routine, a plan so we know what needs to be taken care of and how to approach the job.

Cleaning Before You Clean

This past week I spent a good portion of my time doing a deep clean of the two most important rooms in the house. I didn’t get to all the tasks on my mental checklist, but the job definitely feels more manageable. Knowing that I’ve already done the more labor and time intensive tasks. Now when we begin our cleaning routine, it will be that much easier to keep up with. As long as we keep up with the tasks, there shouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of work to do. This may not make the work a joy to do, but it will make the tasks a little easier to accomplish. But if you’re like me, I get a little excited about the idea of cleaning and organizing something. So who knows, maybe it will spark some joy : )

I’ve also started a list of general maintenance items that need to be done around the house as well. This includes items that need to be replaced or small jobs that need our attention. For example, I put a list of items I need to replace for both the bathroom and general cleaning supplies for the house. This way we can keep our place looking and feeling as clean and organized as possible, while keeping on top of the often overlooked tasks and items we need to pick up.

Decluttering & F.I.F.O.

This also has the added bonus of allowing us to bond as a family. By planning trips to the local hardware store. Also making a collective effort to add input on what we feel needs attention. Another way to communicate. If you are anything like we are, you may find that after you do a deep clean and organize some of your belongings, you have an embarrassing amount of extra or duplicate items that you may not have touched in months or even years. This would be a good time to take stock of what you do have. What you use, how often you use it, and what you could you do without.

For us, we have two sets of pots, one brand new and the other just sitting around waiting to be recycled or donated. The initial plan was to get rid of them. But they are still hanging around, haunting or living space. This wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t taking up valuable cabinet space. I like to view extra items in the kitchen the same way I view unintended plants in the garden. Sure you may have a tomato plant that sprang up in the eggplant bed, but if it’s not an eggplant, then it’s a weed. The old pots are still mostly functional, but we have a new set and planned on getting rid of the old ones. So in my book, the old ones are weeds.

I also have about 15-20 mason jars collecting dust on our shelves. I got them to store my dry goods in. But if you’ve read my post on shopping from your pantry first, you’ll know that the food I bought mostly just sat around in these jars for months if not years! They looked good all lined up in their storage containers for sure. But they were definitely being underutilized. As I’ve been shopping from my pantry first, I’ve been freeing up a lot of space. I haven’t been replacing the items, so I’ve ended up with an awful lot of empty jars.

Sentimental Ball Jars?

I use them to store the meals that I batch cook in, but there are only so many meals I can store in the fridge at one time. The rest need to either be repurposed, or recycled. And this isn’t always an easy task. I’ve developed sentimental attachments to inanimate objects over the years. And it seems the longer I have an item around, the fonder I become of it! I feel like this is where it enters my comfort zone. I’m just so used to seeing it around, that I recognize it as one of the family.

Of course, this is a little different for some items. AKA you wouldn’t want to throw away a pan your grandmother gave you that she made your favorite brownies in. But in the end, things are just things. Besides, it’s not the pan that you love, it’s the memories of your Nana’s brownies. But on the other hand, tossing a peanut butter jar you used to store tea in is a no-brainer. Marie Condo is a great resource for just this type of letting go. If it sparks joy, keep it and use it lovingly. If not, thank it for its service in supporting you in your life and donate it or let it go.

Making a House Feel Like a Home

This should work to make your living space a more inviting dwelling for everyone. One where you’ll enjoy the time spent in it, together. And as a friend of mine said, “we attuning to each other, by paying attention to each other’s surroundings”. This is how we build the foundations of a caring family. This is where we really begin to understand what it means to be together, united.

I hope this post serves you on your path. It isn’t always an easy task, coming together to make something, from what sometimes seems like nothing. But when friends and family all chip in and lend a hand, it’s amazing what we are able to accomplish. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Amelia Cleaning” by donnierayjones is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated : 10/20/22

Author: nolabelsliving

Social worker by day, blogger by night. I have a lot of lived experience which is why I started my blog. I was not given any direction when I started out on my journey, but have been blessed with some amazing support and guidance along the way. Just want to give back a little of what I've received : )

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