The Power of the Mundane resonates with me.
She describes the Power of the Mundane as “sameness and routine that creates that sense of ‘this is how life is,'” and she argues that there is beauty in housekeeping exactly because it involves “repeated activities that are completed predictably over and over and over”:
“The cumulative years of those daily activities: cooking dinner, folding laundry, tidying up all matter. In a frantic, unpredictable world, these monotonous chores and exercises are comfort and stability.”
Is that the most beautiful description of housekeeping you’ve ever heard?
It makes so much sense to laud the power of repetition, however boring it may be. Exercising or eating a banana for breakfast can be boring, too, but exercising every day or eating fruit for breakfast every morning can change your health. Socking away a little bit of every paycheck in a 401(k) plan is not nearly as fun as spending it, but do that with every paycheck and in time, you’ll have a nest egg worth thousands of dollars. Arriving on time to work, lunch dates and appointments takes constant effort, but over time, it earns you a reputation of dependability.
Mahatma Gandhi knew the power of repetition, too, when he said: “Your actions become your habits, your habits become your values.”
Among my “what matters” resolutions this year is to “Make a comfortable home: Cook, clean, decorate, organize.”
It is not exactly the sort of resolution I would have made 10 years ago when I aspired to climb the corporate ladder and I was married to a man who did almost all the housekeeping.
But I am in a different place with a new man now. Part of my desire to create a comfortable home is altruistic (because I know my Beloved values it) and part of it is selfish (because if I’m going to spend as much time in my home as I do, it might as well be clean and pretty). Mucking out and redecorating my home office last year reminded me how peaceful a beautiful space can be.
The cooking part of the resolution is easier for me. Cooking is creative. I love assembling various ingredients I happen to have on hand into a creative dish (like frittata or soup). I love garnishes, too. Even when it’s just me and my Beloved, the plate is not complete unless it’s sprinkled with parsley or there’s a pickle on it, and I love putting dip into little metal cups on my plate.
Still, I hate housekeeping. Hate, hate, hate. But I realize if I want to achieve this resolution to make a comfortable home, I need to figure out how to make peace with these repetitive tasks.
Do I want to be known as the grumpy woman with a clean house or the cheerful lady with a clean house? The house deserves to be neat and clean in any case; I have the power to change my attitude.
I am reminded of what Thich Nhat Hanh writes about washing dishes in Peace is Every Step:
“To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water and each movement of my hands.”
I shall attempt to harness the Power of the Mundane this year and be mindful about housekeeping. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my little place in it.