Writing prompt #1: Cleaning

An empty page is one of the most daunting things for a writer. I want to write but cannot think of anything interesting to write about. Lately, I have been battling lack of inspiration. So this post is an active attempt at creating something. As I wrote previously, I can already feel my writing skills degrade over time. I hope I can save myself from losing creativity just in time!!

I was feeling pretty useless this week so I wanted to make sure I do something productive and meaningful over the weekend. Based on my hubby’s recommendation, I jotted a list of things that I might later regret not doing. Writing a blog post is one of them. So, I googled for some writing prompts and decided to go with the below.

Cleaning: Hey, even writers and creative artists have to do housework sometimes. Write about doing laundry, dishes, and other cleaning activities.

The topic totally makes sense for a weekend, right?

It might surprise some, but cleaning is one of the things I actually enjoy. In fact, I would prefer doing dishes over cooking! We often discuss that as a division of chores strategy. My hubby prefers cooking over cleaning. My hubby hates doing laundry but I enjoy it (with a podcast/audiobook). So complementary, aren’t we?

When I think of cleaning, it brings me peace of mind. In Marie Kondo’s words, it sparks joy for me! When I think of cleaning, I visualize a calming me time! That is how it has been for me over the years. Growing up, cleaning would be one of the activities I enjoyed in my spare time – usually, a break from studies or other sources of stress. The soothing after-feeling of an uncluttered space is not something everyone can identify with. My sister and dad, for instance, are not at all perturbed by mess. I definitely get the cleanliness gene from my mom. She is a doctor by profession but I remember her enjoying cleaning activities during her vacation days. In fact, cleaning is a big ritual especially before the major festivals in India. Spring cleaning is also a big thing in the US. So, for me, cleaning is associated with good times. Cleaning is an activity that gives one a sense of control and agency. On that note, it is a feel good thing. It is akin to the satisfaction from checking things off a to-do list.

Thankfully, my husband is quite organized himself (brownie points!) and saves us arguments on that front (mostly). It is funny how I first noticed that trait in him. This was before we lived together. I saw his suitcase and it was packed so neatly he even beat me at it! I was totally impressed. In that moment, I remember feeling so damn lucky. Would I be okay if he was not this way? In my fairy tale romantic world, I imagined it would be so much fun to clean our own home together someday! I don’t think he packs so well anymore, but anyway, as long as his clutter doesn’t spill over, I can bear with it. In fact, my cleanliness standards and expectations have dropped over the years, primarily due to one factor – our doggie, Leo.

I have an eye for detail and that does not always bode well for cleanliness. I can easily notice crap. When we moved to a bigger place with our dog, I would end up frustrated for the first few months. The wooden floor gets dirty much easily compared to a carpeted one. It is also much more noticeable. I couldn’t keep up with the cleaning. It stops being therapeutic after a point!! Eventually, we got the robot cleaners that definitely eased our job. But it often amazes me when I see something dirty that irks me and my hubby genuinely cannot see it. Or when I cannot wind down if kitchen is unclean and hubby argues that it doesn’t need to be cleaned immediately. He can watch TV and get back to cleaning again but I cannot. I like everything done in one go so I can enjoy the cleanliness when relaxing. When we lived in an apartment, sticking to a schedule of once-a-week cleaning was manageable. But after moving homes, it started causing friction. For peace of mind, I realized I will have to prime my eye to ignore and my mind to bother less about cleanliness. I am acclimatized to it now. But since I curbed my instincts, I also don’t get the same high from cleaning. I have become more selective in cleaning.

Parallelly, new cleaning requirements came up such as yard cleaning. My hubby complains about it and I try to empathize. But secretly, I don’t find it so bad. I find it to be a good source of exercise and enjoy the time outdoors. In the summer during the pandemic, I found myself getting drawn to the yard in the evenings after my office work. That particular time, work was super stressful but I would easily lose myself during the time in our yard. I wondered why. I wasn’t planting or doing anything creative for the most part. Mostly, it was maintenance. One fine day it struck me that I liked removing weeds, I liked the cleanup! I didn’t want to believe that but eventually I accepted. I think we all learnt a bit more about ourselves during the covid break. This was it for me. No matter how boring or mundane, I enjoy these type of chores.

Throughout Covid, I kept reading and hearing that people are longing for a sense of routine or struggling for boundaries. I somehow could not relate with that as much. I thought it was something that super goal-oriented persons or large families are facing. I don’t like my days to be regimented. I like flexibility and spontaneity. I want to be nimble. So, I have been quite opposed to ideas such as scheduling things outside of work on calendars or planning my days. Yet on several Fridays and Sundays, I found myself frustrated that yet another week slipped by. I had so many things in my mind but didn’t really capitalize on them. I realized I have to clear up my mind, prioritize things and make sure I do something. Otherwise, it is all going to be in my head. My heart resists the structure but my mind feels calmer. That’s because my natural tendency is towards organization, whether I like it or not. While I want to be a free spirit, some mundane is good. So whether I want to like cleaning or not, I know for sure that it is critical for my sanity!!

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