Sometime last year I had a small epiphany: I could wash a dish in water that was neither freezing nor scalding. This did require somewhat of a sacrifice on my part — I had to turn on both the hot and cold knobs on my sink and then wait 10 to 15 seconds for the water to warm up. Oh the inefficiency of those fifteen seconds and two knobs. But surprisingly enough, washing my hands in warm water was very pleasant. Paradoxically taking more time to do something that I didn’t really want to spend any time on, made it better.
It turns out this is true outside of the sink as well. Making the bed can be filled with touching smooth sheets and arranging fluffy pillows. Folding laundry can be filled with warm, cottony stacks of favorite shirts and skirts ready for tomorrow. Vacuuming can, in that private little hum, be a time to let my thoughts wander into happy little day dreams. Even though I like to be fast and efficient, in the long run I am happier if I slow down and enjoy the process.
The trick is that in order to have time to slow down and enjoy the process, I need to have fewer things to do. I literately need fewer dishes to wash. One or two dishes in warm lavender scented soapy water is a very different experience than 40 dishes in scalding water. If I don’t feel like I have a huge mountain of dishes to wash or pages of to-do lists to cross off, I feel like I have space in my day to breathe. I feel like I can be more present to tackle the manageable and good tasks set before me.
When I have fewer things to keep clean and fewer tasks to check off, it is easier to slow down and enjoy the routine and the mundane. I want to be fully present and find beauty in the ordinary so my space can be welcoming. I want to have beautiful bookshelves like my friend Julie. I want to have a calm generosity like beloved grandmotherly June. I want my sink clean, my fridge full, my bed made, and my laundry put away.
If I am going to live in a one bedroom apartment, I might as well take advantage of not having that much space or that many things to keep clean and organized. For example, we recently gave away all of our teflon pots and pans, leaving us with only 6 cast iron options when we want to cook something on the stove. I want a calm kitchen and overall apartment to practice hospitality, even if it is just to invite myself to sit and write and dream.
Cultivating a space that invites people to be completely themselves and that makes room for creativity and beauty involves being good stewards of our things and chores. Sometimes that means we give them away, and sometimes it means we take an extravagant 15 seconds extra and notice the details of living.
It isn’t always easy. I find myself still turning on just the hot water and then getting annoyed that my hands sting when it heats up. But I am trying to remind myself that I can still choose in the middle of rushing to remember to stop, turn on the cold water, and wait until it’s right. I can choose to breathe a thanks to the Lord for how He takes care of me in giving me dishes to wash in clean, hot water. As the beautiful Micha Boyett reminds us from St. Benedict, there is enough time for all the work and rest and prayer we are called to in each day.
How do you remember to slow down and appreciate the mundane?
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