How cleaning helped me to focus

Turning a to-do into a framework

Number ten on my list of areas to focus on for 2022 is cleaning. Why would I put that down, when it’s part of everyone’s daily life?

Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

I hadn’t really thought it out, but I knew that cleaning had to be done. I had to carve out time for it, prioritize some tasks over others, and keep an eye on the details. But as I was talking the full list out in a clinical supervision session, cleaning became a metaphor and then a framework for everything else on my list, and for how I hope to live.

In that conversation and the days that followed, I was able to identify three elements of cleaning that I value. For me, these can be used to frame the other areas of focus, which were pointing to actions rather than reflections.

Care — Cleaning is a way that I can provide and demonstrate care for family and friends. It shows that I value having a tidy environment for people to live and play in, even if it is never immaculate. Demonstrating care in this way is an important act for me, as I wasn’t taught this as a child.

Beauty — Let’s be real, cleaning can be a lot like exercise. You may not want to do it, but you never regret getting on with it. Cleaning a big pile of dishes leaves a satisfying stack on one end, and a beautiful emptiness on the other. Sweeping and mopping a floor can create a mood. I crave beauty, but sometimes find it hard to recognize when it’s close. And what’s closer than our own space?

Spirituality — Keeping a clean home is essential for many cultures and spiritualities. This is especially true if you have an altar or other sacred area in your home. I also find that cleaning often gets me out of my shallow thoughts and allows me to find quiet space within.

Maybe these work for you, maybe not. The key for me was looking at my list for the coming year and asking, “What is missing?” The answer was “Why?”

My areas of focus are all about doing, and not pointing to anything within. After two years of societal and personal roller coasters, I know that I need to put the why in there. For me, the missing elements were joy and celebration of the beauty of life. By framing each focus action with care, beauty and spirituality, I can ease into them rather than forcing myself to occupy the space of productivity for the sake of appearance.

Your own answer to the ‘why’ question is likely to be the legacy of your life and the framework of your own focus. You can leave people wondering or arguing about it, or you can make it clear.

She wanted to help people.

He always supported the family, no matter what.

They created art to inspire others.

Before you commit yourself to more to-dos, ask yourself first, what is the point? Do these acts, by securing my attention, firm up the story of me, and what I will leave for my family, or even humanity?

2022 will be a year like no other, so give your focus — your life and legacy — the reflection and framework it deserves.

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