The day my controlling girlfriend moved out, I grabbed a broom and swept the wood floor with increasing relief and joy. She had subtly taken over my house by taking over the housework “as a favor.” On that day, my view of maintenance tasks permanently changed from annoying interruptions to affirmations of presence. As I move through my space, I notice disorder and take pleasure in creating order.
Internal and external chaos
One sign of trauma is difficulty with self-care. Cleaning and other maintenance tasks seem both overwhelming and unimportant when confronting the pain of trauma.
At the same time, external chaos can make it more difficult to regain inner calm, subconsciously reinforcing feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Reconnecting with your surroundings and making changes to match your preferences can create a positive cycle of external and internal order.
Take a few moments to look around your space, peacefully, without an agenda. Let your eyes wander, pausing when something catches your attention. What leaps out at you? Is there anything that has been there all along but you haven’t noticed in a while? Is there anything that makes you smile?
If you hear your Inner Critic or an echo of a parental voice presenting you with a list of chores left undone, acknowledge the voice and bring your attention back to the room around you.
Do you have an overall quality or intention for your home? Mine is “comfortable,” and over the years, many people have spontaneously told me my home feels comfortable. What do people say about your home? Does it match your intended quality? How do you feel in your own home?
Consider one change
Look around again. Allow your attention to rest on a single change you could make to your space to align it with your intention. It could be as small as putting a piece of paper in the recycle bin. If a big change comes to mind such as rearranging furniture, break it down into steps and think about the first step.
Does your body tighten and contract in response to the thought of that single change, or open and relax?
Inquire into tension
There are many possible reasons for your body to tighten against an action. Take some time to gently inquire, and see which reasons resonate for you.
- The action might cause physical pain.
- You might encounter something that causes emotional pain.
- Someone else in the house might object.
- The change is a “should”, rather than something you want.
- The action feels too big or overwhelming.
Make it easier
Now that you’ve looked at some reasons for tightening, you could persist with this change, or start again with a different one. If you stay with this one, think about how to make it easier.
- You could move slowly and gently, or accomplish the action in a different way to avoid pain.
- You could decide in advance how to handle any triggering or upsetting objects you come across, perhaps by putting them aside.
- You could negotiate with others about shared space, or claim some space of your own.
- You could change “should” to “could,” and set your own priorities.
- You could break it down further into smaller steps, or ask for help.
Experiment with action
Whether your body relaxed or tightened, does it feel right to take the action you’re considering? If you do, is it easier, harder, or the same as you expected? If you don’t, notice your experience of consciously choosing not to act.
Take another look around your space. Notice what comes to your attention this time. You may choose to repeat the experiment with a different change, or stop there.
Choices rather than chores
We often treat ourselves like a controlling parent around our chores. As you connect with yourself and your space, you can make more gentle choices about which maintenance tasks to do and which to set aside. Gradually, your home will align with your intention and become your haven.
FlyLady.net is a light-hearted, practical guide to remedying CHAOS (“Can’t Have Anyone Over Soon”) one baby-step at a time.