Might Housework Be Therapeutic?

-By Joanna Roughton

“What you get from having a popular TV show is a voice.” So recently spoke 42-year-old Kirstie Allsopp, host of Location, Location, Location, in a Times article.

And she is using that voice in a thought-provoking and counter-cultural way. In her latest interview, she articulates a deeply unfashionable idea – at least in metropolitan media circles – that housework can be good for mental health.

She told the Western Daily Press: “I’m not doing the ironing because I have to, but if I get a chance, I find it immensely therapeutic”.

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“I’m absolutely convinced that those repetitive tasks that one does everyday, organising and regularising one’s home, and keeping it tidy, is enormously therapeutic.  I know it is for me, and I have many, many working mum friends who feel the same. That to know that their child is going to school with clean hair, clean teeth, clean uniforms, and their house is clean is what keeps her sane.”

Of course, all homemakers know there is a balance to be struck here. But although it is possible to be swamped by a heavy domestic workload, the case is rarely made for why repetitive domestic chores can have an upside.

Kirstie Allsopp, a mother-of-two with two stepchildren, makes the case for the benefits of housework in relation to peace of mind. Certainly, it is possible to see how completing a task, in a world where many processes are beyond our control and have no definable start and finish, is helpful to our sense of wellbeing. It was interesting to hear her word for it: regularising.

There is also something therapeutic in the reveries that we are transported to while focusing on a job – say ironing – which, because it does not require all our brain’s synapses to fire at full-tilt – allows our minds to wander, unencumbered by the need to concentrate totally.

There are other quiet satisfactions. The ability to bring our own quality control to bear on a task. Homemakers do not have to ask whether the cleaner got around the back of the loo – we did it (surely, wee did it?).

Then there is the sense of feeling a kind of kinship with all the other home-makers out there. Keeping house is one of the fundamental human experiences wherever, or indeed whenever, you live.

Edmund Burke, the great Anglo-Irish thinker and politician, famously said that a harmonious culture required a social contract between the generations. And not just those still living, but those yet to be born and those already dead. When we set about making a home work, we are invisibly communing with others around the world as well as in other times. It is a universal experience of the human condition in a way that, say, working in a call centre or selling insurance, is not.

All of which seems a long way from finishing that pile of ironing. But we should not be timid about putting the case for home-making, even at the risk of pretentious flights of fancy!

And, as illustrated by Kirstie Allsopp, a woman who has consistently defended the right of women to choose to build a home rather than a career, it sometimes takes a high-profile public face to state what is obvious to so many people whose every utterance is not of interest to our celebrity-obsessed media.

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4 thoughts on “Might Housework Be Therapeutic?

  1. I love to have a clean and orderly home but I personally hate ironing – I’d rather write a blog, call a friend or have a chat with my kids than get out the ironing board! But I do know lots of people who enjoy the rhythm of ironing and the sense of achievement it can generate after all the linen is folded and the crisp, clean shirts hung up.

    I certainly know that I feel far more relaxed when the kitchen floor is clean, the cushions pumped up and the bathroom is gleaming, and studies have shown that women feel happier and more in control of their lives when their home is clean and tidy.

    In this busy, hectic, frenetic world there is something really satisfying about that sense of achievement you get from finishing a simple, mundane, uncomplicated task so doing the washing up, emptying the dishwasher and folding the socks all help to release those feel good endorphins that help with our sense of well being.

    I agree with Kirstie Allsopp that the repetitive tasks that Mums do everyday organising their home is enormously therapeutic. It creates a sense of control, predictability and it switches off the mental stresses of the day – but it’s all about keeping a sense of balance and perspective and not expecting perfection which can generate even more stress !
    Sue Atkins ITV Parenting Expert and Author of “Parenting Made Easy – How To Raise Happy Children” http://www.TheSueAtkins.com

  2. Pingback: Do You Find Housework Therapeutic ? | Sue Atkins Parenting Expert

  3. Mercedes.Jaureguibeitia

    Most enjoyable as it is so beautifully written, interesting and indeed housework makes a reality any other work in society and is very rewarding!!!

  4. Pingback: Do You Find Housework Therapeutic ? – Sue Atkins The Parenting Coach

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