Here's a dirty little secret of the most chill people you know: They get overwhelmed and frazzled, just like you, but the difference is that they've cultivated a personal set of tricks that help them cool down when things get tough.
Like when your apartment is a mess; it's really easy to get overwhelmed and decide that, instead of tackling a big task like the mountains of laundry taking up residence at the foot of the bed, you'd rather run from your responsibilities and binge Netflix all day. But that sort of procrastinating just leads to bigger clothes piles, more mess and a forever-lingering sour mood.
Instead, muster up the zeal to tackle one small thing—something mindless and repetitive—to get yourself out of the funk and channel a moment of "clean zen." The result is two-fold: First, you've gotten something cleaned up or cleaned out, so check that off your list. But also, in an ancillary way, you've gotten yourself out of a funk—now that you're up and moving, you're hopefully in the right frame of mind to tackle even more. (Like maybe the laundry, but no pressure!)
5 Ways to Find Your Clean Zen
Here are some of my favorite clean zen tasks. Each one can be tackled in 5 minutes, including whatever "boot-up time" I might need to gather tools and materials from the closet or under the sink.
Sweep the floors.
If you take a cue from Zen monks, sweeping the floors can be a nice way to practice mindfulness. As you're sweeping away the dust and dirt, imagine you're sweeping away your troubles, too. Pack everything up into a dustpan (literally and figuratively) and allow yourself to let it go.
Iron your bed sheets.
There are no pleats or collars—your gently crumpled bed sheet is just a big, flat canvas waiting to be slowly pressed from corner to corner. This one might not be a task on your weekly to-do list, but getting into a bed made tightly with crisp, pressed sheets is a mood-lifter that can't be beat.
Vacuum the air conditioner vents.
Yank the vacuum out and slowly run the hose back and forth across each slat of the vent, watching as the dust lifts off each one. If there's a better task to center your brain while satisfying your inner gratification monster, I don't know it.
Squeegee the shower door.
Think of this one like a giant Japanese rock garden. You can use the squeegee to paint patterns on the door as you go (you're doing this for you—streaks be damned!), or meditatively cover and wipe clean every inch, up to down and side to side.
Wash the dishes (to wash the dishes).
In "The Miracle of Mindfulness," Thich Nhat Hanh writes: "If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not 'washing the dishes to wash the dishes.'" Instead of always thinking about this sometimes-daunting task as a means to an end, pick up the dirty dishes to give yourself a mindful minute alone instead. It's science.
Are there any cleaning tasks you enjoy because they feel almost like meditation?