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The Small Tasks of Life

The Great Scottish Crop I can’t understand how the kitchen always needs to be cleaned. Dirty dishes, crumbs on the floor, spills on the counters. I know most people eat at least three times a day, but still, I feel like I am constantly cleaning the kitchen.

Even though I love having a clean kitchen, I can’t always bring myself to clean it up immediately after I’ve used it. It feels too tedious, too boring, too mundane. But eventually it needs to be done.

So I start cleaning it up, putting things back into the pantry, putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher, hand washing various pots and pans. Soon it’s all done and it feels great, but what about the fifteen or so minutes that I spent with my hands in dishwater? Is it just a necessary evil?


Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that they are routine, household chores can be meditative. It’s not all about mantras and following your breath. Taking a routine activity and being present during it can be a form of meditation.

You don’t have to use your brain much because chores are just manual labor. This is good for taking yourself out of your mind and away from your thoughts.

And, these tasks are the things that support life itself. Everyone has to eat, which means we all have to use the kitchen, which means cleaning it up and maintaining it are a part of nourishing our bodies, which means that doing the dishes is directly in support of life itself.

Exciting, Grand Moments

Hopefully you’ve had a few of these. Maybe you won a state championship when you were in high school. Maybe you landed your dream job, or traveled to a place that you always wanted to visit. We need some exciting moments when life seems to be more than we could have imagined.

But life doesn’t consist of those moments. Really, they are few and far between (otherwise they wouldn’t be exciting!). Which means that mostly our lives consist of small, routine, daily tasks. These are the bulk of our experience. And they are essential to our lives.

The Tasks That Support Life

I’m writing a novel. Actually it’s already written. I’m now in the process of getting it ready to be published. There is a lot I don’t know, a lot I’ve had to learn, and a lot of time and energy put towards this project.

I will be excited when this is all finished, when my book is completely ready for publication (I’ve been working on this for two years). But really, most of this process was mundane.

There were a few cool moments – like finishing the first draft and seeing the finished cover for the first time. But mostly, it was just me sitting down every day to write, writing 500 – 750 words, and then moving on with my day. Writing this book became just a part of my daily routine.

You need to have some exciting moments, and you will have them. But, remember, that’s not what the bulk of your life consists of. Your life is not all champagne and reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, mostly, it’s just doing the dishes.

Creative Commons License photo credit: sarniebill1

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  1. Call me crazy but I like cleaning the kitchen. Growing up my house was always cluttered, and being able to clean the kitchen is still a treat for me.

    I hate to admit it, but you’re right about peak moment being rare . I supposed that’s a good thing. As much as I crave them, I think they would take their toll on me emotionally and psychologically, if they happened to often.

    Still, a daydream every now and then never hurt anyone.

  2. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Josh – I second your last sentence!

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