8 ways to add some joy to your most dreaded chores

8 ways to add some joy to your most dreaded chores

via TED Ideas by Ingrid Fetell Lee

These days, one common complaint that I’ve noticed from friends and on my social media feeds is how much more time we all seem to be spending doing chores. Many meals that were once eaten out or on the go are eaten at home, necessitating more cooking. Being home all day every day, dishes pile up in the sink and everything seems to get dirtier that much quicker.

Like seemingly everyone else right now, I find myself grappling with having to spend more time doing things I dislike. But when the going gets tough, the tough get joyful (that’s the saying, right???) — and so I thought I’d gather some inspiration for ways to make some life’s dullest chores more delightful.

For ideas, I turned to the Joyspotters Society, a free online community I founded that is devoted to finding and creating more joy in daily life. I was overwhelmed by their response. I’ve gathered their tips into themes to make it easier for you to find the strategies that will work for you and added some of my own, as well as ones I’ve come across in my research.

1. Set a timer

Joyspotter Genevieve writes: “I hated emptying the dishwasher (I know, privilege) until I timed myself doing it. It took 4 minutes. Knowing that, it’s no longer a big deal.”

I love this strategy because it creates awareness. What seems like a big, looming task actually turns out to be inconsequential when we look at it.

The other thing about setting a timer is that it can make a task feel like a race, which turns it into a game. Vanessa says that she sets a 17-minute timer for cleaning the bathrooms on Monday mornings. “I always try to beat it! Loooove starting my week with that chore checked off.”

I used to do the same thing for my drawing exercises in grad school, allowing only 20 minutes per page. Being “on the clock” focused my attention, giving me an energy boost that helped me power through pages and pages of repetitive warm-up sketches.

2. Dance it out

Many joyspotters rely on a playlist of fun tunes to keep their energy up during unpleasant chores. The most popular genres seem to be top 40 hits from the 80s, 90s, and 00s, but anything with a fast beat and a joyful cadence will do the trick. (A few specific favorites include Spice Girls, B52s, and Hanson. Joyspotter Marike even has a “special vacuuming song” which she kindly shared.)

I’ll attest to the power of good music as a salve for chores; our weekly cleaning sessions became much more fun as soon as my partner Albert discovered this “Cleaning + Organizing” playlist on Spotify.

And if the urge to bust a move in the middle of chores strikes, most joyspotters agree that it’s worth indulging in a dance break. Shelly writes, “I have cordless headphones and a ‘Joy’ playlist with all songs that bring me joy. I hit shuffle and clean and dance away, makes it go so much faster.”

Even if the time spent dancing makes tasks take a little longer, it feels like less time goes by. And if you invest in a pair of washable mop slippers — as recommended by Twila — your dance moves can be as productive as they are joyful!

Music and dancing can also soothe nerves agitated by certain tasks. As our resident designer Linzi points out, “I hate vacuuming because the noise makes me anxious and it takes a long time. I put on my headphones, turn up my music loud, and make myself dance around the apartment while cleaning.”

Linzi’s approach reminded me that some chores are unpleasant not just because they’re tedious or dull, but because they trigger sensitivities (such as to loud noises or harsh smells) or negative emotions (such as disgust). Adding in pleasing sensations can be an important way to ease the negative impact of these triggers.

3. Layer in a guilty pleasure

Let me make one thing clear: I don’t like the term “guilty pleasure.” Unless a pleasure hurts you or someone else, the guilt we attach to it usually stems from external judgments around the value of that enjoyment. Why sabotage our joy by labeling it in a negative way?

That said, the association can be hard to break, and when it comes to pleasures we feel guilty about, TV is often at the top of the list. Decades of criticism have taught us to believe that TV is “chewing gum for the brain”, so even when we enjoy it, we often feel like it’s something we shouldn’t be doing.

But adding a so-called guilty pleasure to a dreaded task seems to redeem them both. Allowing ourselves to watch a favorite TV show while ironing or folding laundry puts boundaries around the indulgent quality of TV watching and makes the task more pleasurable.

As Eveline says, “I love folding laundry! It is one of the few chores you can do while watching television! Which make[s] me feel not so guilty about watching a quick vlog or tv show in the middle of the day.”

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