The pleasure of small tasks fulfilled regularly

Carrying on with the idea of routines, I recently saw a quote on Gretchen Rubin’s site that talks about the pleasure of a single task repeated.

Even one task fulfilled at regular intervals in a man’s life can bring order into his life as a whole; everything else hinges upon it. By keeping a record of my experiences I live my life twice over. The past returns to me. The future is always with me.

The Journal of Eugene Delacroix

It reminds me of a surprising but small shift in attitude in my life almost a decade ago. Almost all my life I had the privilege of living with a dishwasher, but at that point in my life, we lived in a tiny apartment with no counter space and no dishwasher. Having to wash dishes by hand made me groan every time I looked at the ever-growing pile of dirty plates, glasses, and cutlery.

At the time, I had just begun my journey to being more consistent in the pursuit of my goals. I had decided that to help me make that happen, I would be more consistent with small tasks around the house and doing the dishes daily became one of those routines I started.

Instead of seeing the washing up as an onerous, boring task, I turned it into a moment to meditate, to breathe, and to disconnect from the stresses and worries of the day. And it worked! I went from hating the chore, to feeling empty if I didn’t do it. Through one small change, I added a sense of calm and order to what was normally a chaotic day.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten out of the habit, but recently have picked it up again. There’s nothing quite so satisfying than sitting down to write with the counter empty and clean, the bed made and the floor swept. This has nothing to do with the idea of external clutter equals mental clutter or that cleanliness is next to godliness. It has totally to do with a sense of fulfillment that the quote describes.

As chaos theory has demonstrated, the micro is the macro and vice versa. Coastlines are made up of the same shapes when looking from space down to looking at the almost microscopic level. Plus, Dirk Gently tells us that everything is connected, so being consistent with small tasks that have no emotional weight to them helps maintain consistency with more emotionally charged goals like writing and publishing a novel.

In what ways do you use small chores and tasks regularly fulfilled to create order and consistency in your life?

7 Comments for “The pleasure of small tasks fulfilled regularly”

  1. posted by Simon Ponder on

    The daily scooping of the litterbox. Keeps the house smelling clean and keeps things under control.

    And I guess the cat likes it also.

  2. posted by Sally on

    Keeping my kitchen sink shining and counters clear.

  3. posted by Penny Catterall on

    I love keeping my mail under control by immediately recycling junk mail and scanning or otherwise acting on other mail right away!

  4. posted by Pat on

    For me, it’s laundry. Even though it is only two of us, I do a small load each day. There is a rhythm to washing, folding, ironing, putting away. And I only watch my DVR’d TV shows when I fold and iron – so that’s an added bonus!

  5. posted by aura annl on

    The kitchen is under constant scrutiny as cluttered counters can easily build up. I clear out junk mail before other mail is brought in. I cull out items in closets as needed. Garages can be a real challenge and finished with org. it and will keep it that way. Much was tossed. Cars stay inside garage but stuff can pile up along the side walls. Now have excess plastic totes.

  6. posted by Kenneth in Virginia on

    I agree completely. I find doing laundry to be very satisfying, along with polishing shoes. It’s a struggle to keep the clutter down when you live with another person but that comes with being married. One little thing that seems to be especially rewarding is to make an effort to remove all the water spots on the kitchen and bathroom counters and faucet handles.

    I also agree that the garage is a challenge. I have suggested to my wife that if we didn’t keep a car in the garage, it would free up a lot of usable space.

  7. posted by Organic futon lady on

    I would go with bed sheets, towels and the linen closet.. much ignored but most important during “rush hours”.

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