The Zen of Housecleaning

A few weeks ago, I moderated focus groups for a large financial institution that sought to understand how people plan for retirement. After two days of  active listening, I began to take the pulse of my own financial health.

This is not new for me. Over the years, I’ve done many financial services projects and I’ve always come home with something to think about. Years ago, my first project with financial advisers led to a now bi-annual meeting with my husband at a local Deli to review “where we are” (I find that if we talk in public, I am less likely to cry). For several reasons tho’, last weeks project hit me hard. The night after I returned home, I thought about quite a lot and as I sat in my nook and pondered how I was spending money, I noticed how often I was sneezing. And then, it hit me.

I have never raised a rag to wipe a surface.

Since I was a teenager, I have accused my mother of switching babies at the hospital and depriving me of my royal birthright. Clearly I was not meant to do housecleaning. For 21 years of marriage, through good times and tight times, I have had someone clean for us every 2 weeks.

But let’s be real. We have a one-year lease on a 2,000sq ft condo and it doesn’t warrant a cleaning lady that charges more per hour than my daughter’s teacher is making.

And so, realizing that if I simply picked up a rag and stayed on top of it, I would save close to $3,000 a year, I embarked on a cleaning frenzy this weekend and proclaimed, “I am going to clean the condo and save toward things I want.”

See, it’s not about depriving myself. Rather it’s about reframing money and having a sense of control and choice. I could easily spend the money on a cleaning lady, but it seems to me that I would rather take a trip to China, make a substantial community donation and know that I have a few extra dollars in case of an emergency. Not forever, but for NOW. As my friend Tamara says, ” it’s about doing more with less”  vs thinking I have less for more.

On top of it all, picking up that rag also became a chance to teach my 12 year old daughter that we are fully capable of making smart financial choices that are empowering. Yesterday we went shopping for clothes. We talked while we shopped. When we came home, she redid her closet and folded everything in her laundry basket that really didn’t need to be washed. I cleaned her bathroom and together we cleared off her bookshelves and made her bed. By helping  keep her room clean, she was learning the value of the clothes we bought and how to make a bed when she lives on her own.

We’ll see how long this lasts. But really, who cares. Its about the insight to be conscious and to own the choices we make; to move towards the financial security that we all crave and to let go of thinking that if only we had the life we were meant to have, it would all be OK. It is already better than OK. It’s great. We are all so lucky to have any choice at all. Why not use it to create the life we want?

Do you have any tips on MindFULL cleaning that you can share? Let us know!

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