Could housework be the secret to good self-care?

BY Lara Williams

1st Jan 2015 Life

Could housework be the secret to good self-care?

A recent survey listed all the household chores Brits find most irksome; but why is it we so readily think of housework in a negative light? Rallying against this is a movement re-positioning housework as an act of radical self-care and a form of work that demands respect.

YouGov, the online market research firm, surveyed over two-thousand Brits, and found the household chores hated the most include ironing, washing up and doing the laundry—with taking out the bins being the most hated household chore of all. However, 62 per cent of Brits admitted to enjoying cooking, while 44 per cent said they enjoy tidying up and organising.

Housework has long since been given a bad reputation—why are we so keen espouse our distaste for these everyday chores? And why do some people enjoy household tasks while others find them annoying or objectionable?

Self-care could posit a solution to this. It is the simple philosophy that taking some time to care for yourself is an essential and indeed radical act. It operates the basic principles of understanding what your needs are and addressing them.

Hungry? Get yourself something to eat. Stressed? Take the night off, watch a film and have a bath. It is the belief that we are often conditioned to be so mindful of other people’s needs we forget to take the time to look after ourselves. Creating a neat and relaxing space to exist within is very much part of this ethos.


Rethinking housework as self-care

self care with gracy
Self-confessed recovering perfectionist, Gracy Obuchowicz. Image via Self Care With Gracy

Gracy Obuchowicz runs the blog Self Care With Gracy. She is also a yoga teacher, retreat leader, self-care mentor and self-confessed “recovering perfectionist”. Obuchowicz credits consciously practising self-care as the catalyst in learning to treat herself with love and respect.

“Self-care is a way of tending to my body, mind, and spirit,” Obuchowicz believes. “It involves cultivating self-awareness and accepting responsibility for changing my habits so that I have more energy and courage to live the life of my dreams.”

Part of Obuchowicz’s self-care practice is keeping an aesthetically appealing and well-organised environment; something housework undoubtedly comes into.



"I actually find that the repetitive work of cooking, cleaning, and straightening-up calm me down"



“Living in a beautiful space is essential for feeling comfortable in our lives,” she claims. “Housework is a natural part of life. I’ve lived and travelled all over the world and find that most cultures begin their days with a little housework. I build housework habits into my life as routines that feel sacred to me. I actually find that the repetitive work of cooking, cleaning, and straightening-up calm me down.”

Obuchowicz has developed a number of strategies for making housework a more rewarding experience; for example, putting on a podcast and even inviting friends over to help, then in return, helping with theirs.

“As we practice these joyful, self-care habits,” she finishes, “even housework can become natural and fulfilling—and we won’t have to force ourselves to do them.” 


How YouTube promotes housework as self-care

Izzy D
YouTube star Izzy D says "There's more to self-care than simply taking care of yourself"

There is an emerging culture promoting self-care online—with a raft of YouTube channels dedicated to demonstrating how you can integrate self-care into your daily life. And part of that is having a clean and comfortable environment in which to decompress and unwind.

Izzy Davis runs the YouTube channel Izzy D, a video blog which documents the ways she engages with self-care. Davis first became aware of the concept of self-care when she recovered from an eating disorder aged 15.



"Simply cooking a meal for yourself can be an act of radical self-care, in a culture in which women are pressured to diet"



“There is more to self-care than simply taking care of yourself,” she tells me. “Doing kind things for yourself and for your own body such as nourishing with good food, moving and stretching, engaging in relaxing or pleasant activities all constitute the act of taking care of yourself.”

Self-care can be simple or even basic, Davis believes. Simply cooking a meal for yourself three times a day can be an act of radical self-care, in a culture in which women are pressured to diet and achieve an idealised body type. Davis believes housework very much fits into this; indeed, she has renamed housework “care work.”

“Housework is care work. It is the work that needs to be done to maintain a household. I am constantly cleaning up the space around me.”


Why is it hard to admit we enjoy housework?

we enjoy housework

Lotika Singha is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of York, researching domestic work. She believes the negative connotations behind housework are quite a complex issue; citing the survey’s results as evidence of that. “Overall, 25 per cent said they enjoy cleaning, 28 per cent were ambivalent and 44 per cent said they disliked it. That is, fewer than half disliked it.”

Singha believes there is an inclination to claim not to like housework, and for women particularly, to be apologetic when articulating an enjoyment in housework. Sitting within “caring service work”, whether in a paid or unpaid capacity—housework is often outsourced to people considered “lowly” within their culture, based on gender, class or ‘race’, skin colour or country of origin.



"Women might find it difficult to say they like housework"



“Doing housework,” Singha believes, “becomes symbolically denigrating. And so a woman might find it difficult to say she likes housework.”

I wonder whether Singha believes housework can be considered a form of radical self-care?

“Perhaps it is not the actual doing of housework that might be considered an act of radical self-care, but being respectful of it like any other work," Singha wonders. “A woman who does housework or decides to be a house wife, or any person who decides to take up paid housework, requires as much respect as any other worker.”


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