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Why You Need to Change Your Attitude About Housework

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Lisa Kaplan Gordon in lotus position with cleaning supplies

Researchers say cleaning more often can lead to spiritual enlightenment. Image: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

No matter how much housework you do — do more! Not only will you clean your home, but you’ll burn more calories, ward off some cancers, even move closer to spiritual enlightenment.

At least, that’s what some researchers and authors promise — clean more, live longer and better.

  • A study of 200,000 women in nine European countries found that housecleaning between 15 and 17 hours a week — a little more than 2 hours per day — cut breast cancer risk by 30% among pre-menopausal women and 20% among post-menopausal women.
  • An Indiana University professor showed that 4 hours of work in and around the house helped hypertensive and pre-hypertensive patients lower their blood pressure, in some cases to normal levels.

These studies have changed my relationship with sweeping and scrubbing.

My attitude has always been: I work so others might clean. I’ve employed wonderful cleaners ever since my first job as a copy girl, when I’d eat ramen nightly rather than mop a floor in my 500-sq.-ft. Manhattan rental.

Years later, I bit the bullet and vacuumed my four-bedroom house between cleaning lady visits. Actually, my three cleaning robots — Roomba, Neato, and Mint — did the vacuuming and sweeping: When I wanted a deep clean, I ran all three at once.

But that was then. Now, I realize that doing housework myself can help me achieve other goals I hold dear, like staying fit and living long.

Instead of looking at household chores as time-eaters, I now look at them as calorie burners. Here’s what an hour of housework burns:

  • Vacuuming and mopping: 194 calories
  • Dusting: 174 calories
  • Washing windows: 180 calories
  • Ironing: 113 calories

I wore a calorie-counting armband for a week, and on the days I vacuumed the den or scrubbed the bathroom for half an hour, I burned about 100 calories more than the days I did not clean. Theoretically, if I vigorously cleaned for 30 minutes each day, I would lose about 10 pounds a year (if I didn’t reward myself daily with a latte or bag of chips).

In fact, a British study found that women’s waistlines have expanded 6 inches over the past 60 years because they don’t clean their homes as long and hard as 1950s housewives, who burned up to 1,000 calories a day by doing housework without today’s modern machines (like my Roomba).

Perhaps, the best benefit of housework is that mindful cleaning can bring me closer to enlightenment, says “The Power of Now” author (and Oprah’s guru) Eckhart Tolle. Simply, the more one observes the moment, the less stress she will feel about the past and future. 

We can all use a lot less stress. So instead of rushing through housework, or talking to my mother on the phone while I’m washing dishes, I’ll dive into the moment of cleaning. When scrubbing pots, I feel the water cascading over my hands, notice the tiny soap bubbles, feel the crusted food melt away — that kind of thing.

It’s a discipline that gets easier with time. But the more I stay in the now of cleaning, the calmer I feel. Really.

What’s your relationship with cleaning? Do you love it or loathe it? Besides a clean house, what benefits do you get from housework?

lisa-kaplan-gordon Lisa Kaplan Gordon

is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL. Follow Lisa on Google+.

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