Can you learn to love hard work?

15 August 2017
Amy left this comment a few days ago:
Can you do a post or point me to resources about how to love hard work? I'm finding that being a wife, mother, and grown up is frankly a lot harder than I thought it would be! I keep trying to look for solutions (usually via some gadget/ something convenient to buy) but I'm realizing it's just plain hard. Need some help "digging in" and expecting/ enjoying the work...even the small stuff.

Amy, I doubt you can be taught how to love hard work. You either love it or you don't. I think the real point of this post will be to work out how you get to the point where you want to do the work. I know nothing of your circumstances but I do know this. If you want to live in a clean house you have to clean it, if you want to get into a comfy bed at night, you have to make it in the morning, if you want clean clothes, you have to do the laundry, if you want to eat nourishing food, you have to grow or buy it and learn how to store and cook it. And when you've finished cooking, you have to clean up. Unless you're wealthy and can pay others to look after you, the time has come for you to step up, work out what you want for yourself and your family, and then do the work to make it happen.




From what I can see, you have two choices. Either decide it's all too hard and stay as you are, or think about the kind of life you want, decide on what values are important to you and start changing.  The first option will be easy now and become more difficult later, the second option will be difficult now but will become easier as you learn more. Being a grown up is hard, being a mother is the toughest thing I've ever done, but the rewards are significant and beautiful. If I can do it, you can too.  So sit down with your partner and work out your priorities.



The main things you'll need to focus on are living on a budget, saving for a home and creating a sustainable and thrifty home and lifestyle. And within that framework, you'll simplify your mindset, live a slower life and show your child, by example, that you don't have to work until you drop to pay for products, produced in their millions, which end up in landfill. You don't say if you're going out to work but if you are, the housework is something you should share with your partner.  If you're at home looking after your child, make that and your home your career. Run your home like a small business, with your partner earning the money and you using that money to build the life you both want. There are many ways you can move away from the mainstream model of what "normal" life is nowadays. You'll be able to make things you used to buy, use fewer chemicals in your home, cook from scratch, mend and recycle. By doing those things, slowly but surely, you'll create a new life.




As you do all those things, you'll develop routines and become more organised.  If you read through my blog and a few others, you'll learn how to make shortcuts that will make you more efficient. You'll develop a new strategy for your grocery shopping, set spending targets that are lower than what you're used to and then use the money you'll save for a home deposit or to pay off debt you may already have. It's all within your reach but you'll have to have a clear vision of the life you want to live and you'll have to change your attitude. I've listed a few of my older posts below to help you get started but there are a lot of other posts there that are exactly what all this is about. I hope you take the time to read some of them and then put your plan in action.  It won't be easy but it will get easier and I think you'll grow to love your new life. Good luck and keep in touch.

29 comments

  1. Good luck to Amy - I'm sure your posts will help Rhonda. I am a wife, mother, part time worker and help look after my elderly disabled mother and sometimes like Amy I feel a bit overwhelmed at all I need to do. Sometimes it helps if I set a time limit and say I will tackle a job, particularly one I dont really relish, for 15 minutes only. Often at the end of the 15 minutes I'm in the swing of it and can carry on for longer and accomplish something.

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  2. I read your advice to Amy and felt I had to comment. One of the most important things we can offer to others is our full attention. Clearly you did just that! You gave her question your full attention and offered her solid advice - a gift of immeasurable value. Thank you!

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  3. I'm going to go reread those posts, Rhonda. My dad always taught me that virtue is its own reward. I think it helps if our parents set a good example for us. Both of my parents were very hard working. My mom was extremely talented in the home, and my dad was very successful in business. When I need a push, I ask myself, "What would my parents do?"

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  4. I think the only point I feel is missing here is how much your husband contributes to the household besides money. Whichever parent chooses to stay at home with their child inevitably also takes on the lions share of the housework. However that does not mean that working outside the home absolves you of housework and child care. No-one should consider their working day ends at five o'clock, whilst yhe houseparent continues to work until bedtime. Washing-up, bathtime, bedtime etc etc continue all evening and these are jobs that both parents should share. This can make a huge difference to how tired and disheartened housework can make you feel.

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  5. My sympathies to Amy -- I've struggled through the hard work thing myself for ... more than a decade now.

    I'm not blessed with a spouse and kids; instead I'm blessed with mental health embuggerances that frequently destroy large amounts of my time and energy. I think the most important thing I have learned is to start from where you are. Knowing how you work is invaluable -- for me I cannot form habits, but do a pretty good impression of a newtonian object, in that when I'm in motion I stay in motion. So I cook and preserve in bulk, and then eat from fridge and freezer for long periods (particularly useful when my brain takes a 6 month holiday in depression city). I group similar household and life tasks together to do in batches so that I can use that momentum to make progress, and minimise the number of short daily tasks to be done, because often as not, they won't be. Other people might thrive on habits, or regular breathers, or sticker charts with gold stars. All of these are okay, so long as they get you where you need to be!

    I've also found it's helpful to also look to online resources by and for people who've been where you are for inspiration and encouragement, such as UFYH, or A Slob Comes Clean or Squalor Survivors for example. I choose these three because I have found them all to be useful at various stages of my journey, and because while there's a lot of fantastic ideas in the blogs we read for inspiration, we often need to look further afield for the additional tools to dig ourselves out of our personal deep dark holes.

    My progress to a more or less functional household probably doesn't look much like other people's, and possibly falls short of many folks' , but I honour the progress that I've made rather than regretting its imperfectness. There will be things that will work for you too--it's fine to experiment until you find it, just don't give up.

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    1. Well said & well done! We can all only do what we can manage & that might be more than the person next door or less than the lady down the street, but as long as you are doing what you can manage that is enough. Mental health issues make everyday life very difficult, so be proud of the fact you are doing the best you can.

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  6. I am wondering what didtraction Amy has. In this day and age there is so much digitial distraction that it can be hard to focus. I have had this problem too. Another issue I had when my children were young was perfectionism. I am a nana now and my daughter does things very differently. My 2 year old grandson does the dishes cooking etc with his mum he does make a little more mess but his mum cleans it up good enough. My grandson has improved heaps tho and will be a great help as he gets old. To him its just playing. So basically workout your distractions and let go of perfectionism

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  7. These are such wise words, Rhonda. I think it can be overwhelming at times, especially at the beginning. I used to get particularly frustrated because I felt I was running out of time, all the time! And that was because I was trying to do everything! So, I decided that rather than despair, I would look at what the basics were and just do that. That worked well for me. When I had time/space to do more, as our son grew, then I did. Meg:)

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  8. Great advice!

    Amy, I think the way that I learned to get it all done was with a plan. Getting up every morning and seeing that there is a ton of work to be done but not having a plan just made me want to go back to bed! Having a plan allowed me to keep up with what needed to be done each day without running myself ragged. I also allow myself to rest and always rested when the children napped in the afternoon as long as I had been productive all morning and kept up with my plan. And, no, I don't like hard work at all but I do like all the perks that Rhonda mentioned. You can do it!

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  9. A very thoughtful answer! I really liked how you joined out that we don't always like the process but we like the results, just like a diet or an exercise program. Personally, I can't say that I enjoy cleaning bathrooms or scrubbing floors etc. but I do like the results so the effort is worth it.
    Penny P. also had a great suggestion - like any big job it's much easier if you cut it down into manageable slices. Whenever I have something like that on my plate I tend to work for 30 to 45 minutes - and then I give myself a break - maybe I just sit down with a cup of tea for 10 minutes, or maybe I read the next chapter in my book - or even watch an episode of something on TV or Netflix. But when that time is up I'm back at it. That way, the work gets done but I don't feel any resentment as I've also had some ME time throughout the day.
    I hope your thoughts and examples Rhonda have helped Amy - I know this blog has helped me.

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  10. Hi Amy, I think Rhonda and most readers answered your question. I don't have children but I do work full time, do the weekly shopping, the stockpiling, the cooking/baking from scratch, the cleaning, making the cleaning products, home management, manage our finances and and the management of our productive garden. A lot of my colleagues and sometimes even my husband laugh or ask why I would do this instead of buying a product. Let's take bread for example, I love sourdough bread (I'm of German origin) which you cannot buy here where I live anyway. But I could buy cheap bread made with unknown ingredients for $2 in the shop. Tastes ok and only takes me very few minutes to get. But I choose to make my own. To do it properly you need 2-3 days. They're not entire days but you need to plan it ahead as it cannot be replenished as soon as it's gone. I love the taste, I love that I can make it to my own liking and therefore I love the labour which I put into it. Same when I harvest something from my productive garden. Biting into a sun ripened tomato makes it suddenly all worth while to move wheelbarrows full of dirt, keep watering, add some composing worms, feed those worms, mulch, weed and tend to the plant as it grows. But I have fresh tomatoes, fresh tomato relish, tomato paste, ketchup and sauce which tastes better than any of the store bought products. Do I like hard work? No I didn't when I started and often thought that a 'simple' life is such an incorrect terminology. But I've changed and the hard work is now part of something so great, something which makes me so happy and satisfied that it's not about the hard work anymore, it's about reaping in the benefits and they outweigh all the effort in my opinion! Every week there is an item less on my shopping list I need to buy because i can make it/grow it. The reward of content and happiness will soon outweigh all of your dislike for hard work (and I'm generally a really lazy person). Good luck!

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  11. After reading your books Rhonda and following your blog I found that changing my mindset made a huge difference. I have such a spring in my step and just can't wait to get up each morning and start. Also remembering that this change doesn't happen overnight, we build on it. One step at a time, learning as we go, picking up new skills. The feelings, achievements, satisfaction etc. then give you that enthusiasm to go another step forward and slowly routines develop, organisation improves and I find it really gets me going to do and learn more. Just love it.

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    1. Francesca S.....you are describing MY life. So many parallels. (except I would love to make my own sourdough but where/how to start?)

      In pondering your post I've realized what makes the hard work now worthy of my time, is that when I retire from paid employment in just 4 years....my/our lifestyle is all set up. The garden beds with fabulous organic soil, the canning recipes perfected, the freezer foods from the garden perfected, our home simplified, our priorities aligned with our daily lives......

      I so look forward to that day and the rewards. I'm grateful for all I've learned and all I've done to this date!

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  12. Hi Rhonda. I do do think you can learn to enjoy hard work when you know why you are doing it. I found your blog about 7 years ago and it has been invaluable to my enjoyment of my home and my lifestyle. You encouraged me to give careful thought to what I wanted and to prioritise accordingly, that I could make a life that was authentic, rewarding and challenging all at once. It didn't have to look like anyone else's but it should be true to my values. I think there must be many like me who have benefitted from your advice behind the scenes that you do not know about. I truly thank you.

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    1. Hi Karen, thank you for your words of encouragement. I guess anything is possible but I don't think you can learn to enjoy it. Maybe you learn to love the outcomes and that's enough to keep you working but I'm not sure that's enjoyment.
      Maybe you're going to prove me wrong. Have you learned to love hard work?

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  13. I think it is also important to point out that digging yourself out of a hole, or climbing a mountain, is harder work than walking along a path. I think Rhonda has said essentially that, but it really is important to figure out what you really want and how to maintain that state. The early parts are hard because you have to address what you've done differently in the past, and learn different ways to do them. This can include mechanical (the work itself) things as well as attitude.

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  14. I agree that planning out your day and setting up routines will help those of us who either struggle with work outside the home, the demands of rearing children, maintaining meaningful relationship with your husband or just being a disorganised person. Alot of emphasis has been put on housework but I just want to outline what all of this is for, to make a healthy and enviting environment in which to grow and enjoy your relationships. Yes plan out household tasks for the day but also plan to put aside time to have a quite cuppa and discussions with your husband and play with the children. Let your joy in doing housework be that you will be able to relax and build relationships with your family without the nagging guilt in the back of your mind that the dishes are piled up and the school clothes not washed. In the end also give your self a break if your life isn't perfect. Having a family is demanding and difficult. Enjoy your home, your family and your life.

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  15. The best advice I've heard? Have only 3 things on your "to do list". And do them as your priority. If you decide on other things, it's great. If not, you are still successful for the day.

    Another: have what you use and use what you have. The less "stuff" you have, the less work in maintaining it all.

    Another: everything has it's place. I spend a few minutes every night putting everything back. In the morning, our home is organized and neat. It may be dusty and the floors need sweeping and the carpet needing a vacuum, but it's not messy. I opt for organized rather than ultra clean. That's my trade-off.

    It also helps not to look at keeping a home as a "whole" which can be overwhelming. No 1 thing is a ton of work so I don't feel overwhelmed. Those 3 things on the short list are fairly simple to accomplish.

    Daily I enjoy that everything is organized when i get up. That makes the work worth it.

    I love the homecooked meal. That makes the cooking worth it.

    I love fresh sheets on the bed. That makes the laundry load and the hanging on the line worth it.

    See where I'm going? If something has no value to you, stop doing it. Toss the gadgets or sell them. Simplify your home to simplify your life.

    Best of luck! And I agree, "adulting" is not easy :-)

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  16. I really loved your answer Rhonda. There is a beautiful series on a blog called Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth on hard work and how good it really is. So much joy actually comes from hard work and feeling like we accomplished something and achieving our dreams. Just looking at your nice kitchen and table setting is joyful! xxx

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  17. Amy, for me (and I think I may be in a similar stage of life to you) it has been about baby steps and finding the things that simplify my work load, fill my tank and feel like progress. And it often is three steps forward, one or two or three back! I really feel for you, and I hear you. I am currently working on massive decluttering (so that there's less to clean), un-takeaway (to help with my meal overwhelm- fish fingers and store bought curry etc.), simplifying other whole food kitchen routines (making fermented carrots, sauerkraut and kombucha is becoming second nature), and learning to sometimes laugh at the mess and have a cup of coffee instead! I hope you find comfort and support here. With love, Jo

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  18. Amy, give it some time and it will get easier, just stick with it and take one day at the time. Everyone works differently and some methods works for one person but not other. You need to find your own way of dealing with your work, and it's a process, you will probably go thru many plans and ways before you find something that will stick with you. I personally make a list of next day tasks that needs to be done every evening in a notebook and the next day I know exactly what I need to do. I also make a month list and every time I do something I cross it of, that feels really good, and if something doesn't get done I just move it to the next day or month and that's OK because when you have kids plans don't always go your way.

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  19. Hi Rhonda. I have lived a lifestyle where domestic help has always been available. Where doing domestic work was considered silly if you could have it done by someone else. Rather use your time on your interests, earning money, etc. But I always felt that something was missing. After reading your blog I started doing a lot of things for myself and discovered that I really do enjoy what I call ' pottering',
    working in a randomly productive way. Doing what I can. Taking care of my husband, and adult daughter. We simplified our lives drastically and I've learnt to let go of perfectionism. I still have help for about 5 hrs a week as I work online from home. Even though my peers think I'm crazy, I'm happier than I've ever been. Doing the best I can with what I've got has been the greatest fun for me. Kind regards Rhonda.

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  20. Oh Rhonda - if only I had read this post 6 years ago I would have saved myself so much angst! You have done and are doing such a wonderful community service by teaching others the common sense society seems to want to hide. Best wishes, Ayesha

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  21. I rarely go away for a brief visit to friends but this year I came home from a short trip and was overwhelmed by the order and peace and beauty of my own house. My husband had put flowers in some rooms and I thanked him profusely for all the housework he appeared to have been doing. "This is how your home always looks" he said. I realised he was right sometimes when working at home I don't always see the big picture. I don't see the glass when cleaning the window or the carpet when cleaning the crumbs. I recommend making time to enjoy your achievement as an incentive to work.

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  22. I really loved your answer Rhonda. It contains for me everything I have learn from you the last years. And I deeply hope that it will help Amy as well.

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  23. Being a mother to 3 girls, 8 and under, working full time, everything is hard work! However, I've come to a point where I no longer dread doing everything that needs to be done.

    I'm striving for the simple life but my simple life right now looks a lot different to how it will in 15 years when all my girls finish school.

    One thing I really had to look at was TIME, how much time I realistically have to do everything. I create a list and prioritise. Washing and home cooked meals are the most important to me.

    Home cooked meals is probably the most important thing to me because I really value the health of my family and food is major contributor. Because this is something I value, it's easier for me to put aside 3-4 hours of my weekend pre chopping vegetables and cooking meals so that after work minimal work has to be done. Quite frankly, there's not enough time after work, and I can't be bothered! Having said this, I don't LOVE doing it but I don't hate it either. What I do LOVE is having those meals ready when I come home from work ��

    I would have a think about what your values are and work from there. Work is much more enjoyable when it's in line with your values,

    Jade

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  24. Thank you, Rhonda, for your honest, straightforward answer. So, so true! I have learned to enjoy housework and keeping things organized but it certainly took time to get here. These days I find that the biggest obstacle is all the distractions we have now. Our phones, social media, etc. Right now I have a million things to do, and here I am surfing blogs. It takes discipline for sure!

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