We have a natural aversion to hard work. If we can get out of it we will. If we can pay someone else to do it for less than the cost of our time or resources, we open our wallet.
But sometimes hard work serves a higher purpose. We get more value from getting our hands dirty.
As a kid my dad did not believe in sleeping in on Saturdays. He’d knock on my bedroom door at 7:00 a.m. and proceed to brag about how he’d already worked out, mowed the lawn, fixed the bbq, built a deck and rearranged the furniture.
My reaction was typically something like, “Good for you. Why do you need me to wake up then?”
Actually, I never said those words out loud. Self-preservation was an incentive for silence.
Manual labor is a great motivator
Despite our best efforts to resist, our parents instilled a respect for hard work in us boys. Yard work, cleaning bathrooms, washing dishes, folding laundry, building houses. We did it all. And we got pretty good at it.
What I didn’t know at the time, and am beginning to understand, is that they were also teaching us how to be creative. Whether it was done intentionally or not.
After digging ditches for a summer I quickly got creative on how to solve my problem. Mainly, how to stop digging ditches.
Perspiration leads to inspiration
Some of the best ideas don’t happen when we sit down at our craft, but while we’re doing something else unrelated. We get hit with an idea vacuuming the living room, playing outside, or exercising. Physical activity stimulates the mind.
Ever heard the phrase “get the creative juices flowing”? That’s mostly literal because it refers to getting more blood pumping through your body, including your brain. There’s a reason why more successful leaders, authors, professionals are in good shape. They understand the value of movement in developing creative momentum.
Kids are naturally creative
Children are born with a box of crayons in hand. They sit down to color, paint, build LEGOs, and mold Play-dough into shapes on impulse. Kids are compelled to create. Occasionally, a true masterpiece emerges. Or at least a glimmer of one.
But sometimes even kids get stuck. They get frustrated with their creation and mash it to bits. Instead of encouraging children to push through these road blocks, sometimes separating them from the scenario is the best move.
And what better physical activity to invite inspiration than yard work or household chores?
Think of the benefits:
- You get a clean(er) house. Let’s face it. With even one kid the house is never completely “clean”. If you’ve got more than one kid your home is in a perpetual state of chaos. You just get better at hiding it under the couch. Especially when you have help.
- You don’t do all the work yourself. Keeping a home in some semblance of order is difficult. Throw in a few kids constantly making a mess, and the house quickly gets disheveled. Put the munchkins to work. Not only do you get some relief, you’re actually doing them a favor.
- Your kids learn basic life skills. I can’t tell you how many people in college didn’t know how to do their own laundry. At first I thought they were idiots. Then I felt bad for them. We fail our kids if they can’t accomplish simple tasks to maintain their habitat or take care of themselves.
- You spend time together. Life is busy and we get distracted by TV, football practice, ballet and other junk. Chores can provide an opportunity to do something together. Make it fun. Blast some music and sing while you do the dishes. Watch a favorite movie while you fold laundry. Make faces in the mirror and spray each other’s reflection with Windex.
I know at the outset the connection between chores and creativity was difficult to bridge. What we must realize is that our lives are not segmented.
We are not a collaboration of fragments, but rather a blending of colors. Much like a painting. The shades and textures and strokes combine to create a work of art.
Chores aren’t snazzy. Hard work isn’t slick. But if we hope to invite creativity into our homes, it’s time to break out the shovels and brooms.