The Minor WHYs

We tend to romanticize this idea of finding our WHY as it relates to our professions or our careers. If we really dig into our why of what we are doing with our lives, we can find our calling. It will help us find our purpose. And I am not here to dispute or undervalue this.

However…I do think that over the last several years? It’s the little WHYs that are more important and informative in my life.

I’m going to use a very specific example of a very minor WHY in MY life and MY answers but this can be extracted in different WHYs in different lives. If your answers don’t match mine then don’t put much weight in this specific example, just come for the idea of digging into the minor WHYs – don’t get hung up on the specific ones I choose.

I woke up this morning and grumbled to myself about not wanting to clean my floors and wanting to read instead. Why did I feel like I needed to clean the floors first thing instead of read? “Because it’s a new habit I’m working on.” But…why was this a new habit? “Because it turns out it doesn’t take long and my floors get dirty so I should do it more often to stay ahead of the filth.” But…why is it so important to “stay ahead of the filth?”

Um…I don’t know.

It’s when we get to the “I don’t know” part of the WHYs that we really start to find some uncomfortable truths.

Now…sometimes the answer to this type of minor WHY is, “Cleaning to floor calms my brain and allows me to not be distracted all day by the messy floor.” And that is a very solid explanation that relies heavily on care and understanding of self. But for me? NOT AT ALL THE CASE. I have gone a whole month without cleaning one floor and no part of me or my family suffered from it. So…let’s get back to my, “I don’t know.”

For me…these type of “I don’t know” responses tend to fall into one of two root causes. That I’m either performing some task that society has made me feel like I am supposed to perform – in which case that is bullshit and not at all a good WHY and I need to subvert that shit. If I honestly don’t have any connection to that task or any way in which it improves my life, then screw society’s expectations of me and give me my book.

The other root cause I can sometimes stumble upon is that I assume things about other people’s expectations. Like, “My Aunt is coming over and she’ll judge my dirty floors,” or “‘My husband likes clean floors,” or “My book club is happening so of course I need to clean my floors.”

Now, obviously during the pandemic these outside-influences are not as frequent in my WHYs but I joyfully accepted a truth in the last few years as I’ve been doing some of this digging. I DO NOT LOSE SLEEP OVER THE THOUGHTS OF PEOPLE WHO WOULD JUDGE MY [insert domestic slight here]. Even if that person is my husband. There is no rule that says he can’t clean the floors if he likes clean floors.

(Sidenote: When he does clean the floors I get really offended but that is another deep dive into Kim’s brain for another day.)

I think of all of the houses I love visiting of my friends or family and there is absolutely no part of me who gives a shit about the cleanliness of the house. Obviously, extreme filth aside…but I am not the kind of person who gets icked out seeing dust. (And honestly? I’ve had some friends and family with some serious mental health issues manifesting in bad living situations and so I have a very high tolerance even for extreme filth.) I LOVE SEEING DUST! Because then I know you’re my person. So why do I care so much about other’s views of my home? I DO NOT! It turns out! So I’ve become way less preoccupied with scheduled cleaning tasks. I wait until something looks like it needs cleaning in a way that affects me personally and then I do it. Never before. If anyone in my house has a lower tolerance? They can do it while I finish my book.

So when I’m digging into my WHYs of my mundane life tasks and I end up at societal or social explanations, I ditch that thing to the curb. Over the last few years these are some of the things I’ve done to wrap myself in self-love and care.

Photo of silver painted finger nails
  • I am too tired to put on real clothes to go to the store so I’m wearing my pajamas and I challenge anyone I encounter to care.
  • I just don’t like putting on makeup outside of a few minor pieces every once in awhile so I’m not going to feel pressure to do so unless I’m feeling personally inspired.
  • However, I do love seeing shimmering nail polish on my fingers and so I’m going to wear the shit out that stuff because it brings me joy and makes me smile. (While wearing my pajamas at Target.)
  • I’m not going to stress out about the dust on the walls in my bathroom. No one in my life is negatively impacted by that and at any given moment I’d rather be reading or painting my nails.
  • I’m not going to worry about my kid’s health because I hate cooking. I give them meal options every night that might all come from a can or the freezer but THAT IS PLENTY. I don’t have to cook some sort of from-scratch meal to be worthy as a Mom or as a Woman.

I just really think that digging into the minor WHYs in my life have given me a lot more freedoms and helped me treat myself with love and kindness in much more impactful ways than any sort of inquiries into the WHYs of my PURPOSE or PROFESSION.

7 thoughts on “The Minor WHYs”

  1. Yes. YES. The pandemic has helped me with this since I’ve come to really understand how important it is to the functioning of me and my family to prioritize myself. So I ask those why’s and leave the dishes until the morning. Let the kids “mop” the kitchen. And do their laundry. So much ingrained suffering heaped on women.

  2. Brilliant Kim. I struggle with my own weird “whys” about a clean home. The older I get, especially during this strange solitary year…. the mental weight of mess gets heavier. For me…The more joy and human connection, the less the mess weighs. Thank you for this moment of reflection.

  3. How do you nails always look so good?? The day after I paint mine, the polish is already peeling off!

  4. FINALLY. ANOTHER PERSON WHO THINKS WEARING PAJAMAS TO THE STORE IS OKAY. I will boldly wear pajamas to target with you if you want to go shopping together some time.
    And also.

    Yes, yes, yes, yes to the “WHY’S” of purpose or profession. You don’t need to have a special purpose to have a life worth living. You could just enjoy your life and your relationships. I finally stopped hating myself for not having a career that I don’t want, and now my mental health is better. I’ve been told by a THERAPIST, “You’re too smart not to have a career….” or… “You have a responsibility to use your gifts….” Nope. I don’t. The military read my ASVAB scores and pressured me to enroll in their nuclear program. In fact, the recruiter said, “But why be a musician in the Navy when you could buy ten trumpets with the money you’ll make as a nuclear engineer.” ??? Because I DO NOT want to be a nuclear engineer.

    Kim, you are okay EXACTLY AS YOU ARE, CAREER OR NOT, DUSTY FLOORS OR NOT, PAJAMAS OR NOT.

  5. If having a dusty house makes me one of your people, well then, I AM ONE OF YOUR PEOPLE!

    I stay on top of the dishes and the laundry, because that’s what I care about. I try to keep things tidy, because my husband really values tidiness. But the dusting. I do not get to the dusting very often.

    I think you’re right and there’s a lot of life happiness to be gained by questioning the why behind the little things!

  6. Yes yes yes! I know I’m late commenting, but I have the same exact conversations with myself all the time (although we are opposites for cooking/cleaning—my floors are disgusting but I actually relax from food prep).
    One extra element in the WHY self-debate that was kind of important for me was realizing that there were a lot of moments that my real WHY wasn’t about someone else’s judgement but actually my own: the WHY was that I wanted to see myself (and be seen as) THE KIND OF PERSON THAT [has clean floors, bakes from scratch, has perfect hair, insert-other-domestic/hygienic-skill-here], even when I could I honestly say that I don’t care about that myself, or about any specific person’s judgment about it. And this helped me let go some frustration in either direction: sometimes this let me do the thing with less angst, other times it let me stop caring about the thing.

  7. Neither my husband or I mind cooking. Sometimes one cooks, sometimes both. We are just not in the kitchen at the same time. My kitchen is set up with decent size kitchen with a peninsula in that creates a galley cooking area. One thing we have found lately. Cook enough for a large family. Eat half and freeze the other half. This works super for soups and cassoroles. Then if neither one feels like cooking, regardless of what ias on the menu, we take something out of the freezer and defrost and cook Love my microwave and have that

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