How to Learn to Enjoy the Process + Find Value in Work

Inside: A look a our modern desire to hurry up and get it over with cost us. And the value of returning to “the hard way”….just because.

When we lived in the old house on this property, we had a dishwasher. That is, until a rodent chewed through some kind of water tube or wire, and then…. we just had a built-in dish drying rack.

And suddenly, something that was so easy became a big production. I agonized over whether every spoon was worth the use since I would have to hand wash it. I bought paper plates for the kids. I considered styrofoam coffee cups, but instead just rinsed out my coffee mug and ate my cereal out of it to avoid doing another dish.

But little by little, I realized I did not hate hand-washing dishes as much as I thought I did. I enjoyed the smell of the dish soap, the feel of the hot water. I enjoyed getting out a clean towel to dry them, and then putting them away, instead of having them waiting in the dishwasher to be unloaded. They seemed cleaner and shinier. There was a sense of satisfaction when the sink was emptied, and then the sink got cleaned and dried. And it is hard to hate a task that you do every day.

I had learned to enjoy the process.

broom on cabin porch in fall.

Do our modern appliances and gadgets really help us?

There are a lot of things in life, especially in the domestic sphere, that are made out to be terrible chores. Such terrible chores, in fact, that either someone is hired to do them or a machine is purchased to do them. Sweeping and shaking out rugs has become vacuuming, and then creepy robot vacuums or cleaning ladies.

And even though the invention of vacuums was supposed to help homemakers, cleaning times actually increased.  People installed wall-to-wall carpeting, and they had no choice but to vacuum them. Standards of cleanliness increased, and people expected spotless floors. The vacuum did not make women’s lives easier at all.

To be honest, I vacuum my floors. I never sweep anymore. I have never shaken out an area rug in my life. But I wonder…was it maybe not so terrible a job? Maybe it was something fun to do on a sunny day and made the kids laugh. Perhaps after you were done, you rearranged the furniture a bit and felt good about yourself? Maybe not. I don’t know.

More traditional methods of doing things were definitely more work

Consider something like heating your home. Most people today use electricity, oil, or gas. We heat almost exclusively with wood, and sometimes it feels like it consumes our life. For example, this weekend we are going to visit my parents and will be returning with a huge trailer full of oak from a tree they just had taken down.

winter scene in country.

We are always on the hunt for more, even though we have plenty of trees. You can’t just keep cutting them down forever. Then it will need to be split and dried. Then stacked. Then as winter approaches, some will need to be re-split into small kindling pieces. We will start hoarding newspaper. We gather sticks all year long and put them in the old house to dry. And for all this work, we have not started a single fire yet. Or cleaned one out.

And yet that work could be its own reward.

But if I could somehow magically heat my home to 75 degrees all winter for free, I would not. I don’t just enjoy the heat and the ambiance. I enjoy waking up on a dark and chilly morning, setting the logs just right in the back, watching the kindling catch and adding wood bit by bit. I enjoy polishing the glass after scooping out cold ashes, and then restarting an afternoon fire after the sun has weakened. It’s not just the beauty of the fire itself, it’s also the work that is enjoyable. Even the splitting can be fun in its own way. My husband does it with a friend, and they spend a few days in the spring splitting and stacking wood for that winter, going to each other’s houses to help each other. 

Does this mean all work at home is fun?

Of course not. But instead of rushing through it, maximizing efficiency, just to move on to the next thing…why not enjoy the process?

Our society loves to push the idea that paid work is the most valuable. Making money is supposed to be rewarding, never mind the actual work that you are doing.

woodstove glowing in cozy kitchen.

Then there are hobbies, which generally cost money rather than being productive but are done for sheer enjoyment. Society seems to be okay with these as well.

But being at home, tidying up the house, making dinner, polishing furniture… well, no one seems to see much value in that. Aren’t there machines to do all that for you? Shouldn’t you be heating up a frozen meal and turning on your robot vacuum so you can go make some money or do something fun?

No. Start to see your necessary tasks as things can be done well, with love, and see how they can bring joy to your life. Don’t listen to the world that tells you that domestic tasks are one thing and having fun is another. The work is part of the reward.

So let your small tasks be enjoyable instead of dreading them or rushing them.

For example, why get a gift already wrapped when you could choose the right paper and ribbon, wrap it neatly, and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done? Why turn on the air conditioning constantly when you could savor the routine of opening the windows at night, closing them when the day heats up, drawing the curtains against the sun, and reopening after a thunderstorm has cooled things off? Enjoy a sunny morning hanging up your laundry, the feel of bread dough being shaped in your hands, the perfect and shiny surface of your cast iron once it is scrubbed and seasoned.

If you are a homemaker, things like this make up a large portion of your life. Don’t hurry it away, and fail to see how enjoyable things like this can be.

Enjoy the process.

Just now, I came back from getting my mail down the long gravel road.

My neighbor was across the street, sweeping his driveway. I gave him the silent neighbor wave while thinking to myself this guy is a nut. Isn’t it going to rain soon? Why does it matter if there are bits of leaves visible to the neighbors on your driveway? Couldn’t he have used a leaf blower?

He didn’t return my wave. He was under the shade of a tree, admiring his handiwork.

I get it, my friend. You weren’t sweeping that driveway for me. Just enjoying the process.

open windows in bedroom  on sunny day.
How to Learn to Enjoy the Process + Find Value in Work

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  1. Hi Katie,
    Funny that most you mentioned in this article , we all ready do.
    I make our bread, we cut fire wood for our 2 fireplaces, we have goats, chickens, and we make our own cheese, yogurt, and special coffee with our goat milk. So, I am always doing something. We hardly ever go out to eat therefore I am always cooking.
    I also sew making quilts and Christmas gifts. Canning our garden produce, but the garden was not good this year.
    Now I have started making goat milk soap.
    Not understanding all there is in how to proportion each ingredients for a recipe. So using your recipes for now.
    Love your videos and website, and love your emails as I don’t get out much. We live in the country on 12 acres with a 2 acre pond so we are pretty self-sufficient.
    I just get tired of cleaning up after my husband. He is worse then a little kid.
    Thats never going to change and can’t see me ever enjoying that, lol.
    Have a wondrrful day and God Bless ????

  2. Your post was much needed and well timed! I came a crossed it after spending much longer than I planned researching *insert my favorite robot vacuum*. I actually laughed out loud when I read the bit about robot vacuums (feeling guilty there). I find myself listening to the world all too often as they belittle the value of enjoying the process. Thanks for the words of wisdom and strength.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It was a much needed thought process during our unprecedented times currently. You truly sound like a very kind and caring person. Desperately needed in these times. I appreciate you very much. Thanks again

  4. This was so helpful! As a stay-at-home mom of kids who are now in their teens I have been struggling so much with what comes next. But the truth is I love looking after my home and family and only want to dig deeper into that life and away from the rat race. I just can’t see how making money to spend money is the way to fulfillment; but the pressure to toe the line is deep. Thank you to you and those who posted before me, it is lovely to not feel alone!

    1. karen! I hope you never feel alone! don’t give in to the rat race and just keep on doing what you’re doing, looking after your home and your people. I’ll be thinking of you.

  5. Hi my name is Bernadine Chipps. I live in Groblersdal, Limpopo province in South Africa.

    I live in a openplan cabin at the moment. It’s Winter here by us. I love cleaning, and I love the smell of soap. I do everything by hand. And even if someone gave me a dishwasher, I wouldn’t know how to use it. There is definitely satisfactory in doing things manually. It definitely takes your kind of things bugging you.???????? I enjoyed reading your post. Keep up the good work!

    Lots of blessings

    Bernadine Chipps

  6. Hi from the North West of England and thank you for sharing! I have increasingly been returning to a more simple life, growing veggies, making bread etc. The environmental issues & Civid19 has led to many here investing time in simple projects on our homes and I hope we all keep habits we have been building..

  7. Sheltering at home during this pandemic I have found simple joy in a clean home and meals planned and executed using the ingredients I have on hand. There has been so little waste of anything. We have spent very little money, and we have not felt as though we are missing out on anything. My husband and I have completed many needed tasks around our home of 23 years. I homeschool my five year old grandson while his mother, an attorney, works from home. During our free time we have done things we enjoyed as children. Picnics, making a cane fishing pole of bamboo, and even making a bamboo hut. Our grandson caught so many fish. He admired the beauty of each one and gently returned it to the pond. Simple joys.

  8. A very refreshing and much needed perspective! Thank you for having the courage in this day and age when domestic life is not valued to encourage others!
    Blessings to you,

  9. I enjoyed your post and you have some good points! I enjoy many of my homemaking chores for the satisfaction of making and keeping a home for my loved ones to return to. I appreciate some of my appliances, but choose to do other things by hand. Sometimes we get benefits such as exercise and fresh air. I enjoyed sweeping my large back porch today even though I live in the country and no one will see it. It just looks better.

  10. I read this article last night before promptly signing up for the five-day email course you offer. How great it was day #1. What a great read.

    I had been thinking this morning while I drank my coffee and watched our dog have his morning yard investigation about this post. About enjoying the process. And it dawned on me. Your thoughts towards your neighbor are the very same thoughts I have had to my own work.

    Recently I’ve been dying to rake our backyard. Why though? No one is going to see it except us, the leaves are going to continue to fall from our grand oak tree, and I will just have to do it again and again for the rest of the fall and winter.

    I’ve actually been keeping myself back from enjoying the process by rationalizing why I shouldn’t even start(!) the process! What an idea. And while the inside of my home needs a lot of things to be done and the outside is very wet from a large storm we had last night, the next time I have a hankering for raking my backyard, I’m going to do it. I’m going to enjoy that process.

    Thank you so much for this article!! I’m looking forward to what you share with me “tomorrow” during the course!

    1. Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for this! I hope you continue to enjoy the little things, and go ahead and rake those leaves.
      🙂 -Katie

  11. Thank you so much for this perspective. I realised yesterday that I have spent my whole adult life working for money and wishing I could do something I loved. Now thanks to God’s plentiful provision I can work for the sheer love of it for the best boss I can imagine.

    1. Yes, its such a blessing to be home when you want to be, and yet so easy to not enjoy it! Thank you for the comment, Rachel. ??

  12. Katie,

    I have often wondered what things would be like if we all lived a little more simplistically, less rushed. But as a homemaker myself, I most definitely find myself enjoying the process the older I get. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You’re so right, this is definitely something I feel more connected to as I get older. I would never have gotten it ten years ago.

  13. Such a wise and great perspective. It has taken me 30 years of marriage to learn to truly love doing the dishes and other home chores. When our dishwasher wasnt really working well and the dishes were either dirty coming our or always in there washing I got fed up and we quit using it about 4 years ago. Since then I have come to love washing dishes. By handwashing them immediately upon use the kitchen is always tidy. Well, sort of. As tidy as can be with 9 people living here and constant food prep going on. Ha!! Anyway, I loved this post and this reminder to savor the work. Laundry is another favorite of mine. Blessings on your home today!

    1. Thank you so much Julie. So many revelations when dishwashers go awry! I am not sure I could handle 9 people’s dishes, though! ??

  14. Just like you said about the guy sweeping his driveway at the end of your post, I started reading this thinking “ what a nut,”BUT as I carried on and humoured you- everything I was reading began to make sense! Just the perspective this momma needed! Thank you!

    1. Haha yes! Sometimes I read this post back to myself and think “ew.” But I still think that there is joy in all our work 🙂

  15. Thank you for writing this. I lost my full-time job this week and am struggling through what to do next. Was feeling like my housekeeping wasn’t really very meaningful and I was wasting time. But this was a sweet reminder that every little thing has value in doing it with Joy. Thanks!

    1. Sarah,
      I am so sorry to hear about your job. I hope you always value your role at home! Good luck with whatever your next step is, and if you find yourself at home full time for awhile I hope you enjoy it.

  16. I love every word. It’s so true… once I quit dreading the tasks, I began enjoying them. Enjoying the simple rhythms of everyday life. Like straightening the shoes by the door. It was such a frustration and annoyance to me at first. I wanted a bigger house, or at least a bigger entry! Then one day I decided to just set my mind to enjoying it — carefully straightening each child’s shoes. (Training them to be tidy too)
    And now I truly enjoy the few seconds it takes.

    1. Thank you Kay, and such a good point about training the children not just with our actions but with our attitudes.

    1. Thank you Cris, yes I totally agree that the more we dread it the less we do and it’s a negative cycle. Thanks for stopping by ??