I sit and stare blankly ahead. I feel my stare drift into an empty space. Just me and my thoughts in this space. Not even my body is here. My body feels frozen and foreign. My thoughts are loud. Not “yelling” loud, they are just the only sound I hear. I desperately try to find solutions. Alternatives to my problems. Well, not really problems, just things I need to solve. Things I need to tackle. It’s like a puzzle. I love puzzles but I don’t love this one. I’m desperately trying to find a way out. That’s the solution. I need a way out of my problems. They’re not really problems, just stress. My mind is going through all the alternatives. None of them seem to be appropriate. They seem unlikely, improbable, extraneous. My mind is going through solutions. I am paralyzed. Well, not literally, just not taking actions to relieve the problem. This makes the stress grow. 

Ironic. The alternative I seem to pick is avoidance. I avoid dealing with the problem. Not really problems, just Overwhelms. Just things I have to do. Avoidance doesn’t fix them though. Avoidance just postpones them. So it’s not really a solution, it’s a strategy. A strategy that fails me. The stress is still there. It traps me. That’s it, I feel trapped. That sounds like a bit much. How else would you call not being able to find a way out of something? I want a way out of my stress. The thought of it stresses me out so I avoid thinking about it. I am pulled out of my head. Reality pulls me. The world pulls me. No alternative was found. Avoidance it is.   

Entrapment

Hanging by their tails. Sounds like a medieval torture device. This is the inescapable situation that scientists put mice in to provoke stress. Drowning in a cup of water. We tell ourselves that there is no reason to be overwhelmed by something so small, yet this is another way stress is induced in mice. A cup of water, another medieval torture device. Drowned by stress.

 

Male Hazel
iStock.com/Peter Llewellyn

       Drowning in a cup of water. Making a mountain out of a molehill. We say this to disregard our worries. We do it to ourselves and we do it to others. These small things shouldn’t worry us, shouldn’t overwhelm us, shouldn’t stress us but they do. Telling ourselves not to stress doesn’t work. Avoiding our Overwhelm doesn’t work. Sooner or later we have to deal with the situation. We either get out of the cup or we drown. Life shouldn’t have to be this battle between our responsibilities and our desires. That will be my mission: to make our responsibilities go hand in hand with our desires. Big words, responsibilities and desires. What do we have to do? And what would we rather do? The search is on. 

9 to 5 not quite. 8 to 6 is more like it. Commuting, dinner, cleaning, quick entertainment, rinse and repeat. The days are scheduled. Everything is so time consuming. I live for weekends. Finally I can do what I want. I sleep in. I binge on my favorite shows and movies. Anything so that I don’t have to think about what I have to do. I have to clean. I have to pay bills. I have to do groceries. I have to wash clothes. I have to prepare for the week ahead. The scheduled week with no free time. Every week I plan to make it better. Make it different. Make it meaningful but it always feels just productive. I live for the week. Not for me. Not for what I want. I want freedom. Freedom to do what I want. 

 

Overwhelm

We hate it as kids. It isn’t a surprise we still hate it as adults. Doing chores is dreaded by most adults. When I asked people what their most unpleasant tasks are, domestic chores dominated. Dishes, laundry, cleaning. Every now and then someone would say something work related like preparing a presentation or writing emails. Others would say things relating to social interactions like talking on the phone or going out. I took the majority win and tried my hypothesis on chores. If I were to understand what about the tasks made it unpleasant I could change it. I would have to produce feelings that counteract the existing feelings of unpleasantness. I could get these feelings from the exception, the people that do like doing those chores. In order to be clear I asked people what they considered chores. I started asking them about their favorite chores and their least favorite. I was also interested in their reasons why.

 

   Looking at all the things people mentioned as chores, I noticed that I could put domestic chores into two categories. More time consumption the longer you put them off and Same time consumption no matter when you do them. My main interest is in the former. This is the concern I wanted to tackle: time-consumption. This seems to be the main reason why people don’t like doing most chores.


      From my conversations, I could see that doing the dishes and laundry are the least liked by people from different generations and gender roles. There were still people who liked to do the dishes and their laundry. Their reasoning was because they found it relaxing. One person described getting lost in their thoughts when doing the dishes because it doesn’t require thinking. 


     At this point, I knew I had a good understanding of the chore most people don’t like, doing the dishes. I knew why they don’t like it as well as a reason why some do. Based on this I could try my first attempt on provoking an emotional experience through the task to make it feel worth the time and less daunting. 

Research on chores
Chores divided in two categories
Fountain Faucet Design Process
 

Fountain Faucet

Through designing positive responses to these chore-related objects, I hope to change our relationship with chores and improve our quality of life at the same time. I believe that by  integrating additional design elements that encourage closeness, such as an emotional attachment due to nostalgia or an emotional experience, I can improve our relationship with chores.


      Browsing the objects immediately available to people in store aisles and online catalogs, I could quickly notice the overall design approach. Objects relating to chores are typically designed to be functional and nothing else. Our association with chores is a “get the job done effectively and quickly” approach therefore the objects are designed with these needs in mind. What if we viewed chores differently? 


     By creating a visible water stream, my design, the Fountain Faucet, aims to produce a visual and auditory experience provoking a relaxing and tranquil environment that enables reflection and meditation thus creating a positive response, much like the reactions we have when surrounded by a river, a fountain or the rain. The limited features of the faucet allow the user to be more mindful during the process and therefore reducing stress levels. 
     

Fountain Faucet

      Seeing my idea physically made me reflect on the direction I was headed. I am definitely interested in redesigning task specific objects but it is not the issue that concerns me the most right now. The focus was never on the task, but on the feelings of Overwhelm. Of course, every task has its own set of objects and context so finding a solution that would fix the pleasantness of each task that would fit all of them is pretty close to impossible. Overwhelm on the other hand is a common feeling throughout despite being provoked by different things. I had gathered answers from my deep dive on chores and I would not discard them but it’s time to take another look at Overwhelm. 

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