Sunday, January 24, 2010


We had company Saturday and Sunday this weekend so did a lot of housework. We have a standing joke when the debris gets too deep that it's time to have company so we will be motivated to do for others what we are not quite willing to do just for ourselves.

I have been party to several discussions on housework recently; with my kids who are navigating life with new housemates, with newly weds, with old timers set in their ways. To clean or not to clean. Making peace with this task seems a significant hurdle in living with others.

Those who like a tidy organized home have the higher ground here for we've been taught that cleanliness is close to godliness. And most people probably prefer a tidy environment; they just doubt the return on effort or think someone else should do it.

If you think one's environment has some influence on one's psyche it's hard to argue that some level of organization and cleanliness isn't good for you. A filthy unkempt space is lousy Feng Shui and causes some unease even if subconsciously. Most of us are just trying to get a grip. Chaotic mess doesn't help. A tidy room promotes clearer thinking, better focus, a sense of calm and control.

But in this corner, wearing the black trunks, is the argument that housework is a waste of precious time. It's just going to get dirty again. Every moment you are cleaning your house you are not practicing the cello, reading a good book, helping your community, making friends. An endless list of things that's easy to argue are more meaningful. For those house cleaners who feel holier than thou, you are moving dirt from one place to another. This is a higher calling?

Do you think this will be on the big quiz at the holy gates?

Choose the phrase that best describes your housekeeping philosophy:
  • I love wall to wall white carpet
  • you can't come in with shoes on
  • a place for everything and everything in its place
  • Huh? What's the question?
  • I have to move every few years
  • I try to keep at least a narrow path through most rooms

If it is I bet the only answer that matters is whether you're telling the truth.

Then there is housework's lowly status. It's considered menial work. Because it does not engage intellectually most find it uninteresting, boring, drudgery; an unpleasant chore. It does not need to be so. Like any physical activity it can be done well with attention, speed, accuracy and grace. I don't know this from experience, I'm just saying. It might be worth reconsidering one's view. Doesn't it feel good to put your hands in warm soapy water? If you were bed ridden vacuuming stairs might actually look like fun.

So where are Margy and I in this piece of the marital dance. On the same page, thankfully, which is really all that matters. Pretty laissez faire. A neat freak would run screaming from our place. Long ago I coined the acronym FSS, flat surface syndrome. If it's flat it's covered with stuff. We can go to sleep with dishes in the sink and to work with the bed unmade. We like it neat but there are better things to do. We each get infrequent organizational attacks (at differing times of course) when we "just can't stand it any more" but don't insist the other participate. Instead, "I made a pile for you when you get the chance". The living room stays reasonable.  We clean for guests so that they are comfortable and probably in fear of what they would think of us otherwise.

It's not the right way to deal with this. It's just the way we do.


rtuts said...

boy, does simon look ponchy in that picture!! And something feels familiar from that middle paragraph...Bruce Cockburn influence?

rtuts said...


CathyH said...

I love this line: "Like any physical activity it can be done well with attention, speed, accuracy and grace. I don't know this from experience, I'm just saying."