an insubordinate housekeeper

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

My husband Jason often tells me how happy he is that I don’t starch doilies. A strange comment, yes, but apparently his mother and grandmother spent a lot of time starching doilies when he was growing up, not to mention keeping an immaculate house, while complaining that they didn’t have enough time to do much else or stay active. It didn’t go over well when he pointed out that less starching could lead to more free time. By contrast, I was raised by a woman who rarely cleaned her house. This was embarrassing for me, a neat freak, but her philosophy was, “People come to see me, not my house.”

Coming from these two conflicting philosophies toward cleaning, I’m quite happy to say that Jason and I have found a happy medium for our household. It’s far from spotless, usually very messy, but never so far gone that it can’t be whipped into presentable shape within a half hour of frantic rushing around. I do insist on doing the dishes after each meal — a necessity in our small kitchen — but I no longer care about the toy explosions all over the place. The floors get washed when they’re dirty. The shower gets scrubbed when it starts to feel icky. The toilet gets washed when it smells. OK, maybe that sounds gross, but my point is that I’m not a superfluous or preemptive cleaner. I do jobs when they need to be done because, if I did any more cleaning than this, I’d have no time or energy left for writing, reading, or general creativity.

That’s why I was intrigued by this article that I first saw on Obscure CanLit Mama‘s blog: “Creative People Say No.” In it, the author suggests that the key to having creative success, both mentally and tangibly, is knowing how and when to say no. He quotes a management writer who says, “One of the secrets of productivity is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations.” While I’m not able or willing to remove myself from the entire world to become a reclusive hermit who churns out marvellously creative works of writing while refusing to engage with anyone, reading this article validates my decision to refuse to be enslaved to my house.

There are times when I feel guilty about the encrusted food at the bottom of the crisper, the mouldy shower curtain, the mountains of laundry that sit for so long that the creases become nearly permanent, and the snot-and-slobber-covered glass doors. But then I remind myself that I could have a spotless house whose shiny clean floors and gleaming mirrors are always and unforgivingly temporary, OR I could have my blog, an ongoing creation, a place to hone writing skills, a hopeful pitch for a future career. What you’re looking at right now is the result of my acceptance to live with chaos. That’s why you’ll never find a bottle of starch in my house because it represents time robbed from creating, and that’s unacceptable.


6 thoughts on “an insubordinate housekeeper

  1. My refrigerator sports a magnet that says, “a clean house is the sign of a wasted life”. I truly believe that, and my house does, too.

    1. Yes!!! I remember seeing that and thoroughly approving of it 🙂 Although, before having kids I really don’t think I understood the importance of saying no to endless cleaning. Now it’s much clearer.

  2. I have a cleaning schedule. It’s much less involved than it used to be, but I find doing a little of the regular cleaning every day keeps my house clean “enough”. Deep cleaning happens when it’s really necessary, but with a weekly schedule, I always feel like my house is clean, even if there are lots of random toys on the floor.

  3. My house sounds like yours. And you have an extra kid.

    I work out of the house and the very last thing I want to do when I come home is clean. I want to spend time with my husband and my son, and when they go to bed, with myself! I’d much rather be playing outside or painting or reading or blogging or drawing or emailing or writing letters or snacking. Any day.

    I do, however, get a fair amount of rage when I get home to a disaster area and the urge to have to clean and clean. This is why I’ve decided to start saving my pennies for a cleaning person. I am okay with that. It feels worth it to me. I think it might make me a bit more sane. I hope.

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