A clean house is a sign of a wasted life. It’s also the sign of a sick mind, a broken computer, a broken sewing machine, no Internet, a boring life, a dull life, and a dull woman. I love Pinterest; whenever I want to talk about a pre-feminist, belligerent, misguided, dumb meme, I can always find plenty of examples. Basically, if you clean your house at all, nobody is allowed to be friends with you. It’s like the episode of The Twilight Zone when everyone shuns the man except the blind guy at the soup kitchen, and even he is informed that he needs to sit at a different table. NO CLEANING, EVER!
You know what I think is the sign of a wasted life? Talking about things you don’t like. If you don’t want to clean your house, just don’t clean it. Don’t put up signs or fridge magnets or throw pillows or coffee mugs making statements about it. Just do all those fascinating things you’re doing that are the opposite of wasting your life.
What is wasting your life? Resentment. Regret. Envy. Distraction. Procrastination. Settling for less. Negativity and pessimism. Snarky gossip. Dissatisfaction. Missed opportunities to make real emotional connections with friends and loved ones. Letting years go by without pursuing your dreams.
What else is wasting your life? Looking for things you can’t find, like a missing shoe, or the outfit you really wanted to wear that is marinating in the laundry hamper. Wasting money on fees and fines and late payments or items that never got returned as planned. Buying things that never get used, because money is really life energy and you worked hard to earn it.
Wasting your life is constantly complaining.
Wasting your life is living among dirty dishes and dirty laundry and garbage every day.
Wasting your life is always having dirty floors and dirty counters and moldy tubs.
Wasting your life is being surrounded by clutter at all times.
Wasting your life is fighting with other people about housework. Ever.
Wasting your life is buying into the story that society demands that only women do housework, and that a smart way to rebel is to live in mild squalor.
Apparently, I’ve wasted my life, because I like to live in a clean house. I’ve wasted my life getting married to my best friend. I’ve wasted my life going into business for myself. I’ve wasted my life traveling on four continents and counting. I’ve wasted my life learning to read music and play two instruments. I’ve wasted my life writing a novel, writing and producing amateur plays and a musical, and learning to draw cartoons. I’ve wasted my life studying foreign languages and learning to write in six different writing systems, seven if you count the International Phonetic Alphabet. I’ve wasted my life learning ballroom dance. I’ve wasted my life taking showers with my parrot. I’ve wasted my life riding a mechanical bull. I’ve wasted my life on all those overnight backpacking trips. I’ve wasted my life marching in eight parades. I’ve wasted my life learning to spin two hula hoops at the same time. I’ve wasted my life running a marathon. I’ve definitely wasted my life translating We are the Champions into Latin and singing it while a crowd of people held up their lighters.
Thank goodness I’m an organ donor, because otherwise my life would have no point at all.
The reason I write about housework is because I think people have gotten wound around the axle unnecessarily. Life is easier in a clean house. It is a one-time deal to get uncluttered and implement a housekeeping system. I don’t think it’s a woman’s job, unless she lives alone, in which case it would also be her job to decide whether to do it herself or contract it out. These rancid anti-housework memes just perpetuate the outdated, hateful stereotype that scutwork is women’s work. Negotiate with the people who share your home, get some robots, or figure out a way to streamline it and make it easier. Throw out your dishes and use paper plates. Rip out the carpets. Move to a smaller place, such as a treehouse. Earn more money and hire a cleaning service. Managing a home is certainly no more complicated than managing a business, which many of us do. In fact, I think it’s a great practice run for entrepreneurship. Test out various schedules and incentive systems and see what has staying power. Practice your negotiation, communication, and managerial skills. Delegate.
I advocate for cleaning the house because it enables a fascinating life. It cuts away distractions, like finding mysterious stains on things you wanted to wear, or being constantly unprepared, distracted, and late. Opportunities are missed. Irritations build. Marriages slowly, gradually disintegrate. A clean house may not guarantee a happy life, but a dirty house prevents one. How can anyone be completely fulfilled, satisfied, passionately engaged in life, and living a dream while surrounded by grime and postponed tasks? How can anyone have a happy marriage in the midst of unresolved quarrels or power struggles? Does anyone really think that a grubby house is an absolute requirement of good parenting? Who is teaching the kids the basic administrative tasks of life?
Yeah, I clean my house. I cleaned it when I worked full-time and when I was unemployed. I cleaned it when I was chronically ill and I cleaned it on rest days when I was training for my marathon. I cleaned it when I was a nanny of preschoolers and I cleaned it when I had teenagers in the house. It’s not that big a deal. I do a little when I’m on the phone; I do a little when stuff is in the microwave; I do a little while listening to a podcast or audio book. I do a little during cooldown after my workouts. I do my share and my husband does his. Most of it we delegate to labor-saving appliances, the price of which is amortized by not having pay cable. Almost all individual housekeeping tasks take 5-10 minutes. I’ve read anti-housekeeping threads on social networking that obviously took more time than that.
Housework is exactly like physical fitness, nutritious food, and following a budget. They are necessary parts of life. Respecting their necessity is the only way to get the best possible results. Paying attention to these areas on a daily basis leads to significantly less effort than ignoring them until they get out of hand. I’m busily wasting my life being healthy and fit and debt-free in my nice clean house, because maintaining these states is like coasting downhill on a bike. You only have to pedal a little every now and then to keep going. My goal is mental clarity and as much free time as possible. Keeping a clean house makes it easier to get my real work done, find things when I need them, and focus on the most important relationships in my life.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.