Since my office is officially closed today, I had no excuse to avoid cleaning. Time to suck it up and confront the cluttered corners of my home. As I sorted clothes, I could feel my chest tightening. Why was I so stressed out by this simple task that everyone else manages to do so easily? In a way, that question kind of answers itself. I know that even if I could know what everyone else does, I can’t assume that what they do is right for me. This wisdom disappears when I start to clean. It’s as if Prymaat the Conehead and I are the only weirdos who hate housework. In spite of the my very public apathy for cleaning, especially laundry, I feel guilty about mess. In the cluttered corners of my mind, I still believe that I’m supposed to love neatness for its own sake. In reality, I only value neatness when I’m looking for my keys or a fresh, complete pair of socks.
The first idea that I need to throw out is that cleaning is easy and simple for everyone. Cleaning is not quantum physics, but it does require some skills that are not universally known. Some people are better at it than others. By the way, there’s an interesting contradiction between society’s expectations of cleanliness and the status of people who clean for a living. What’s up with that?
The next dirty notion is that I am cleaning “wrong.” No one is watching me clean (as far as I know), so I can dump the fear that my performance is being judged. I’m happy to learn ways to clean faster and better, but I’m not in a competition. I’m not going to get points for style. And as much as I’d like to be speedy, sometimes that’s not going to happen. Let Frederick Winslow Taylor spin in his grave, slowly.
Another junky notion that needs to go is the connection between cleanliness and womanliness. There is nothing inherently female about cleaning. Some of the tidiest people I know are very manly men. Yet the link between womanliness and washing remains powerful, as if we must compensate for being “unclean.” In a 6th grade health lesson, we girls were shown a pamphlet that said, “Dainty is as dainty does!” Even back then, our teacher said this material was dated. Next time I’m chatting with a group of women who appear to be bonding by wondering what they will ever do with their sloppy guys, I will just tune out. Sorry, but your pamphlets are dated.
Perhaps the foulest belief that I have about cleaning is that I should feel intrinsically motivated to do it. Instead berating myself for not cleaning happily like a cartoon princess or efficiently spit-spotting my way though chores, I would be better off treating myself for getting through the drudgery. And no, a sparkling sink is not its own reward. Being able to pour myself a glass of water without digging through a stack of dirty dishes is what it’s all about.
So hooray for me for cleaning today. An orderly home makes life easier and gives me more time to do things I love. I may hate housework, but I like knowing where my socks are.