I’m not the world’s best housekeeper. As you can imagine, living in a small house makes it even more of a challenge. When you need to put things away, where do you put them exactly? Under the bed? Squeezed between some furniture? How about one of those nifty pretty storages boxes? Wait. Where will you put the pretty box holding your stuff?
It doesn’t help that my husband is as much of a slob as I am. He’d rather be reading than doing anything else, so he reads in his free time, rather than pick up his socks from the bathroom floor.
Would I rather be reading or cleaning? I’d rather be reading. Better yet, I’d rather be writing my novels. It’s much easier to live in my fantasy world than to open the door to either one of my daughter’s bedrooms and carry on as if the piles of clothes and books don’t really matter. It shouldn’t bother me, I tell myself, the rest of the house is pretty untidy, too. But at least I can walk across the floors in the rest of the house. (A good thing, don’t you think?) Not so in my daughters’ rooms.
Sometimes I do try to pick up and keep things clean—but I’m not sure anybody really notices what I do—unless I perform the task in front of them.
For example, the other day my husband was surprised that I laundered a load of towels. “Do you think the clean towels just fill the hallway closet on their own?” I asked. So I try to do my housework in front of everybody when I can, with as much moaning and sighing as I can muster. “Look at me, I’m folding the laundry!”
But seriously, this was not an issue in our lives until I decided to stay at home with our children and freelance. Before children, my husband and I lived in the D.C. area, and I worked outside of the house as an editor. We divided chores much more equitably—when we actually did the household chores. We didn’t keep up easily because we were too busy bookstore hopping, going to concerts and readings, and eating out to worry about a clean house. Ahhhh, those were the days.
It’s really been a struggle for me to justify not doing the housework every day when I’m home all day long. But it’s not as if I’m eating bon-bons and watching TV. I’m actually writing books. And blogs. And proposals. And so on.
But the sad truth is most people have some sort of lala-land image about what I do, as if writing isn’t working, as if writing is nothing but joy and happiness and money coming in by the droves. And yes, even my own husband of almost 23 years has a hard time with this concept. From his point of view, if I’m not making money, it’s not a job. He has a point.
I am making money with my writing, even though it’s not enough that if I were alone on this planet without a spouse, I could earn a living by penning my novels. No way. Maybe I could do it with freelancing, but then I’d have to give up writing books because freelancing deadlines are tighter and must be met if you want to keep working. The kind of a novel you could squeeze in between the deadlines of another kind of writing might not be a very good novel. Or even a very good idea of a novel. Novels take long tracks of uninterrupted time.
Okay. Seems I’ve gotten sidetracked, away from my original subject, which was housekeeping. You see how easy that is for me—to just forget about it?
Right this minute I’m thinking “Just step away from the keyboard and put a load of towels in the washer.” But the very next minute my thoughts progress to the next sentence on my computer screen and how I’m going to finish this blog post in time for my deadline. Next, of course, I think about my next book and that’s where my thoughts always lead me—which is a good thing because that due date is looming, too.
In the meantime, I’m not sure how important a clean house is to the happiness of my family. And thank goodness for that. I’d much rather spend quality time with them than nag at them to clean or to be cleaning the house myself. While trying to keep the house passable, at least, I try to keep the bigger picture in mind. In the words of the wise-cracking Phyllis Diller, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”