Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why I Like Housework

I like housework. I probably don't do it as often as I should and certainly not as often as my mom would like. It's not that I take any particular pride in having an immaculately spotless home or I am hyper-allergic to dust or cat hair. I have always considered dust to be a natural protective covering. No, I do it for purely selfish reasons. Housework is a spiritual journey for me--an exercise in humility and gratitude.

While washing up after company leaves I look at every plate, utensil, and cup as a representation of people who like me and enjoy my company enough to take time out of their hectic schedules.

Whenever I dust I think how fortunate I am to have so many beautiful things to move. Some are heirlooms and some are souvenirs. They remind me of where I come from, where I've been, and who I met along the way.

When I go from room to room with the vacuum cleaner over those beautiful, old hard wood floors and carpets, I think how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head and walls to keep out the cold. There are multitudes who don't. And more will lose what they have.

When I feed the washer and dryer with load after load of winter woolies and flannel, linens and towels, I think about the folks who are chilled to the bone in threadbare clothing. They don't have a bed let alone linens.

When I reorganize the pantry after grocery shopping I think how lucky I am that I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. A lot of folks can't remember when they ate last.

When I'm outside in the bracing Maine air picking up branches that have snapped in the latest wind storm I think about the folks who'll be sleeping tonight in far colder air than this and wishing they had these bits of wood to burn.

Housework for me is an inventory of everything I have to be thankful for. I am a chronic pack-rat. I often find it necessary to rein myself in and survey the accumulation with a subjective eye. Then I get out the boxes and start a clean-sweep from one end of the house to the other, upstairs and down. Drawers, closets,--no cubbyhole is exempted. That includes the cream corn and cream-of-whatever soups from the pantry as well. It all goes where it will gain new life and meaning in someone else's inventory of gratitude. I purge the house of all that doesn't need to be here or isn't part of what makes this 'home' for me. In the process I purge my heart of ambivalence. The house gets roomier and my soul becomes fuller. It is an alchemy that is its' own reward.

You don't have to 'give til it hurts'--just til it makes a difference. It doesn't take much.


  1. This is sublime and inspiring.

    And now for the practical aspect.
    I want you to come to my house to clean.
    As you move all the objects to dust, I will describe to you their sentimental value and their provenance. I will share with you the history of the people who've eaten from the plates and at the table. I will detail the dishes Husband and I have made with the various items in the pantry. I will direct you to which items may be passed along for others' benefit.

    You'll have a ball...
    ...and I'll get a tidy, organized home.
    Howzabouttit, Cupcake?

  2. I would be honoured. Can we take breaks beside that fabulous soapstone wood stove and sip Eight O'Clock Coffee? Tell me when and how to get there and I'll pick up the donuts.

    Is it a deal, Snickerdoodle?

    Oh, and thank you for the compliment. It means a lot coming from you.

  3. If you need references, just ask Lady Hawthorne at Canterbury Cottage. I think she'll vouch for my capabilities. LOL. :-)

  4. Boy, did I ever need all the kind words you're giving me today!
    A heartfelt thank you.

  5. Well, here's more---you are a remarkably insightful lady and deserve every kind word that comes your way. I have spoken. Let it be done.