Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The up-side to housework (and laundry, and cooking, and errands....)

Whenever Rick or I complains about work, the other one says “Yeah, that’s the down side of having a job. The work.”

I was thinking about that this past weekend as I tried not to feel overwhelmed with household tasks. I’d had an especially busy work week – normally I’m at home mornings and on site with a client in the afternoons, but for the past week I’d been working on a project that had me leaving the house first thing in the morning and gone for eight or ten hours every day – and had that busy-mom feeling of the house falling down around me.

But then I reminded myself: No, the house is not falling down around you. It could use some vacuuming. It could use some dusting. Emptying the wastebaskets wouldn’t be a bad idea, and everyone would benefit from a load or two of clean laundry. But the house isn’t falling down.

And that brought me back to thinking about what Rick and I say about work. The down side of having a house is the housework, but conversely, the up side of housework is that it means you have a house. I thought about various people we know in Colorado, none of whom have lost their own homes but several of whom have seen their neighbors lose theirs, and some of the people we know can’t access their homes reliably even if their houses are still standing, so they have to temporarily move out. If your house washed away in a flood, I reminded myself, you wouldn’t have housework. Better to have the house….and the housework.

And then the same message seemed so easy to extrapolate to other things. Yes, there’s cooking to do… because we have access to healthy appealing ingredients with which we can make all kinds of things. And yes, I have a long list of errands….but I wouldn’t have any errands if I had no money to spend on things we needed.

This wasn’t just trite Pollyanna-isms. Thinking about the Colorado flood victims reminded me of what it’s like every winter when at some point we lose power for a day or two, or more: how all I want to do once the electricity has been off for a couple of days is wash dishes, even though washing dishes is never a high priority when the house is running smoothly.

Just as Rick and I say with work, the down side of having a materially comfortable life is having to take care of all those material goods. It’s reassuring to have a home, and food, and cars, and clothes. Taking decent care of them doesn’t seem like such a chore when I hold on to the perspective that these material blessings require a certain amount of maintenance. Pollyanna-ish or not, in that light, a Saturday filled with housekeeping, cooking and errands feels more like a blessing than a hassle.

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