I have written before about the lack of stable, effective routines for keeping domestic chores under control, so I won’t repeat all that and all the good old advice about why it matters to keep one’s home (and workspace) uncluttered.
But I can’t help but puzzle over the discrepancy between my reality and old sayings such as ‘This House Needs a Woman’s Touch!’ (hopefully not my touch, because that will mainly leave dirty finger prints!)
The battle is still on, and I am determined to win it. Today I rigourously washed several zones inside the house that have never been cleaned since we moved in: fridge, freezer, kitchen floors, bathroom floors… (I did more than that, that’s just a sample)
Now it is well across midnight and I need to wake up early, but sleeplessly hang on to the edge of the day because it largely vanished in Ajax, nitty-gritty dust removal operations and floor wash. I’m stretching the last remains of the day beyond its hours to accommodate my Internet addiction. That is how my husband labels my strong cravings for solo time on my computer to put words together and patrol the usual websites and social media platforms and stuff.
So I finally got it done! But was that ‘it’? Did I finish the task? Hard to say. For all the effort, little has changed. The house looks the same except for all the stuff drying on the kitchen counter, which looks like the fridge shelves are planning on moving house or something. Soon all the work will be undone again, as is the nature of housework. The overall amount of required housework is still like an ocean with endless horizons.
Women who know how to do housework relentlessly
I have encountered countless women who intuitively knew how to keep the housework side of life under control. Not just in cartoons and cultural stereotypes (although that’s probably where the majority are) but real, live women living non-fictional lives.
I recall the steady flow of busy steps and hand movements of aunties, grandmother, my mother and other ladies; getting things done all the time so chores didn’t pile up and become unmanageable. They always knew what to do; moved little things, opened and closed drawers and closets, swept tables, prepared things to do later, prepared food, asked people what they needed… if they needed more… and more, if they were SURE they didn’t need something that was not there. Packed food in and out of fridges, never stopped chatting, already planned the next step, and whenever there was a little break they’d spend it on people. Always with a split attention keeping an eye on things that ought to be done; spanning over large swarms of little duties and priorities.
So they know what to do, but how did they learn all that? Not just how to do the chores, but the timing. The roaming attention. The coordination. The social, cognitive and physical stamina. The ad-hoc mentality.
I suppose little girls learn the art form of useful restlessness (= ad hoc housework activities) from their mothers. Gradually it becomes a vast and effective subconscious reservoir of scripts for how to do and coordinate chores.
But where was I? I can’t recall doing household chores as a girl, neither paying attention to what my mother did. I could manage to put the clothes on that was put ready for me on the chair next to my bed, and eat the food that was placed in front of me, but didn’t reflect about how it got there or thought it was relevant to me.
Also: is it worth it? I don’t necessarily like women who are relentlessly whimsical and chatty and constantly stop what they are doing to interrupt others (to check if they need anything or start a new task to comply with the overall coordination). Who always feel they ought to add or move or correct little things in the surroundings, as if the world can’t stand without them. It can.
So, I guess the trick is to find ‘the Golden Mean‘. Systems and procedures that ensures that things get done, in ways and with a level of efficiency that frees up the time and energy for more interesting stuff.
To be continued!