Housework Blues – a survival guide

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t like housework. If you’ve read my fantastic housework tips you’ll probably have cottoned on to the fact that I am not a clean freak.

It’s really not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I find it boring and ultimately pointless. I don’t mind a bit of light tidying now and again, the kind where you can throw away satisfying piles of paper and arrange things in height or colour order, but actual cleaning, it’s just so relentless. As the fabulous Joan Rivers once said, “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”

So when Danielle Raine offered me a copy of her new book, Housework Blues, I was intrigued. The book describes itself as less of a ‘how to’, and more of a ‘why bother’, a guide to help you cope with the mental and emotional challenge of keeping a home. It sounded perfect…

I immediately engaged with Danielle’s style of writing. It doesn’t have that annoying self-help enthusiasm that makes you want to hide under the duvet and do anything but create a better life for yourself, but it has plenty of personality and humour, and is definitely more than a book full of cleaning tips.

The book the divided into eight sections, each focussed on a different issue, so you can pick out the ones that resonate most with you, and skip to those. I can easily identify with ‘futility’, so I skip to this chapter, allowing myself to briefly fantasise about soon becoming some kind of amazing domestic goddess who finds pleasure in washing floors.

It’s actually pretty interesting. Danielle talks about the philosophy of housework in the context of the futility of life in general, and does make me think about how much of my disdain for all things housewifery is actually to do with the chores, and how much is about a more deep-seated questioning of the purpose of life. Yes, she says, housework is dull and unforgiving, but so are a lot of things we do in life. One potential solution, I am encouraged to believe, is to find joy or satisfaction in the outcome, rather than the process. Find cooking tedious? Fine. Be motivated instead by the idea of serving up a delicious meal for the people you love. This sounds great in principle, but might work better if my culinary offerings weren’t regularly rejected by a fussy eight-year-old…

A lot of what the book says though is really helpful. It isn’t about falling in love with your hoover, it’s just about identifying what it is that makes housework hard for you, and developing skills to cope with it. One of my favourite ideas is that of having a Scarlett O’Hara moment, and putting off the anxiety until tomorrow. Spending every minute I’m cleaning something angsting over the futility of it all clearly isn’t going to help anybody, so instead I need to make the decision not to worry about the point of  it just for the moment. I will allow myself to worry about later if I like, but just for now, I won’t. It sounds simple, but it’s actually a great strategy for lots of areas of life, where you want to stop flapping and just get on with things.

If you are looking for a book that will make you love housework, or give you a million and one ideas for things to do with vinegar, then this isn’t for you. If however you’re interesting in exploring just why it is that you hate sinks so much, and want to make cleaning just a little bit more tolerable, then Housework Blues could be just what you need.

11 Comments

  1. Lisbeth
    5 November, 2010 / 6:46 pm

    My top tip is to set a timer for ten minutes and plunk it in a room that I need to deal with. It stops me from procrastinating because I know I only have to do ten minutes cleaning….

    • 10 November, 2010 / 10:43 am

      That is an excellent tip, I do that with a lot of things that I don’t want to start, I think to myself ‘I will just work on this for twenty minutes and then I will stop’. That normally is enough to get over the procrastinating.

  2. 5 November, 2010 / 11:01 pm

    Sounds good as I also detest any kind of cleaning! I’ve been trying to do at least 10 minutes a night though so that Chick isn’t ashamed to bring her friends home ;-)

    • 10 November, 2010 / 10:42 am

      Haha! Yes, you don’t want to be THAT parent :-)

  3. Ksiu
    6 November, 2010 / 1:19 am

    I know what my problem is with cleaning, it’s pure laziness:)
    I just can’t make myself get up and clean every single day, especially dusting and hoovering :)
    The other problem is that I can’t clean when somebody is in the house (babies and little children don’t count) I have no idea why. I don’t like anybody helping me when I do it, but I don’t mind anybody doing it instead of me, which is a bit wierd :)
    maybe I should get the book, or some professional help ;)

    • 10 November, 2010 / 10:42 am

      Yes, that is a bit odd. When I lived with my ex partner I didn’t like cleaning when he was around either really, but that was more because then I would feel resentful if he didn’t immediately jump up and offer to help!

      I reckon the book would help with the laziness aspect, but perhaps not the other issues… :-)

  4. 6 November, 2010 / 3:59 pm

    Oh God, I’m a clean freak and spend hours fretting over an unwashed floor… if I buy this book will it help me relax too!!!!!!?

    • 10 November, 2010 / 10:40 am

      Hmmm…. no, I think perhaps you need some kind of therapy instead :-)

  5. 8 November, 2010 / 3:22 am

    Yes, housework is my favorite thing to put off, then it gets overwhelming, and I’m stuck.
    However, when someone is coming over, I clean and it gets done, it helps to have that motivation.
    And finally, if you can stay in one room long enough, listening to a book on tape while cleaning makes it way more fun.

    • 10 November, 2010 / 10:39 am

      One of the sections in the book is ‘overwhelmed’…

      Having people round is a good motivation, although most of my friends know I’m not that good at cleaning, and seem to be preapred to let me off, which isn’t so helpful!

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