Keeping Busy

“But you love doing chores,” My boyfriend assures me as I flit between the washing machine and the dishwasher.

Hold up. What?

Where, pray tell, did Beloved Boyfriend get this idea? How had I veered so far off course as to give him this impression? Hadn’t we just recently discussed hiring a cleaning lady?

Puzzling over Boyfriend’s statement did not slow me down as I raced through the condo collecting dirty dishes and discarded socks. I should perhaps mention that this scene played out while we were on vacation in Seattle. I was cleaning someone else’s condo. I was actually excited that we had a washing machine available so I could pack clean laundry for our trip home.

How did this happen? My parents can assure you that I was not a tidy child. Small animals could have foraged for years unmolested in the recesses beneath my bed or the depths of my closet. Teachers would send notes home commending my imagination but condemning the state of my school desk. Spic and span meant nothing to me.

Fast-forward twenty years and the mere thought of dirty dishes left to sit, un-rinsed, in the sink gives me hives. Abstaining from vacuuming – a chore that terrifies the cats but brings me deep inner peace – is difficult, so I sneak in a quick Hoovering whenever the kitties are deep in slumber in another room. I’ve been caught using  a lint roller on our rug. I’ve considered asking for a new vacuum for my birthday.

But enough with the Confessions, time for Analysis. Does my desire to clean spring from maturity or  my inability to sit still? Partially, I think we all develop a desire to have things clean as we get older (whether or not we are the ones doing the cleaning is another story). Especially now that I’m a homeowner, I want my counters to shine and my floors to emit a soft eau-de-Pine Sol. However, if I’m being honest, cleaning house is also the easiest way to slay the inner Protestant-Work-Ethic beast. Sweeping, emptying the dishwasher, changing the sheets – these are all measures of a purposeful and productive life. In short, I have a really hard time letting myself relax.

Sundays are especially hard for me. While the phrase “Lazy Sunday” rolls easily off my tongue, actually practicing what I preach is increasingly difficult. When I was in school, Sunday was the day when I finished up homework or caught up on reading. Now that I’m an “adult” and can seemingly “do what I want” spending the day curled up on the couch with a warm kitty and a good book makes me feel… bad.

Good, of course, but then… bad.

Guilty – like I should be doing something. I should… scrub the bathroom floors! Do laundry! Swiffer… something! Right? Well, while cleaning is not necessarily bad, doing so to assuage guilt I shouldn’t be feeling in the first place is not very productive. I need to learn to let myself be lazy once in a while. I need to let go of feeling I have to maximize every second. How? Well, I’m not sure yet, but awareness is Step One, right?

Meanwhile, I live with the perfect role model. Odie loves Lazy Sunday.


About Helena

Helena lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and two cats. Her boyfriend thinks she's awesome. Her cats agree.

Posted on March 28, 2011, in Who I Am and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ironic. I was a terrible disaster as a child… and my husband and I just had a discussion about how we are too OCD about the cleanliness of our house and how with 2 dogs and a baby, our expectations are unrealistic and adding stress to our lives. I’ve cut back on cleaning and it is… strange. But definitely relieving some of the daily stress!

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