today the Alpha-Bitch presents:

Housework 101

Some of us keep house. Some of us hang on to housekeeping as the only thing that makes us feel self-worth (nervous, bitter laughter). I am no Domestic Goddess but I take it seriously; on a site I’m active on I was accused of being organized and asked to write out my manifesto: here it is, today at least, and in most of its glory.

Own Less. Don’t buy more shit in order to organize your life! I think it is a well-perpetrated myth that more storage and more organizational tools organize the house better. Organization resides in the mind. Organization – for me – is about having fewer items. I see people drive around malls looking for a certain storage unit at Target or whatever or flipping though IKEA catalogs and lusting after the spice racks. I’m like, “Go home and do your fucking dishes, you’ll feel better.” Not to mention that shopping and looking for things can stimulate the “I wants” – a consumerist state of mind that actually does the opposite of bring peace and order to your mind (which you need to bring peace and order to your house).

Some people exist happily with tons of material items with nary a thought of the emotional baggage “stuff” carries, nor with internal gripes about the state of mess, clutter, or squalor – to those people I say “as you were!” and bless them for finding what works for them. Too bad 99.9% of moms I know aren’t this relaxed about it.

Use What You Have. From keeping your pantry clean to a tidy fridge to kid toys being used and respected – if you use it frequently, you will love it, care for it, polish it and put it on the shelf, repair it if it’s broken. If you’re gripping onto it because it’s your “stuff” or it “might come in handy” it will weigh you down and likely be a nuisance except for the very random time a year you use it. Look at anything in your house and ask yourself when you last used it and how much you like dusting it or putting it away or eying it on the cluttered shelf.

My life, like most Americans, contains parasitical clutter or items I don’t use daily; of course I have a closet with camping stuff on the shelf where it resides except for a spare few times each year. There is a trade-off to ownership and it’s personal to everyone. I will say this; I have never regretted culling an item from my life and I sure wished I’d culled more when we moved recently!

Every Item Needs a Home. If every item has a home, it is as easy to put it away as it is to throw it on the floor. If someone else throws it on the floor you don’t go crazy being pissed that it is on the floor, that there’s nowhere to put it, and why do you have all this shit and why does no one help? You say, “Nels, please put the scissors back in Mama’s sharps box.” Two times later and Nels knows where the scissors go and – gasp – will put them away himself! Let me tell you, watching your kids help you keep an ordered house is pretty damn gratifying. P.S. this is the gold standard at the Hogaboom house and hardly a constant state of affairs.

Caveat to the Last Tenet. A temporary but cohesive home is probably a better first-time goal than a Martha-Stewart organized fuck-all project which will make you nuts running around for the drill bits and printing out labels while meanwhile your son’s breakfast oatmeal rots on the counter. A cardboard box will serve as an “entryway organizer” for now if it clears spare bills and correspondence off the computer desk; when you have time, please do upgrade the cardboard box. In our house we have an (assily-named) “Technology Shelf” in the utility room – all cords, cables, extension cords and tech bits go on a shelf. Every now and then I ask my husband to organize and cull it. If we’re ever wondering where any electronic item is we go look there; if we find something around the house that qualifies we throw it in there. I’ll get around to color-coding the sub-shelf space one of these days.

Don’t Always Look For The Shortcut. It is also a hoax that “convenience” items categorically make life easier. They add to life’s difficulties and management duties too. For instance: yesterday I spent time in the backyard hanging laundry with my kids. We got two loads done. I spent probably an hour and a half total hanging and minding the laundry, folding it, etc. Meanwhile I had a great time and got some sun, I didn’t drive and use gas, I didn’t eat food out or get a latte, I talked with and enjoyed my kids, no one was inside messing up the house or going stir-crazy and oh yeah – I didn’t use my dryer at all. Plus my clothes smelled great and the sun removed stains from my dinner napkins like no chemical could.

Enjoy your home. Find a corner you can retreat to, something you love. Do your best around the house but take a break when you need a breather. For me, it’s a clean bathroom and waiting tub with lights out, candles, and an open window with the breeze coming in; the perfect thing to look forward to after sweatily vaccuming like mad or scraping rice off the kitchen table.

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