A Slacker’s Guide to Surviving Housework
I hate housework. I’m using the word hate here, as in loathe, detest and despise. I’ve advocated avoiding it in favor of writing. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, when you take time for yourself instead of cleaning the living room, the guilt monkeys attack and concentration is impossible. The result: I end up putzing around on Facebook or looking up music videos on YouTube before giving up and turning on the TV. So I get no writing done and the house remains a mess. Meanwhile, the guilt monkeys stand on my shoulders and make me feel terrible about myself.
(BTW, to me, guilt monkeys look like those creepy flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz)
So what’s the answer? With great reluctance (I’m a slacker who hates housework, remember) I must say that the solution is to do both. Get some chores done, have that sense of accomplishment, then sit down to write guilt free. Here’s how I do it:
Make a list and cross items off as you complete them. Do not underestimate the satisfaction of crossing things off. It’s a wonderful feeling and a huge motivator. Here’s what my list for this past Sunday looked like:
Finish writing critiques
Take out trash
Clean Bird cage
Clean litter pans
Vacuum living room
Kitten proof basement
Clean out car
About that list:
1.) Be reasonable. Don’t decide to clean the whole house in one morning. It’s not going to happen. Pick a number of small and large chores and decide the order as you go along. On my list, I left the bird cage and vacuuming the living room until last. There were a few reasons for this. First, these were my least favorite jobs. Second, the dust makes me sneeze like a loon. The best remedy for sneezing like that is to go take a hot shower and clear my sinuses. I could do that when I was done. If I tried these two jobs early on, I’d be sneezing a lot which would tempt me to take a Benadryl and then a nap.
2.) Break big yucky jobs into small, manageable parts. I didn’t have “clean the bathroom” on my list (even though it needs to be done). If I did, I would write: clean the toilet, scrub the tub, scrub the sink, wipe down the walls, mop the floor etc. Maybe I would do this all at once, or maybe I would do one item on the list then go find something easy to do before tackling another. This way you have the pleasure of crossing out several items instead of one. Also, it makes the dreaded task less daunting.
3.) Plan breaks. If you’re the type who can’t stop lest you not be able to start again, just schedule a lunch or a snack time. If you’re like me, breaks are a reward and motivator to continue. I do things like give myself 15 minutes to flip through a magazine or catalog. That has another benefit because once I’m done reading, the item can go in the recycling pile, eliminating one more piece of clutter from the coffee table.
4.) Declare a quitting time. And keep it reasonable. Don’t spend your whole weekend doing chores instead of relaxing. It’s the weekend after all! I chose 3:00 as my quitting time on Sunday. That would leave me two hours or more to write before dinner (depending on how long I spent in the shower.)
5.) If you do have to push something off to the next day, don’t feel guilty! That just means you put too much on your list. You’ll know better for the next time. Finish at the allotted time (or close to it) and go relax.
This worked exceptionally well for me. I loved drawing lines through each item and reveled in having more things crossed out than not. I was motivated enough to get the small chores done before lunch so only the bird cage and vacuuming remained. Then I all but did a victory lap with the vacuum, I was so pleased to be finished. The clock read 3:05 and I could relax for the rest of the day. The guilt monkeys had been vanquished.