I have to say, I puzzled quite a bit over what to write about for the letter H. I could write about my home, here on Beaver Island, and repeat anecdotes that I know I’ve told at least once before of how I came to be here. But, no. These days, I am too often repetitive by accident; I don’t think it’s wise to also be repetitive on purpose. I paged through the H section in the dictionary, thinking, “just pick any simple word, like we do in the Dictionary Game, and then just write about it.” No word sparked enough inspiration to suggest I might get an entire essay out of it. I finally just walked away from the computer, in hopes that an idea would come to me.
I moved a load of clothes from washer to dryer, put away a few pair of socks that were lingering on top of the dryer, then wiped the lint from that surface. With dust rag in hand, I then pushed all my cookbooks to the back of their shelves and dusted the space in front of them. I tipped them forward to dust their tops before pulling them forward to their original position. I swiped the tops of a couple picture frames and the kitchen clock before tossing the rag in the laundry. That’s when it hit me: I could write about house-cleaning.
I hate cleaning. I hate the constant, petty neediness of it: the tasks that have to be done day after day after day. As if housework were devised just to keep us busy. As if we couldn’t entertain ourselves otherwise. I used to let things go, just to have the gratification of having a meaningful job to do.
There is nothing even remotely satisfying, for instance, about going through the motions of sweeping a room for barely a thimbleful of sand. Let it accumulate for a week, though, and be rewarded with a whole dustpan full. Of course, there’s the issue of the grit underfoot…and the possibility of company dropping by.
So, for all of my adult life, I have been working hard to develop better housekeeping habits. I make the bed each morning, even knowing full well it is just going to need to be made again tomorrow…and the next day…and the next. I try not to think about what a waste it seems to be, to run a sink full of hot, soapy water for the few dishes I accumulate each day. I work at wiping things down or dusting things off as I encounter them, when my natural instinct would be to simply ignore it.
There are people in this world – even in my own family – who are wonderful house-keepers. That is not their “life’s work,” their calling, or the only thing they have to do all day. They have families and careers and a million other things to fill their days, and yet to maintain order in their space just seems to come naturally. I envy them. I wish I was more like that. I clean…but it is always a burden and a chore.