The domestic drudgery of housework 91



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I hate housework, well I hate the dusting, and vacuuming, the shower cleaning and the continual battle with the mud that is marched in from outside by the cats.  Winter is always worse, but Summer finds it rather constant too.  We live in a lovely old house which has gaps allowing dust and dirt to invade. We burn logs in the winter and the wood makes mess and more dust.  In the summer, the open doors and windows allow grime to settle from outdoors. I seem to be fighting a losing battle. I would rather be painting or writing than dealing with this. Creativity is quelled by domestic drudgery.

Wasn’t it Quentin Crisp who advocated just leaving the dust, and after a length of time it would look no worse?  I try to do that, but the sun shows my hopeless housekeeping, and usually when I have a guest, so I die of shame and reach for the duster.

Most of us had mothers who were pretty near perfect housewives. It was their badge of office, their reason for living.  Most of them didn’t work outside the home, so they could only prove their worth with cooking and housework of a standard that beat the woman next door. I had a delightfully crazy Aunt who had one topic of conversation; Her obsession?- The blinding white of her washing.  She cheerfully compared hers to the woman a few houses away whose washing was not white. Oh the shame!


Housework was how they were judged, do you think that is still true? Do we still judge women on that, or their career, and their mothering skills?

It’s funny to relate now, in our modern times, but I remember my Mother in law who led a wonderfully regimented life. Her home ran like clockwork, everything was in order, and her days followed a pattern that did not change. There were days for washing, ironing and cooking, shopping was Friday. Each afternoon she had finished her work, so she sat and knitted, changing into an ‘afternoon’ dress.

Who remembers crimplene? She had many crimplene dresses, an indestructible material that did not crease. I came to love my mother in law, not at first though. Not those first years when I had three children under school age, and my visits were a nightmare for me. As I tried to keep them all quiet and sitting down, or at least playing peacefully with the selected toys.  She loved them, but she also used to put a plastic sheet from the doorway to the lounge so their little fingers didn’t touch the wall!  Later I understood, her standards were high and she was doing what she knew best – keeping her home in good order. I cared for her in the last months of her life, but by then we had shared holidays and been grateful for the friendship we enjoyed.  She was a shy and private person. The years brought us closer together, we met half way.  I loved also that she taught my daughter to sew, to enjoy crosswords and to be neat and organized. Because sure as hell, I didn’t!

In my life I have known what it was like to be without amenities, like hot water (when my father was building our house and we lived in the country). In my first New Zealand flat, we had an outdoor copper that needed a fire to get it hot, which I rarely managed to master. Then I had no washing machine for a considerable time when we first returned to England. With three small children at that time, my older two in nappies at night and a 4 month old baby.  To say that was not fun puts it very mildly, freezing mornings pegging out almost frozen solid nappies is etched in my mind. So perhaps in comparison I  have not much to moan about.

I’ll just dash around with the duster, I always find a bit of rock music gets me through it, I shall amp up the volume and give my body a work out too.  “Jumping Jack Flash”…….

Today I want to know what music do you listen to when you do housework??? 


photo:  dadadreams

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. I think that women are judges more on the careers and mothering skills these days. Housework seems to score a poor third place. But for some of us, its in our blood – my house is still “guest ready” all the time , even though guests are few and far between these days !

    1 REPLY
    • I do aspire to be better, I love it when its all perfect, love the house sparkling, but somehow it never lasts long before some cat or human messes it up! Suppose that is what I meant, if only it lasted a bit longer. I love cooking and that alone makes a mess. Suppose I will have to accept less than perfect. Like my mother in law for some women its ‘in the blood’, my daughter has her genes, bless her, and keeps a perfect home, – thank goodness.
      Yes we don’t worry as much about it now, a career is more important

  2. What housework? Life is to be lived to the full. I’ll do it when I have to. When I am dead and gone would I rather be remembered for my spotless house or my friendships and accomplishments in life? You can bet housewife skills will be on the bottom of what is recalled by the living. If people come to visit, they come to visit me, not my house. I know this makes me sound like I’m a ‘grot’ which I’m not. I have a friend who spends half the day ironing so that everything is perfect and brags about it. I can’t live my life like that.

  3. Love that Jeanette! one of my thoughts is I would like to be remembered for my cooking, not my spotless oven. For the warmth of our welcome -not the lack of dust. Have been told our house has a nice ‘warm’ atmosphere. So guess that is our aim. I try to keep it ‘tidy’ but don’t spend enough time shining windows and washing walls to be perfect. Yet we produce a painting a week and write non stop. We have social activities which make us happy, we are busy and fulfilled, and live in an area of great natural beauty. Yes it will do. Glad there are like minded souls.

    1 REPLY
    • Jacqui, have you ever noticed artists (painters,sculpters etc) are either extremely messy or extremely neat? Being a painter myself I find I get lost in the painting and nothing happens as far as housework for a while. I have known other artists who have their paints colour coded and everything is in its place, but more prominent are those that have it all lumped together. I remember at art school one of the other students was so messy you couldn’t find her amongst the clutter in her space. 🙂

      1 REPLY
      • I am messy, but work alongside a perfect artist whose brushes are all clean and paints all neat, wish I was like that but I am so fast, I work too quickly to be tidy.
        I have noticed artists are usually more untidy. Its the creative streak. I cook and paint at the same time, which can be chaos. Like you I get lost in it. Hate having to stop when its going well.

        1 REPLY
        • Great write up. I agree with Jeanette in that being remembered will probably not be, or at least shouldn’t be based on one’s tidiness. With that being said, someone extremely dirty may be remembered for that. I have noticed, while having an OCD wife, that it seems to be between the women that come to our home that notice or care. Men may notice but they really don’t care. This is why we believe subbing it out to someone so that you can focus on more important things is ideal. I see this trend continuing as more people focus on career and life quality. Hence the reason we have started 2 companies in the space. 🙂

  4. I remember my poor aunt being scolded by her aunt for not hanging out the clothes in colour groups. She had four children under ten at the time. It was the days of coppers and I think she was doing well to get the clothes on the line at all. I’m for tidy, but not spotless, except in the kitchen.

    1 REPLY
    • My father law asked me once if I polished the toilet seat. I was pretty fed up at the time with a 4, 2 and 6month old, children, I replied, “I don’t even get time to sit on, let alone polish it!!”

      Yes like clean surfaces,…especially in the kitchen.

      1 REPLY
      • Polished toilet seat…….I had never heard of such a thing….but that is what a work mate said she did ..used MR SHEEN. OMG like you Jacqui I was lucky to have time to use it rather than polish it.!!!!!!!
        Also I quickly clean on my days off from work and get washing and ironing done……then I do whatever’s only me and if my visitors didn’t come to see me for my humour and friendliness , maybe they are not the friends I thought they were. However I have delightful friends who are like the proverbial good Bra…..they hold me up and keep me uplifted and point me in the right direction when I start to fall. Bless them.

  5. Quentin Crisp said if you leave the dust to collect undisturbed for seven years, you can just roll it up like a carpet, and start again! I subscribe to his theory!

    3 REPLY
    • Live is far too important to spend it doing housework. I’m a writer and yet my office id the messiest room in the house…a total shambles. I would never hire a writer who was a neatness freak. They may well be anally retentive and that would mean possibly not emotionally open enough. I never feel comfortable visiting an immaculately neat house. Much more important to read a good book than polish the furniture. I know some women and men) love to do it…but it is totally alien to me, but we do have a terrific lady who does the bathrooms and floors….the council here provides cleaners to seniors.

    • Ha ha hadn’t heard the rest of his quote, love it!!

      1 REPLY
      • Good for you Coral, I believe in ’emotionally open ” people, as they write from the heart.

        I am also a bit like Mrs. Bucket’s friend in very neat and immaculate homes, scared I might drop a cup!

        I guess I qualify for home help too? might even think about it….just hadn’t considered it.

    • OOPs put this reply in wrng place, but love the rest of the quote.! Thanks.

  6. I tolerate housework, just. Still working full-time, so it really takes a back seat to all the more important things in my life. Nobody is going to say on my demise “her home was always spotless”! I am enjoying these later years of mine, and a spotless home does not even rate! When I do have to clean up, I love to put Barbra Streisand on full bore, and sing at the top of my lungs! It helps.

    1 REPLY
    • You have it right, the balance. Glad the music helps I do that too!

  7. I always feel quite glad when I visit someone and their house is a mess. I feel I can welcome them to my home happily whether I have just cleaned it or not.

  8. Had a wonderful friend, who has long gone to God, who held fast to the maxim that if you came to visit her house, you would be very disappointed; but if you came to visit her, chances were “a good time is had by all”. She was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and incidentally an artist. I want a perfect house, but have decided our home is as clean as hygiene demands, but far from perfect!

    1 REPLY
    • Sounds good to me, and the lovely friend still in your thoughts sounded perfect to me.

  9. When I really really dont feel like it, but it has to be done,I vac and dust to Dire Straits Walk of Life! My craft room is an absolute shambles, but I know where every pen, ruler, cardstock and stamp is! I tidy it up infrequently, but I am forever cleaning my kitchen benches and sink My husband’s philosophy on housework “Dont worry about it, it’ll still be there tomorrow” My late godmother, who passed away last year at 94 always used to say “When I win the lottery I will put cement floors in the house on a bit of a slope, so when the floors need doing I will turn the hose on and swish swish swish the floors and then we’re off to the beach!” She never won the lottery love her, but my oh my we had lots of wonderful times at the beach!

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