Welcome everyone to my new life-management series. I intend to periodically, as time allows, explain why many of us feel inadequate most of the time. Today's topic is housekeeping. 

Did you know that six hours of housework per day may reduce your risk of breast cancer? It will also result in your having all the laundry done and folded, the carpets vacuumed, the floors mopped and polished, the counters wiped, the things dusted, the spices alphabetized, the oven cleaned, the grout de-gunked, and the ironing done. With six hours of housework per day, you could actually go to sleep in your nicely aired, laundered linens, and sleep the sleep of the houseproud, secure in the knowledge that should Martha Steward or your mother drop in all will be perfect and that you're less likely to get breast cancer than that slattern down the street who doesn't iron her sheets.

So what about that, ladies? Why aren't you scrubbing the toilet with an old toothbrush right the heck now? 

Oh right: you have other things to do

Seriously? Who has SIX HOURS a day to spend on housework? 

Now answer me honestly: how many of you have an extra hour in the day? If the hour-fairy came along and said "Here's an hour for free! Do whatever you want with it!" would you really want to clean the scudge from behind the toilet? If you would, great! Chances are you have a cleaner home than I do. 

Housekeeping is work. It takes time, and for most people, it's not much fun. Most of us have other things that we do in our day that are also not much fun: sometimes we get paid for these things. 

The short answer to "Why does my house look like crap?" is "Because time is finite and you're doing other things with it."

And there's not a thing in the world wrong with that. 

The following calculation ignores the possibility that you have kids. If you have kids, add one hour to everything you need to do. 

If you work a full-time job, chances are you leave your home before 8:30 a.m. You probably spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours commuting to your workplace. You probably spend at least 8 hours at your workplace, and then however much time you spent getting there to get home. So you've already filled between 9 and 12 hours of the 24 hours available to you in each day. Let's say that you need seven hours of sleep a night (I feel better with eight, but apparently seven is statistically optimal for longevity). So you've now used up 16–18 of those hours, leaving you with, theoretically, between six and eight hours.

During that time, you have to:
  • Prepare/find and eat food. Let's say that takes about an hour and a half. 
  • Clean up from the food prep/eating (unless you went out to eat, in which case we can substitute getting to and from food). Add half an hour, at least.
  • Bathe, brush teeth, groom, whatever. If you're really efficient at this, you can probably do it all in half an hour.
So we're at four hours, maybe, of discretionary time. Assuming you don't bring work home, or work late, or work for CUPE. Assuming you have only one job. Assuming that you don't have kids, or a sweetheart, and that you actually did all the grocery shopping this week and had everything you needed for dinner.

Probably, you're not spending all four of those hours folding laundry. In fact, you're spending part of that four hour period reading this blog post (and that's okay!). You may want to go to the gym, or go for a bike ride. You may need to walk the dog or brush the cat. You may want to read a book or knit. You may be in a choir. You may want to watch Breaking Bad

You know what? That's okay! You're a grownup, and you've done your day's work and you're allowed to spend some time in recreation. In fact, you need that recreation. 

The truth is, for most of us housework sucks. It's boring, it takes a lot of time, and it never ever ends. So unless you're one of those peculiar, often lovely, people for whom housework is fun, chances are you spend some of your discretionary time doing the bare minimum that you need to do in order to be functional in the rest of your life:
  • washing the dishes so that you have some dishes to eat off of next time you want to eat, 
  • doing the laundry so that you have clean underwear, and
  • cleaning whatever is the most gross.
You're also spending some of that discretionary time doing other chores that may not count as housework: buying groceries, taking out the trash and recycling, weeding the garden, watering the plants, cleaning the cat box, mending your favourite skirt, waterproofing your boots. And when you've done these tasks, chances are you don't feel like doing housework—you want some honest to goodness downtime.

The notion that your home should be picture-perfect and ready for your Martha-in-law to drop by in full judgmental terror at any given moment is born out of the late Victorian middle-class ideal of the angel in the home. You know—the lady of breeding whose life was given over to making her home a peaceful sanctuary for her harried husband. Keeping the Victorian home was a full-time job (and a lot of women hated it and developed complexes and hobbies like temperance and suffrage, so you know, it was a full-time job that some people hated). It was a full-time job that involved managing a staff: your Victorian middle-class lady had a cook and at least one maid, and probably a nurse for the children. Even by the time Emily Post was writing her advice books in the 1930s, she presumed that her middle-class readers had domestic help. 

So why would you, with your full-time job, and your kids, and your hobbies, presume that you can do it all yourself? Just because you have a vacuum cleaner? So did the 1860s household (well, it was bellows-pumped, but still). Unless you have a Roomba, someone still needs to wield the vacuum cleaner, and that takes time (it takes me an hour to do my one-bedroom apartment.)

It's totally okay not to love housework. It's totally okay to want to do something else with whatever discretionary time you have in your day or week. There is no shame in this. 

There is also no shame in hiring a professional to do the stuff you don't want to do, if that option is available to you. If someone else can spend some time really focussing on cleaning your home, you will have more time to do the things that are more important to you. 

Time is finite. You can't make more of it. You can choose to do housework, or you can choose to do something else, and that's your decision to make. But if you're consistently finding that you're not choosing housework, and you're unhappy with the state of your home, then you need to decide two things:
  1. whether your unhappiness with the state of your home trumps your need to do something else with your time, and
  2. whether you can outsource the tasks you always choose not to do. 
Those are the choices. You cannot choose to make more time. 
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