Jul 302013

For me, how I feel about housework is a good barometer for how I’m feeling in general. If I can’t cope with it, keep putting it off and would rather live on takeaway than have to confront the kitchen, I know there’s something wrong. When I was depressed, my inability to tidy, clean or cook lasted for months at a time and caused me a whole layer of additional problems. These days, if I’ve got time to wash up, iron or put stuff away but find myself resisting, it generally just signals exhaustion, and once I’ve caught up on my sleep I get on with the chores perfectly cheerfully.

Success depends on finding the happy medium in one’s attitude to housework. Obsessing about it is a waste of life: it is by its nature never-ending and there’s no point in worrying about it. Housework is a background activity that supports a happy lifestyle; it is not an end or a lifestyle in itself. It’s an area in which, particularly if you have a lot of visitors, it can be easy to feel a lot of pressure to be perfect, but don’t be sucked into this. You have other priorities and it really doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of dust around and everything is not in apple-pie order.

On the other hand, it is important that your home be kept in a state that everyone who lives there is comfortable with. Once it descends beyond a certain point and you find yourself constantly tripping over things and unable to locate stuff you want because it’s all such a muddle, when things start going mouldy and getting disgusting, you’ve let it slide too far. Living like this is not only potentially dangerous for the body, it’s degrading and depressing for the soul. If you live alone, you owe yourself the respect and love to look after yourself properly and live in a decent environment. If you share your home, you need to work out how to maintain a healthy living space that you can both/all enjoy.

Where we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable in terms of mess, dirt and falling behind with the admin is a matter of individual preference, influenced by our upbringing, life experience and (let’s face it) gender. There is no right or wrong answer to this but it’s important to thrash out an agreement amongst all members of the household as to where the line will be drawn in this abode. And the line must not be breached unless in exceptional circumstances.

The issue of division of labour is a huge and thorny one and not the subject of this post. The point I’m trying to make here is a slightly different one and that is how valuable it can be to give some serious thought to how much housework matters. If you feel it matters more than it merits, work on loosening up a bit. If you feel it doesn’t matter at all, think about how much better life might be if your home was clean and tidy, everything broken was fixed or replaced, you were up to date with your paperwork. Whichever side you’re approaching from, finding the right perspective on housework saves a great deal of stress.

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