Poor Housekeeping Is Part of the Plan

Posted on 27 July 2012

Apparently I’ve talked about my new living arrangements a bit too much here, because now I’m getting offers for contributed blog posts that revolve around buying a new home. So far, these requests have been more professional and less irritating than the general, spammy, “I will write a blog post on absolutely any topic that you request, just link to my stuff for sale plz thnx” requests I otherwise receive. But still, it reminds me that perhaps I need to focus less on the house and more on my writing.

You do understand that I’m now going to follow that realization with a house-related post, right?

First, many thanks to my fellow blogging friend who sent me the memoir Building a Home with My Husband, which apparently has been re-released with the improved title The House on Teacher’s Lane. This book makes me so relieved that Peter and I bought the house we did instead of the total disaster house that needed major renovations. It would have been a good investment once it was fixed up, but the fact that we both work full time and don’t really know anything about renovations made our plan look misguided at best. In any case, many thanks to Josey for sending a literary housewarming gift!

Finally, I love this interview with author Bonnie Jo Campbell about how she put off a kitchen renovation for decades so she could write. I could definitely learn a lesson or two from her. “…I never took the time to improve my kitchen, because I wanted to keep my focus on my writing,” she said. “And it paid off.”

I also love her advice for writers to live below their means and to not worry about housekeeping so much:

“I always tell my students that if they are serious about writing that they should live in a very modest house and try to keep expenses low so that they don’t have to work themselves too hard to pay the mortgage. They think I’m kidding, but I’m not. It’s very hard to make time to write in any case, and so if there’s a way to spend less time earning a living, then follow that way. I also am honest when I say that my poor housekeeping is part of the plan. I can have a clean, well-kept house or I can get books written, not both.”

Do you keep a clean house?

Photo: Adam_Inglis

10 responses to Poor Housekeeping Is Part of the Plan

  • Averil Dean says:

    Fairly clean, yes, but I’m not one to scrub the grout with a toothbrush. Clutter distracts me, so I do keep things picked up and I’m pretty good with the maintenance cleaning.

    I’m with you though, in a new house and trying to make it look nice, and I think that’s okay. The fire will die down soon enough, and we’ll be back to writing–in two well-appointed writing rooms.

    • Clutter distracts me, too. It’s been too easy for me to say, “Well, my writing room is still a mess. I should really get it settled before I get to work.” I obviously have to call myself on my own bullshit fairly often.

  • Josephine says:

    my favorite picture from our recent vacation was a shot i took in one of those kitschy souvenir shops with hand-painted home decor items that fill the local condos (but never work out as well in a home that’s 500 miles from any beach). it was a close up of a perfectly painted sign with loop-de-loop letters that read:

    Martha Stewart does not live here

    i’ve decided it’s my new mantra and am considering making a mural of it on our living room wall.

    • I am still picturing Ms. Martha entering my home. Just how horrified would she be by the purple kitchen? Maybe she’d decide to take mercy on me and design and plant a full vegetable garden in my backyard. Then I’d offer her a can of Trader Joe’s finest cheapest lager and an ice pop from the freezer.

  • Very interesting that I was drawn to this post before signing off for the night — I just finished a day’s worth of straightening up in my living room. (Not nearly enough. I’ve got at least two more days of work in there.) I’ve been writing instead for months now, and as Averil mentioned about herself, clutter distracts me and bothers me no end.

    Of course it didn’t help that my city-supplied garbage cans kept being stolen so I couldn’t do much clearing out anyway. I finally got a new one a couple of weeks ago. I’m caught up now on the newspapers on my back porch and ready to sift through the living room’s clutter and throw out what isn’t needed. Now if only the weather will continue to be cool enough to let me get it done.

    Martha Stewart definitely doesn’t live in my house!

  • Downith says:

    Poor housekeeping is part of the plan.

    Where can I get that on a welcome mat?

  • Lyra says:

    Just for the record, I love your new house posts.
    Prior to my husband, I cleaned when it got ridiculous and then I cleaned like a maniac. It would take a full weekend. Now, I try to be better because my husband is neat and orderly, but being so, he does the majority of that sort of thing. I don’t notice crumbs until the cats are following the ant trail.
    I totally subscribe to the keep a modest house, but somehow it never is modest enough. I have been trying for years to live so that we don’t need two incomes, yet it just isn’t possible. I wonder if you have to become a writer fresh out of school before you have things that become staples? I don’t know, but if you have the secret, I’m all ears.

  • lisahgolden says:

    I need to remember that line – “I can’t do both.”

    It would apply to so many things. I keep a clean house, but more often I’m saying that I can’t work full time, commute the long way, keep the house clean AND do the things that people want me to do. And what about what I want to do?

    Didn’t Ann Landers say that the only people who can take advantage of you are the ones you allow to do so?

    Yeah. THAT.

  • Teri says:

    I do keep a clean house, or rather a straightened-up house. My mother and grandmother drilled this line into me early on: “It doesn’t matter what you have, it matters how you take care of it.” I can’t, for the life of me, let that go.

    Plus I have these 2 super-shedding yellow labs. Dear lord, the hair. The hair!!! I can’t stand the floating white hair. And like Averil above, clutter is so distracting to me.

    Dear lord, I sound like Grandma Ann.

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