The other day I happened across a list of suggestions from Good Housekeeping magazine on how to maintain a spotlessly beautiful home. The list outlines all the things I should clean every day, once a week, once a month, or a few times a year, so the house stays lovely, with only a little effort on my part. It read like one of those hopelessly outdated articles from the 1950s on how to make your husband happy, or how teachers should manage their classrooms. Clearly the list’s author was delusional.
Still, I thought I’d put the list to the test, to see how it would work into my daily routine. Just for fun, I added in some of the other helpful suggestions experts in the fields of health, nutrition, beauty, and fitness offer up to make every day my Best Day Ever. Spoiler alert: it’s not going to be pretty.
Just A Simple Morning Routine
This is how the suggestions shaped up. The time estimates are my own.
6:00 am Wake up—instantly. Bound out of bed with lots of energy. (Which I don’t do.) Make the bed because, c’mon, it’s right there and you’re not getting back in. 10 minutes.
6:10 am Pee/Dress for dog walk: The experts don’t actually include this in the things I must do but, trust me, I must do this. 5 minutes.
6:15 am Take dogs for 1 mile walk. Do this twice, so all four dogs get a walk. 45 minutes.
7:00 am Sweep kitchen floor. Ten minutes. Okay, eight minutes because it’s a small kitchen, but I also have to feed the cats.
Don’t Forget Your Health . . .
7:10 am Cook a healthy breakfast—oatmeal and such. Allow 20 minutes, because it’s steel cut oatmeal, plus we have to have fruit, which may mean washing each grape individually if we’re to get off all pesticide residue as the food purity experts recommend.
7:30 am Eat said healthy breakfast while reading the paper—20 minutes, particularly if you get your morning caffeine hot, since it has to cool down to drinking temp. (NOTE: You won’t finish the paper in this time, let alone work the puzzles.)
7:50 am Wipe down the electric kettle, put dishes in dishwasher, wipe down kitchen counters, sanitize kitchen sink. 10 minutes
. . . Or Beauty!
8:00 am Shower (because dog-walking is sweaty business) 20 minutes, including hair wash and shaving. We’ll credit the health and beauty experts for this next part.
8:20 am Blow dry/style your hair—10 minutes
8:30 am Wash face/Put on makeup—15 minutes
8:45 am Wipe down bathroom surfaces, squeegee shower, sanitize bathroom sink—15 minutes
9:00 am Dress—15 minutes
And then it’s off to work I go. I live in an area that is home to about eight million people. That’s roughly the total population of Missouri and Kansas. Some days I think they all want to drive down US Highway 75, the same time I do.
9: 15 am Morning commute—45 minutes
10:00-6:00 Work 8 hours
6:00-7:00 pm Evening commute—60 minutes (assuming there are no backups)
While my drive into work happens just slightly after the morning rush hour, my drive home hits the rush right in the fat part. I am continually astonished by the number of people who crash into each other during this sacred hour. And the number of people who slow down to look at the roadside carnage. They might call it rush hour, but trust me, nobody is rushing anywhere. Sometimes I bail, just to run a few errands and—okay, mostly I shop for books.
7:00 pm Stop for groceries/drug store stuff—20 minutes
Home Again, Home Again
When I hit the door at home, a lot of things happen at once.
7:20 pm Potty break/change into home clothes—15 minutes
7:35 pm Take dogs out for a second walk—45 minutes
8:10 pm Dinner prep—25 minutes
8:35 pm Feed animals—15 minutes
8:40 pm Throw in load of laundry—5 minutes
8:50 pm Take load out of dryer/fold—10 minutes
8:55 pm Put laundry away—5 minutes
9:00 pm Serve/eat dinner—30 minutes This is the first time I’ve sat down (not counting the potty break) since I got home from work.
9:30 pm Wipe down kitchen surfaces, put dishes in dishwasher—10 minutes
9:40 pm Clean the cat box—5 minutes (Again, not on the expert list, but trust me.)
9:45 pm Take dogs out again—45 minutes
10:30 pm Pay bills—30 minutes
11:00 pm Bedtime prep—30 minutes
11:30 pm Fall asleep instantly, suffer no insomnia, and sleep 8 restful, peaceful hours.
7:30 am Awaken in a panic after that 8-hour sleep, knowing I’m already 1 hour and 30 minutes behind schedule
A Spotlessly Beautiful Home?
I couldn’t help but notice that the schedule laid out by Good Housekeeping’s cleaning expert made no allowances for drinking those eight glasses of water a day recommended by the health experts, or the potty stops which come with all that fluid intake.
Nor was that the only obvious flaw in this neat outline for keeping my home spotlessly beautiful. The schedule I outlined above is for a single woman, living alone. In making it, I gave no consideration to married women, who might have multiple children on different day care/band/sports/school/after school schedules. And forget about taking time to have sex with that brilliant and talented life partner some of you might be fortunate enough to have around the house. No time for so much as a 2-minute quickie there.
Nor do you get a break on the weekend. That’s when you’re supposed to be mopping your kitchen and bathroom floors, scrubbing all bathroom surfaces, and cleaning the mirrors. Because you really, really want to see the haggard wreck you quickly become on this schedule. Don’t forget to dust your furniture, vacuum your floors and furniture, change the bed, clean out the fridge, wipe down all your kitchen appliances, clean the microwave and sanitize the sponges (whatever the hell that is).
Visiting with friends? Not gonna happen.
Plus, when are you going to go to the farmer’s market to buy the fresh, delicious, locally grown produce? Don’t you want to feed your family the healthy, home-cooked meals the nutritionists recommend?
Take out the trash? Work in the yard? Garden? Obedience-train your dogs? Pursue any kind of hobby? Attend a play or concert? Or even a football game? Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline? Because your life has become a meaningless horror show as you sacrifice all your time and energy on the altar of having the spotlessly beautiful home.
Let’s Get Real
Clearly the problem here is not that you and I don’t adopt these simple methods to mix light housekeeping into our normal daily routines. The problem is unrealistic expectations. I’m no expert, but I’m willing to bet the list was originally written sometime in the 1950s by a man with a degree in engineering. He probably specialized in workplace efficiency. If he had children, I expect he greeted them each evening as he sipped his after-work cocktail, then waved them off to bed. Back in those days, guys like that often felt it was their duty to help women become more organized when it came to those all-important household chores.
Oddly, women were not grateful.
The truth is, to this day, women still shoulder the responsibility for twice as many household chores as men do. Even in homes where the male partners consider themselves to be feminists. This doesn’t begin to account for the tremendous amount of “mental labor” women undertake to keep the family schedules straight and address the social and emotional needs of all family members. And then there’s the guilt women feel when they think that somehow they don’t measure up.
Call It What It Is
Which is why I call “bullshit” on lists like the one from Good Housekeeping. I not only suspect it was originally formulated by a man, I’ll bet he doesn’t know how to sanitize sponges either.
So the next time you are seized by the urge to make yours a spotlessly beautiful home, I suggest you pour yourself a cold glass of something besides water. Stretch out on your freshly vacuumed couch. Read one of those books you picked up on the way home from work. Something that will take you far away from the stress of maintaining a perfect house. I have some ideas:
Wow, do we have a lot of people to thank for the pictures in this Spotlessly Beautiful post! Primary among them is the talented and subversive Anne Taintor, whose wicked vintage-illustrated memes are sharp enough to draw blood. All montages are the work of Jan S. Gephardt, who also chose the pictures and assembled them.
“A Clean Home” came from Imgflip, as did the “8 glasses of water” meme below, and it appears to have been the original source of “There appears to have been a struggle,” although we found it on “Life After the Morning Flush.”
“I Really Wanna Leave my Bed” came courtesy of LiveAbout. The two “Morning Kids” images came from Pinterest: “Night/Morning Mom” is from Debbie Beidelman’s pinboard, while “Just dry shampoo’d & febreeze’d my kids” is from the Digital Mom Blog via Meadoria’s pinboard.
Many thanks to Know Your Meme, for “Defrosting,” and to MEME for the Robin Williams quote. The SomEEcards “To-Do List” image comes via Janileth Slattery’s Pinterest pinboard, while the “Never enough time” meme came to us via the “724 South House” Blog.
Yet More Anne Taintor, plus Tales to Tell
The Anne Taintor’s “Cleaning One Thing” image came from Bored Panda, in the same article that brought us the collection of four others near the end. Many thanks to QuotesGram for the “Take the food out of the oven” meme, as well as “Time to myself?” below.
Might note that the young lady in “Time to myself?” clutches a copy of the 1935 My Better Homes and Gardens cookbook featured in G.’s earlier blog post, “Cooking? O Joy!” Both of these articles feature more sarcasm of this type if you’re enjoying it. The Bored Panda piece focuses specifically on the work of Anne Taintor. “Did all the laundry and cleaned the house” (another by Anne Taintor) came via Mrs. Domestic Goddess in Progress’s blog via their Pinterest pinboard. Our deepest gratitude to all!
And we hope you really will take a look at our “Tales to Tell,” via the Weird Sisters Publishing’s “Our Books” page. Current releases (as of this post) include Jan S. Gephardt’s XK9 Series and G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Stories. But the list is steadily expanding. We plan to add the “Windhover” Tetralogy (by “third Weird Sister,” the late Warren C. Norwood) this winter.