The Hideously Pointless Nature of Housework (AKA, Why I Love 'Downton Abbey')

Last Sunday I spent my entire morning doing housework: vacuuming, wiping counters, picking up toys/clothes/random piles of crap, running load after load of laundry. By late afternoon, you couldn't tell I'd done a single thing. Toys were strewn everywhere, at least three different people of the male persuasion had tracked mud and pine needles all over the floor, there was a pile of dirty dishes sitting in the sink despite the invitingly-emptied dishwasher, and the kitchen table was blanketed in a thick layer of crumbs. Also, a pair of socks had been carelessly tossed onto a lamp. SOCKS. ON A LAMP.

"That's it," I said through gritted teeth while surveying the damage. "I am on STRIKE."


Here's what I didn't do for a full week: I didn't wipe the kitchen counters, I didn't vacuum the floors, I didn't put dirty clothes in the laundry, and I didn't take clean clothes out. I didn't fill the dishwasher or empty it, I didn't swab toothpaste off the mirror, and I didn't pick up a single, solitary toy.

By the end of the week, my husband and sons had painful dents in their feet from stepping on scattered LEGOs, their arms stuck unpleasantly to the table surface during meals, and they were forced to wear Ninjago pajamas to school and shorts to the office because they had no clean clothes. Finally, they understood all the work I typically did around the house, and they promised to help more if only I'd end my strike.

Later, I basked in the glow of their belated appreciation, while I leisurely ate a salted caramel chocolate truffle and directed my husband to the corner of the room where he'd missed a spot with the vacuum.

I am of course making ALL OF THAT UP, because do you know what would ACTUALLY happen if I went on strike? The house would instantly morph into a repulsively unlivable Hoarders-esque biohazard zone and NO ONE WOULD CARE BUT ME.

I don't think my husband really understands why I get so frustrated by the Sisyphean nature of housework. In his mind, we have a decent balance: he takes care of maintenance work and financial stuff, while I'm generally in charge of making sure the house doesn't collapse under the weight of its own filth. It's not that I don't appreciate what he does—after all, he's the obvious choice for it since I am exactly as terrified of ladders as I am of calculators—but his tasks are different. They have a conclusion. If you change a lightbulb, it stays changed ... sometimes for, like, years at a time. Even bill-paying is only done once a month, for god's sake.

In comparison, housework must be done over and over and over and over and over and over. It doesn't have a beginning or an ending: it just is. There is always laundry, there are always dirty dishes, there is never a square yard of carpet that does not have at least one non-carpet item on it.

Housework is maddening because it's unrewarding. It's hard work with no payoff. You can bask in the glow of a neatened, shining house—but you'd better do it fast, because if you live with three oblivious penis-bearing mammals like I do (not to mention one surly long-haired cat), that brief moment of cleanliness is going to disappear in the amount of time it takes you to blink.

And yet as frustrating as it is to DO it, it's even worse if you DON'T, because whatever shot you have at keeping the entropy at bay is entirely dependent on your constant vigilance. Stop vacuuming for three days and it's like a door opens to another dimension—a hellish existence where a bitter wind eternally whistles over a feculent and lifeless moor, and your very soul is befouled with unspeakable, verminous substances. O, there but for a Bissell go I!

So I've basically come to the depressing realization that it takes hours of dreary, unpleasant work each week just to keep things in my house looking generally sort of gross and untidy. My bar is dismally low, and still I must continually clamber over it or all is lost.

All of this is, I feel, one of the main reasons I've come to be so obsessed with Downton Abbey. Yes, the characters are fascinating and the storyline is gripping, but honestly, the biggest romance factor of the entire show isn't between Anna and Mr. Bates—it's the idea of having an entire STAFF to CLEAN MY FAMILY'S CRAP.

Do you ever get bogged down by the never-ending nature of housework? How do you deal?

Image via Linda Sharps

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