Cleaning the House: A Study in Procrastination


Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven. -Erma Bombeck

If you are anything like me, the very last thing you would choose to do out of a list of a hundred possibilities, is clean the house. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a dirty person; I have to clean and I know it. It’s just that I have more excuses than anyone I have ever met for putting it off to the last possible moment.

Let’s start with vacuuming. I have the best vacuum on the market and I paid a lot of money for it. I did so because I burned out two or three others (famous brand names too) that could not withstand the constant cat hair. The vacuum works fine and offers me no excuses.

Everything looks great after I do it, but there is always something that I have to do first, (bake a cake, make a call, take a nap, check the lid on my cousin’s garbage can who lives in another state, make sure the fall-out shelter isn’t locked, etc). When I finally get down to business, I am usually very angry with myself because it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and everything looks so much better.

Washing the floors requires more prep time than vacuuming, and thus is easier to put off. (I can’t find the bucket, I can’t find the mop, I can’t find the pine-sol, I can’t find my life; they all eloped with Mr. Clean, etc, etc.) When I finally do it, I grit my teeth and tackle the task at hand. Once I make eye contact with the dirty water in the bucket, I chide myself for not getting started sooner. I have also found this to be a great chore to do in tandem with a diet because who can eat anything after looking at all that filthy water?

I do the dishes because if I don’t, they pile up in the sink. If I didn’t have to look at them, I might, in all honesty, put off doing them as well. I have a dishwasher, so I will never understand why I just can’t find the time to shove them into the machine. (I suppose there’s simply no accounting for genius!)

Putting things away though, is my Waterloo, and I find it more difficult to do than all other household chores. When I was a child, I would remove my school dress and stiff slip all in one piece and leave it standing on end in the corner of my room. I don’t know how I managed to do this, but even today, many years later, I leave my clothes over things. I never do under; under isn’t good.

Some twenty-five years ago, when I started writing short stories, I would finish a piece and place it on the counter next to the television in my studio apartment. It wasn’t until the pile was level with the antennae that it occurred to me to get a file cabinet.

I am a little better now.

I have several file cabinets, but I can’t find the television.

I will keep looking though; it’s in here someplace!

(photo courtesy of Dimirtis Kolyris/