On Sunday, while I was feeling sorry for myself about not running the Philadelphia half-marathon, my husband and mother-in-law took the kids out. They left at around 10 a.m. I started writing this blog post at 5 p.m., at which point they hadn’t come back yet.
Perhaps the most productive thing to do would have been work, but I didn’t feel like working. Bronchitis will do that to you. So I spent the day de-cluttering my house. I went through piles of junk mail that hadn’t been sorted. I selected a few stories and pictures to keep from 2013’s prodigious artistic output, and tossed the rest. I did the kitchen, the office, the living room, my bathroom, etc.
I did a few other things during this time. I ate lunch. I sat outside and surfed the web. I read a few pieces in the New Yorker.
In other words, I didn’t do a full 7 hours of cleaning. But despite the on-and-off nature of this de-cluttering, by the end of 7 hours, my home looked fantastic. I was targeting areas I had let go for a while. I was even replacing pictures I was tired of looking at in the frames on my desk. In other words, after 7 hours, I could have kept going, but a lot of the stuff I was doing didn’t urgently need to be done.
Interesting factoid (I promise this is related!) The average home is about 40 percent larger now than it was in the early 1970s, which is the data I have easily available. Houses were smaller before that. Another factoid: In 1965, the average married mother did about 35 hours of housework per week. If she took 2 days off from her labor, that would be like doing my 7 hours most days of the week. To be sure, there were things like cooking and laundry in there (which I didn’t do on Sunday). We also outsource 8 hours of housework per week. But still, 35 hours is a lot of time for houses that were a lot smaller than today’s homes. Even 7 hours of intense cleaning is a lot of time. No wonder the women’s magazines from the era featured discussions of the daily dusting of blinds, the frequent polishing of silverware, the best way to apply wax to a floor polisher, elaborate Jell-O based recipes, and so forth.
Time has to be filled with something. The situation faced by readers of the 1960s women’s magazines was this: If your kids are older, and you’re not in the workforce, there are a lot of hours available. Some go to volunteering, to hanging out with friends, to reading. But in the 1960s, as now, housework is an easy thing to fill the time with.
The world has changed since then, and almost no one devotes that kind of time to cleaning anymore. But judging from my day, it’s hard to see what’s been lost. I could have gone perhaps another day or two attacking projects, but by the fourth day, I would have been throwing things on the floor myself just to clean them up. Or making Jell-O recipes.
How much time do you and your family members spend cleaning? Have you ever devoted all day to cleaning/de-cluttering? What did you get done?
This book shelf in my office used to have approximately 3 dozen books stacked in front of it as well.