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On Being a Weird and Wonderful

alec vanderboom

I have a severe block about housework. Part of is that I didn't learn how to do housework as a kid. Part of is that a recovering intellectual snob, I saw these tasks as somehow "lesser work." Yet a bigger part is that housework is plain hard for me. I'm messy. I'm creative. I've got these ADD tendencies. It's really hard to stay focused on the job I initially set out to do without remembering with urgency all these other tasks that also need to be done.

I read Fly Lady. I felt horrible about myself when I read her website, and she's supposed to be the "encouraging" housekeeping lady.

I've had trouble finding "beginning housekeeping books." When I started cooking, I could find "beginner cookbooks." I could find cookbooks that assumed nothing. I need instructions on how to hard boil eggs. I found easy to use recipes at I also found delightful kid cookbooks while I was cooking with my middle daughter Maria. I'm gradually working myself to "chef". Cooking has gone from a dreaded chore to an interesting challenge most days.

Meanwhile, my housekeeping journey feels stuck in molasses. There are so many layers of problems. I think I got mostly over the "this is beneath my dignity" attitude problem. It helped to learn about the saints. Mother Teresa scrubbed her own toilets. Teresa of Avila said "God exists among the pots and pans." It's hard to argue against the spiritual value of housekeeping with such holy examples in front of me.

Now I'm really how hard housekeeping is because of my inner demons. I'm a perfectionist. I drive myself crazy because my work is never "good enough." I hear these critical voices in my head. "You call that clean?" "You're kids are living in filth." I just want to run away and hide my head in a good book.

Crazy as it sounds (this is my weird and wonderful tagline which I stole from my awesome writer friend, Rebecca Frech) I'm finding a weird way around my hangups. I'm connecting with my inner historian.

I love Downton Abbey. I'm reading all about the servant class in Edwardian England. I'm learning all about the different jobs and absurd rituals of housekeeping in Victorian England. All of this information is helping me stay focused! This morning, there were a dozen things for me to do. I could mentally label the roles. "Now I'm the cook making bread." "Now I'm the valet when I'm sewing on a button." Being an actress staying in character is helping me learn the art of task completion.

The baby woke up crying at 6 AM while I was busy sewing buttons back onto my son's First Communion blazer. I got that familiar drop in my stomach. "She's up early. Now I'll never get this project finished." It's had been 6 months since my son lost both buttons on his blazer, who knows when I'd get a quiet moment to finish this task.

What was weird and wonderful about this morning was that hearing the baby cry, I thought "Ugh, time to be a nursemaid." But then I thought "wait, this is a big deal. I've got to finish the valet work and let the baby cry for a moment." Because I'm weird I thought "Let the nursemaid get to the baby, I need to finish my sewing work."

I know I'm weird. I'm home alone with 5 children for 14 hours a day and I've started talking about myself in the third person.

I'm so happy to find my own weird way to stay on track with five children in my house. I've got a lot of responsibilities that overlap and often seem to come bearing down on me at once. It's so cool to have this "Victorian Servant Model" to help me organize all the different pieces of my homelife. I'm starting to find my inner rhythm by being a historical geek.