Thursday, September 16, 2010

Keeping it Clean--The Writer's Guide to Housework

Housework.  The word alone is one of the best cures for writer's block I've ever known.  Just the thought of pulling out the vacuum cleaner can sometimes be enough to send me scurrying back to the WIP:  "Got to finish this chapter first and then we attack those dust bunnies..."

The big problem, however, is that I can't stand chaos.  I can't work in a cluttered environment, and unfortunately I don't live in a fairy tale world where the windows magically wash themselves and the broom sings Broadway show tunes.  It's a dirty world and somebody's got to clean it--usually me.

To solve the dilemma I've come up with some fairly easy solutions that I hope can help you, too, the next time you're torn between giving up the chores or neglecting the manuscript:

-  My biggest and best discovery in the whole world ever is microfiber cleaning cloths.  I love them, adore them!  I keep a huge stock of them in my linen cupboard and am always buying more.  The best and cheapest way to purchase them is to get the ones from the automotive aisle at any discount store.  For some bizarre and discriminatory reason "kitchen" cloths are priced several times higher than those packaged for the garage.  The automotive cloths are the exact same thing and they're also sold in convenient bulk packs.  Wherever you buy them, though, I think they are a miracle of modern science.  They clean everything--I mean everything--with a minimum of detergents and other chemicals, sometimes none at all, and they leave surfaces streak-free.  The best compliment I've ever received was right after I bought my first package.  A visiting friend walked through the front door and said, "Wow, it looks like you have two maids.  Everything sparkles!"  Yes, indeedy. 

-  I've become so obsessed with these cloths that I usually have a damp one with me at all times, even in my office, ready for that "wipe down/clean up" break that I can accomplish in a few seconds flat. 

-  Having my cloths ready means I can always pick up after myself in a hurry, encouraging me to rarely let a mess accumulate.  For instance, I wipe down the shower and sink every morning (takes all of 1 minute), or dust my desk "while I'm thinking."  Some other little tricks that help me get through the mess are things like having plenty of waste baskets close by (throw that junk mail out the minute you get it!), and using satin padded hangers that make me want to hang up my clothes because it just looks so nice.

-  I am also a dedicated minimalist--with the exception of my microfiber cloth collection, that is.  I limit my possessions which means little to no clutter.  My entire wardrobe could fit in a good-sized (well, okay, large-sized) suitcase, my books in just a few boxes.  My new policy is I have to give away one book for every one I buy.  If I'm not reading, wearing, or using an item, out it goes to the thrift store, friends, or trash.

-  Lastly, I "reward" myself with housework.  For instance, if I write for an hour, I can then vacuum, or dust, or do the dishes.  That way I can stop thinking about chores while I'm trying to work on a new scene or chapter.  My rule is I always have to write first--then I can take a break and clean whatever my heart desires.  Writing between laundry and dryer loads is a great way to practice "timed writing," too.

-  The benefit to all of these simple tasks is that my house and office are usually at a level that requires only a minimum of time and effort to maintain.  And that means I have a lot more time available to write and pursue my other creative interests.  Just call me "Eloise"!

Tip of the Day:  Keeping a damp microfiber cloth in a plastic bag in my car or purse has been a true lifesaver more times than I can count.  Whether I've used it to clean up from art classes when I've managed to get more paint on me than the paper, or needed to wipe sandwich mayo from my hands before putting a manuscript submission together at the post office, microfiber has become this writer's best friend.


Anonymous said...

I reveled in this post, truly. When my house is out of order, I can't think. I have two little ones at home so I tend to spend a lot of time in the "cluttered stupor". I, too, reward myself with cleaning after writing. I'll give myself 15 cleaning breaks, because it gets me out of the chair and gives me some activity, and it's amazing what you can do in 15 minutes. It's nice to hear that somebody else is the same way!


Pamela said...

So glad I ran across you today on Twitter (via @rebeccalacko). Cleaning as reward and writer's block relief - I love it!

House Cleaning said...

Women should take example from you. You are an excellent housewife. Your husband is probably very proud and happy to be married for you. :)
Keep on with the good work. :)