Three Wishes? I’ll Take a Cook, a Maid, and a Butler

April 8, 2011

This is Part 3 in a series of posts on labyrinths ~ structures that channel our creative energies in all the right ways.

Part 1: How to Make Sure Your Creative Work Gets Done
Part 2: The Kind of Help We All Could Do Without

Before I plunge into today’s topic, I want to let you in on an exciting event I’ve been planning for the last few weeks.

Hours For Art

Are you tired of trying to survive on 15 minutes a day?
Can’t stand the miserable sight of your neglected manuscript?
Dusty easel looking mournful in the corner?

Then give generously.

Starting April 18, I’ll be hosting the Hours For Art telethon here at gresik.ca.

  • Call in and make a pledge to your creative practice. Will you commit an extra hour or two a week? Let’s see how much time we can raise for the cause of art.
  • Listen to inspiring interviews with writers and painters who are living the art-committed life.
  • Qualify for giveaways of creativity books.

We’ll have great fun. Subscribe to my blog by RSS or email so you don’t miss it!

And now, to share with you my dearest, darkest wish.

If a genie showed up on my doorstep today, after abolishing war and global hunger, I would wish to never make a meal or scrub a floor or wash a load of dirty clothes again.

Why does it feel so taboo to outsource my housekeeping? There’s nothing more bourgeois.

Never mind my university education, money in the bank, and citizenship in a peaceful country ~ I feel my privilege most keenly when I’m paying someone to clean my toilets.

There’s also the current trends for DIY, urban homesteading, and frugality that I’m bucking. Don’t get me wrong, I love the food porn and the handmade exhibitionism. I just choose writing novels over home-cooked bread and sewing my kids’ dresses.

And finally, there remains the presumed virtue in housework. Somehow the vacuum and scrub brush are supposed to keep me grounded. After the ecstasy, the laundry, right? Washing the dishes is like bathing a baby Buddha, says Thich Nhat Hanh. But I’d rather find my meditation elsewhere.

Here are some of my most fondly remembered domestic labyrinths:

While supervising a university residence for three years, I had a guy cleaning our apartment every other week, and we ate most of our meals in the cafeteria. I can’t tell you how fantastic it is to come home from work to sparkling faucets, eat food I didn’t cook in great company, and have the rest of the evening to myself, guilt-free.

Two nights a week in Beijing, an ayi came to babysit our kids and clean our apartment (with the dust in the air, floors had to be mopped daily). And we ate out nearly every night because the restaurants were so cheap and delicious. For some reason, the laundry seemed easier ~ I did a load each morning in the tiny washer and hung clothes to dry in the sunny bay window.

These days I indulge in the occasional trip to Supperworks and stock my freezer full of meals. And I am fortunate in having a husband who loves to vacuum and water plants. I’m still holding out for full-time domestic help someday.

Where do we get the nerve to act on our dearest, darkest wish? It’s got to come from our artistic license ~ a firm belief that we have the right to neglect or delegate certain tasks that would keep us away from the studio. Because in fifty years, no one will care that my kitchen floor is covered in crumbs. But the creative work I do will stick around.

Do you secretly long to be waited on hand and foot? What are some of the ways you’ve cut down on domestic duties so your artist can get her due?

2011

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawna April 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm

About a month ago we broke down and hired cleaners to come in every two weeks. It forces us to deal with our main enemy – clutter – and means we don’t have to do the deep-cleaning stuff like dusting blinds. I have to admit that, after musing on the idea for a couple of years, we justified it finally by deciding to put our house on the market.

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Laureen Marchand April 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Oh, sweet memory – I used to have a housekeeper. Her name was Ellen and she came in every other week on a Wednesday for three hours. She cleaned under the stove burners, wiped up fridge spills, banished cat prints from the kitchen counter – all that stuff that makes life so much nicer to look at but seems to eat art hours whole. There was a time when I couldn’t afford a newspaper subscription, but I kept Ellen. It was her business, and I was a long-time client. Only good things can come of this! I lost Ellen when I left my medium-sized city for this tiny village I’m now in, and the freedom of a lower-priced, lower-stressed lifestyle on the edge one of our country’s great Parks. I regret nothing about the change – but Ellen, could you just drop by once in a while?!

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Alison April 16, 2011 at 3:07 am

@Shawna: Isn’t it funny that we’ll do these things for financial/practical reasons but not just to be kind to ourselves?

@Laureen: I love that Ellen won out over the newspaper. And of course good things came of it. I wonder if there are any domestic conveniences that would still fit your lower-priced lifestyle now?

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Laureen May 3, 2011 at 11:20 pm

It’s a few weeks later, but I did it! Swiffer products everywhere. Philosophically, I dislike the throw-away lifestyle intensely. Pragmatically, the darn things work. Conflicted but happy? That’s me :-)

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Liz Danforth April 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I found similar advice about outsourcing household chores in Vandekamp’s 168 Hours book. I spotted the aggravation and time-consumption of grocery-shopping, and now get my groceries delivered. Not only do I spend less (I don’t buy what isn’t on my list) but I also get everything that is ON my list — and I win back time I can use elsewhere. Highly recommended.

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Natalie Morisset October 12, 2011 at 2:41 am

Alison, it’s so cool to find this post! I got to it through your latest post — when I saw that the words ‘full-time housekeeper’ were hyperlinked, I started to hypersalivate! This is one of Christine Kane’s teachings that I’ve been working up to — that you should outsource the stuff you don’t enjoy doing or that steals time away from your ‘genius work’. I’ve had to work up some nerve to actually decide to go ahead with this, because I come from a completely DIY family… But Mike is Jewish, so he thinks nothing of hiring people to do stuff. Hurray! He and I recently agreed we would hire a housekeeper. Now we just have to find one! My friends seem to be DIYers as well, I haven’t gotten any referrals from them… If any of your friends in downtown Ottawa have someone they’d like to recommend, let me know!

In the meantime, we’ve hired an interior designer to help us plan our second-floor renovation, and a tree expert to get rid of some weedy trees, and of course we have our wonderful handyman who comes and goes freely, taking care of the house. And I’m probably going to hire a landscaper to make a plan for the back yard, and to help me implement it. It feels so GOOD to hire expert help for taking care of our home! I’m rapidly developing a taste for this.

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