The joy (?!) of housework

By Caitlin Kelly

OK, you think, she’s lost her marbles — for good this time.

The ikat is for our headboard, the check for side tables

How can anyone enjoy housework?


I do.

Here are 10 reasons I enjoy cleaning our home:

  1. Jose — my husband, a photo editor and photographer — and I are now both full-time freelance. That means spending a lot more time, together, in a one-bedroom apartment. It’s not only our home, but on many days also our shared work space.  If it’s not tidy, clean and organized, we’re toast. Where’s that check? Where’s my invoice? Have you seen my notes?! Not an option.

Housework also offers me a quick, physically-active break from the computer.

Because I lose no time to commuting, I don’t resent spending 20 minutes a day making sure our home is in good order.


People who spend hours just getting to and from work every day — and/or caring for/ferrying multiple children to multiple activities — have much less time available to do anything, let alone clean the bathtub.


2.    We live in a small apartment.

There’s no extra wing — or bedroom or bathroom or unfilled closet (I wish!) in which to stash all the junk. If it’s out, we see it. So we spend a lot of time putting stuff away.


3. Jose does all the laundry.

Every bit of it, every single time. I loathe doing laundry, (machines in our apartment building basement), and am grateful he actually enjoys doing it. Plus he gets to hear all the building gossip.

And I (yes) really enjoy ironing.


4. I spent my childhood in institutional settings — alternating between boarding school and summer camp, ages 8 through 16.

That meant sharing space with two to four other girls, stuck with ugly, uncomfortable iron beds at school and plain wooden bunks at camp. School offered basic cotton coverlets and faded paper wallpaper.

Always someone else’s tastes and rules.

I’m so fortunate now to own our home, one in which we’ve invested care, sweat and two major renovations.

In world where so many people are homeless — the indigent, refugees living in tents for years — to have a home that is clean, safe, private and ours?

I treasure it.

5. In boarding school we were graded daily — with a sheet of paper taped to the bedroom entrance — on our neatness. I always got terrible marks which meant I had to stay in at weekends and/or (yes, really) memorize Bible verses as punishment. I can think of fewer more effective ways to make someone hate being tidy.

Today it’s wholly my choice, freely made.

Yay, autonomy!


A table set for one of our dinner parties

6. We own lovely things, many of them old.

It’s my joy and pleasure to take good care of them for whoever gets them next time around. We have no kids, so who knows…A friend? An auction house?

Whether the 18th century oak dining table or valuable original signed photographs, it’s a privilege to own them. Why not take good care of them?

7. I don’t consider it housework but home care.

There’s a very real difference for me.

8. We have no pets or children  and we’re both pretty tidy.

Without mud, dander, fur and jammy hand-prints appearing every day everywhere, caring for a small apartment just isn’t a big deal — two to three hours’ work does the whole place.

It’s not a huge house filled with stuff and/or being endlessly re-shuffled and messed by others, some them breathtakingly oblivious to how much time and work it takes to keep a home looking its best.

I’m amazed, (and appalled), by people whose children and husbands or male partners (typically) just don’t do their fair share of laundry and cleaning up.

It’s a huge burden on women who already have plenty on our plates as it is.

I designed our (only) bathroom and never mind cleaning it.

9. My parents’ homes were/are poorly cared for.

They had plenty of money and each owned some very nice things, so, in my view, had no excuse for neglecting these gifts. I hated seeing dust everywhere and finding a fridge either empty of any food or full of rotting vegetables.

10. Our home nurtures us deeply.

As highly visual people, we’ve chosen every element of it carefully — from wall colors to cust0m-made lined curtains, antique rugs and original photographs, silver and silver-plate cutlery, linen and cotton napkins.


We’ve created a home that demands some real attention: dusting, polishing, shining, washing — but that also rewards us handsomely with beauty, warmth, comfort and a place to recharge.


We also love to entertain, often holding long, lazy Sunday lunches for our friends or welcoming young journalists to crash on our sofa.

Keeping the place guest-ready means we’re happy to host without panicking.

$31. Score!


 Is housework something you dread and avoid — or does doing it give you some pleasure as well?

18 thoughts on “The joy (?!) of housework

  1. I feel the opposite–I hate cleaning but I do love the result. I see how much it affects the way you work or just enjoy your house. I just get so tired because I feel as if I don’t have the time, but then I also don’t work from home.

  2. I clean at the weekends when I’m at home. No time during the week! It is very satisfying to have a clean and tidy home. At the moment, I’m battling moths in the living room. 😠 Apparently, it is a bad year for them (well, a ‘good’ year for *them*, I suppose — a bad year for us!) and my sister has had problems as well. Cue lots of vacuuming in places I don’t often vacuum (like behind the piano) to get rid of them, and spraying cedarwood essential oil around.

      1. Ugh! I heard that NYC had a big problem with bedbug infestations a few years ago. So gross!

        Fortunately, the moth problem seems to be under control…hopefully! I did some research and these moths are clothes moths — they like wool and cashmere, and they had started attacking the felt around my piano keys. 😦

      2. Actually, the 2 people I know with bedbug issues are both in Toronto — and one of them found a bedbug in (!!!) a library book.

        I’ve never heard of moths going after a piano.

  3. I don’t mind doing housework either, for much the same reasons you have listed: Both my partner and I freelance from “home” too, so no lost time to commuting (YAY). Although home is always a rented space somewhere in the world, having a tidy, clean, uncluttered space is necessary for a productive work day. Said space is also always a small one.

    For me particularly, having orderly surroundings is often essential to general function. I grapple with something akin to ADHD, so visual dissonance is very unbalancing. I find the physical activity of mindless chore-doing soothing when distressed, or needing to mentally chew on a problem.

    1. So true! Now…live on a boat. OMG. 🙂

      I find mess and dirt really stressful, so every newsroom I’ve ever worked in was UGHHHHHHHHHH. Newspapers are legendary pigtsies. When I was shown my desk on Day One at the NY Daily News I was “given”: 1) a broken, filthy chair; 2) a desk drawer with a man’s pair of smelly used sneakers in it; 3) a computer keyboard so encrusted with food and drink I didn’t even want to touch it. FFS.

      Now I write this on a lovely 18th century oak table at home, staring at the Hudson, listening to classical music…aaaaaah. 🙂

      And, I, too find physical chores a nice break.

  4. Oooh, I’d jump at the chance to live on a boat. My partner did that once in Australia, but we don’t know anyone with a boat which is roomy enough to accommodate us both. One day we might get our chance though!

    Ahahaha, that first day story – that’s happened to me a few times! I’ve also occasionally had to work from other people’s desks, which were so buried in stuff that there was NO surface available. I’m constantly amazed at people, whose attention is so disciplined, they can work hemmed in by stuff, or unfazed by any sort of environment.

    I’m writing this to you from a little apartment in the Dorćol neighbourhood of old Belgrade, with a desk from the 70s. These apartment blocks are jumble of construction styles from different eras, newer ones replacing those destroyed during the numerous conflicts that the city has seen in its lifetime. Nearly all of them bear the scars of some war, giving the streets a depth of texture like no other I’ve seen. Outside, the night is alive with conversation and laughter; occasionally, a drift of music from the boat-clubs down by the Sava river, when the wind is right. It’s summer, every night is for celebration.

    1. What an amazing description of where you are right now…:-)

      One of the most extraordinary sights I’ve ever seen was in Normandy, in Bayeux and elsewhere, where stone walls still bear WWII bulletholes and scrapes. History happened there.

  5. certain home care tasks are actually kind of zen-like for me. i enjoy washing dishes by hand, but not drying and washing laundry, but not folding. like you, my home space is small, and with a bit of attention every day, it stays pretty clean. i also lived in rentals for so long that i really enjoy making my house my own, with color, decorating and only my favorite things.

  6. I find some aspects of cleaning therapeutic and some infuriating. I grew up in a very messy, cluttered, less-than-hygienic home, sharing a bedroom with a younger sibling who found any sense of order anathema. We also had a succession of small, furry pets that shed absolutely everywhere. These days I have a vacuum cleaner that specialises in picking up animal fur from carpet (we have one cat), and I like to be able to see the floors without having to move the dirty washing first, though I still find my partner’s socks all over the house. I tend to stress-clean (especially if we are expecting visitors), and I find it much easier to think and function in a clean and tidy environment. That said, my windows are always in need of washing and my standards would fall far short of those of my Dutch grandmother.

    1. Those Dutch grannies! 🙂

      I think it’s much tougher when others are not as tidy, and pet fur….that would not thrill me. It’s always sort of funny when I see people wearing dark clothing with fur stuck to it.

  7. I get it! Truly. I spend far too much time on the computer, having to write most of the day. And when I’m done, even the bill paying, etc. gets done there. To move my body and have an effect on things one can see is a welcome relief:).

  8. Lovely blog post – I too am an advocate of using all the nice things I own. I collect vintage china and cooking utensils and get immense pleasure cooking delicious food and then serving it on my beautiful crockery! As for housework, I always get a wash of calm over me when the house is tidy from top to toe!

    1. Thanks!

      I was lucky enough to live in a small town and have time/energy to go antiquing a lot and bought a large but inexpensive collection of brown and white transferware, enough to serve six to eight for dinner. I also love 18th century porcelain, which is still (!) findable — like a cup and saucer from our local thrift shop for a few dollars.

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