7 Reasons Why Writers Should Do Housework

Filed in The Healthy Writer by on July 22, 2014 • views: 3125

Young woman doing housework, cleaning the kitchenHousework is a bad thing for writers.

It’s intrusive, creeping into our thoughts when we least want it to. Blank screen? That’s when we realize the bathroom needs immediate attention. Plot struggle? It’s time to mop the floor.

We try to stop it. A messy house isn’t going to self-destruct, after all.

But housework is demanding. It refuses to go away. Laundry piles up in the hamper. Dishes refuse to wash themselves. Dust thickens until we can write  on the furniture with our fingers.

Housework is also divisive. It was your turn to change the sheets. Nope, I did it last week. Did not. Did too.

Fine. (Begrudgingly rips sheets off bed.)

Most writing advice will steer you toward doing less housework in favor of doing more writing. I’m going to suggest you make friends with your weekly household cleaning duty. Turns out that as long as you aren’t obsessive about it (toothbrush-cleaning the tile floor, for example), housework is really good for you—especially for writers, creatives, and desk folks in general.

Rejected? Clean the Bathroom

Tina Welling, author of Writing Wild, talked in her writing and wellness feature about how restorative housework can be. Devastated after her editor rejected a manuscript she’d previously expressed a strong interest in, Tina took to the bathroom.

“It’s funny, but the thing that got me back in balance was deep cleaning my bathroom—I mean tile grout, the whole deal—and then showering in it afterward.  I just felt back in my skin in a way that I hadn’t been during the months of writing for this editor.  I learned that I know how to care for myself. ”

A number of other writers have found housework helpful. Agatha Christie has been quoted as saying the best time to get ideas is while doing the dishes. Writer Andrea Freedman agrees:

“I personally have discovered that a lot of ideas come to me while I am washing the dishes every night after dinner. As we do not have a dishwasher, I spend a fair amount of time on a daily basis cleaning up in the kitchen.”

She goes on to explain that at times, housework is relaxing and soothing to a writer’s normally frayed nerves.

“Rather than complain about yet another household chore, I make the most of my time to get in touch with my thoughts. It is as if, during the time I am washing the dishes, I am surrounded by a faint cloud, an aura of something protecting my mind from being disturbed by any outside thoughts or influences.”

Joyce Carol Oates notes that writers have the ability to “zone out” during whatever activity the’re doing, including housework:

“If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework you can still be writing, because you have that space. “

7 Ways Housework Can Be Good for You

Still not convinced you can face the duster with a smile? Consider the following seven reasons why doing so is good for your health, your creativity, and your peace of mind.

1. It makes you more productive/creative. Cleaning off your desk and work area, in particular, can help you accomplish more on a daily basis. Researchers from Princeton University found that clutter around your desk disrupts your focus and your ability to process information. A team from UCLA also found that physical clutter overloads the senses, impairing your ability to think creatively.

2. It may protect against breast cancer. Yes! A study of more than 200,000 women found the physical activity associated with doing housework could help reduce the risk of breast cancer—by 30 percent in pre-menopausal women, and 20 percent in postmenopausal women.

3. It may help you live longer…and write more. Granted, we’re talking about doing something more strenuous than the dishes, here. Mowing, weeding, painting the house, making repairs—these all qualify as moderate physical activity. Scientists found in a 2012 study that this type of housework was associated with a longer life—more time to finish all those novels.

4. It can help stave off disability. Most of us plan to be writing until we no longer can. Housework may help keep us working happily for a longer period of time. Researchers in a recently published 2014 study found that those who engaged in light physical activity like regular vacuuming and other household chores were one-third to one-half less likely to suffer a disability.

5. It can boost your mental health. A 2008 study of nearly 20,000 men and women reported that just 20 minutes of physical activity, including housework and gardening, each week was enough to boost mental health and reduce stress. Tip: Split up the chores among family members. A 2011 study found that dividing the chore list reduces the total time individuals spend on housework and encourages faster mental recovery from the day job for adults.

6. It may help alleviate symptoms of menopause. If menopausal symptoms are interrupting your creative routine, a little housework may help. A 2013 study of women between the ages of 54 and 63 found that those who did more household chores experienced fewer hot flashes and were able to sleep better than those who didn’t.

7. Gives dads a way to positively influence their daughters. Men who help with housework set a great example for their daughters. A recent 2014 study surveyed over 300 children aged 7 to 13 and at least one of their parents. Results showed that both children and parents were more likely to link women with housework and child care. The strongest predictor of daughters who wanted to go into less traditional, potentially higher-paying careers, was having fathers who helped with the housework.

Study author Alyssa Croft stated: “This suggests girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents.”

Making Peace with Housework

If you’re overwhelmed with housework, this isn’t the post for you. You may find more helpful information in this post by Christina Katz.

But if you’ve been thinking the only purpose behind housework is to take you away from your writing (or other creative endeavor), it may be time to step back and realize the potential benefits.

Next time, try just diving in. As author Veronique Vienne says:

“The secret of surviving housework is simply to do it. Pull the plug on the part of your brain that always wants to negotiate everything. You need to change a diaper, rinse a bottle, clean a spill, fluff a pillow? Consider it done. It’s a no-brainer. End of conversation. End of story. Not postponing chores—and not spending any mental energy equivocating, temporizing, or stalling—is actually a lot more restful than worrying about what needs to be done. ”

How do you feel about housework? Do you agree that it can be helpful, or do you think it’s always an intrusion?

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Comments (6)

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  1. I love this post! So well presented and laid out.
    I’ve always enjoyed the meditative aspect of washing dishes which is improved when you have a window above the sink to look out.
    I’m not fond of vacuuming the stairs, probably because I don’t have the right equipment to do it efficiently.
    The good news about housework: the reward at the end when it’s all shiny and new again. Short-lived, maybe, but then, isn’t all of life? 😉

  2. What an interesting perspective! I’m not sure I’ll ever enjoy housework, but I do agree that tackling it with a positive mental spin makes it easier to accept and get through.

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks, Jessica! Appreciate the feedback. Not enjoyable for me either, but always like how it looks after I’m done!

  3. Chere says:

    Who knew there were so many potential housework benefits!