Is Housework Overrated?

clean house lg

The other day over dinner with a friend, she said, “You’ll never guess what my mom got me for Christmas—a sewing machine and a hand mixer. I mean, I’ll keep the mixer because I do like to make chocolate chip cookies, but I mean, a sewing machine?!”

Our other friend said, “She should have bought you a climbing rack!”

We laughed and agreed that maybe her mom doesn’t understand her very well. Some of us women just aren’t that into the trappings of domesticity. Not because we’re feminists. Or because we’re career driven, or lazy. We’d just rather be playing outside.

Even as American women are becoming more free to pursue careers and nontraditional life paths, there still seems to be a subconscious or societal pressure to also hold up the traditional domestic roles we’ve taken on in the past. Sure, we’re free to work 60+ hour weeks or be professional cyclists, but shouldn’t our houses also be spotless? And all our meals organic and homemade? And our living rooms perfectly curated? It’s tough to pull it all off. And sometimes getting out on the trail just might be more rewarding.

A couple years ago, I was carrying my dirty mountain bike up to my apartment, well after dark, trying to open the door with one hand and also not squish the burrito I’d bought on the way home from riding. The smell of an elaborate dinner filled my nostrils. My roommate had cooked a healthy, delicious-smelling meal and was scraping the leftovers into a container as I plopped, dusty and sweaty, into a kitchen chair. She offered me some as I peeled open the foil on my burrito. And I thought to myself, Someday. Maybe someday I’ll cook again.

It’s not that I didn’t like to cook. I loved handling vegetables and putting together tasty, creative meals. Just not as much as I loved mountain biking. So every night after work, instead of heading home to prepare food, I’d be driving to the trailhead. And when I got home late, dirty, tired and happy, I’d eat whatever I could throw together or pick up from a takeout joint.

After a couple of dates with a guy who didn’t mountain bike at the time, I invited him over for dinner for the first time. I was actually going to cook something, and it felt like a pivotal moment. When I apologized for the house being cluttered, he said, “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” This relationship might really go somewhere, I thought.

There’s a difference between not-quite-squeaky-clean and gross, of course. But I’ve found that a housework to-do list will automatically expand to fill the time allotted. And the more money I’m spending on curtains, pillows and kitchen gadgets, the less I have to spend on plane tickets, bike parts and climbing shoes.

I’m really glad my mom gave me a vacuum cleaner for Christmas a couple years ago because—and maybe this is sad—I wasn’t planning on spending my own money on one anytime soon. And I truly appreciate it when friends invite me over to their neat, clean homes for gourmet dinners. Maybe I feel a little guilty about not having swept my floor in a few days, or not making my gnocchi from scratch.

Don’t get me wrong—I own a sewing machine, which I’ve used. And a heart-shaped cake pan. And a Pinterest account. But if I have the choice between sitting at home to mop the floor and heading up to the mountains to ride or climb a few pitches, you can probably guess which one I’m choosing.

2 Responses to Is Housework Overrated?

  1. MaryJane says:

    How has no one commented on this? I believe this applies to having children too, I’d rather play (outside) with my kids than worry my house is cluttered.

    BTW, finally clicked on your link from an AJ article. Your website is now in my favorites!

  2. Jenny says:

    Thank you for writing this!! Every Sunday when I get home from a weekend packed full of fun with bikes and surfboards, I always feel guilty that I didn’t make something delicious or clean my house or grocery shop or whatever but I’m exhausted from all the playing that is done. I’m glad it’s not just me! 🙂

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