Permission to not clean the house

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 Leave a Comment

I opened up this month's Sunset -- my favorite magazine -- and found, to my delight, a great article by Anne Lamott giving me permission to turn off Twitter and not clean the house. Let me explain.

For those of you unfamiliar with Anne Lamott, she is the writer who inspires other writers. She manages to break down the craft of writing into little bite-size, unintimidating tasks. And one of the main things she tells her writing students is that, in order to make writing meaningful, you must be living meaningfully. Not manically busy, filling up your time with texts and Facebook and chunks of TV, but taking a walk, or having coffee with a girlfriend, or sitting on the porch with your dog lying on your feet. We spend enough time doing. You must take time to just be.

I know, try telling that to any mom -- working, stay-at-home or any combination. There is never enough time in the day, always another load of laundry, always a floor to sweep or a dish to be washed. Always an email to be returned, a school form to be filled out, a playdate to schedule, a sports camp to enroll in. Busy, busy, busy.

As a stay-at-home mom, this is especially true. There's that part of me that wants to still be in the adult working world, not only to contribute to the household, but to keep one foot in my old career. I over-promise, and take on way more than I can possibly do in a day, and sometimes do things imperfectly. I overschedule my kids, and end up rushing them around, shuffling them from one activity to another.

Luckily, my kids always let me know when I've become too manic. They're my best teachers in the art of living in the present moment, when I take the time to just listen.

Sometimes the best days are the ones where we stay in our PJ's until noon, and make pancakes and leave the dishes in the sink, and dump out all the toys on the floor and don't pick them up, and walk to the park and leave the phone at home and lie on our backs in the grass and watch the Colorado blue sky.

Everybody needs those kind of days every once in a while.

As Anne Lamott says: "I ask them whether, if their children grow up to be adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress and achievement, and then work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?"


So on Sunday, when I read the article, I called up two good friends, and we took the dogs and the kids for a walk. Nowhere fancy, just down to Westerly Creek, where we saw the prairie dogs -- and there must be millions of them -- in some crazy springtime love trance, running out in the road, chirping at the dogs nose to nose, and making us laugh. We let the dogs jump in the pond (and we would have let the kids, too, but it was still snowmelt cold), and run through the fields. It was a good day.


  • Shalet said:  

    Amen! I too was very happy to see that article. Enjoy being!

  • Alison said:  

    I found your blog after searching for this article online - and I had the same response, thanks for permission to take a break and stop cleaning the house so often. I'm guaranteed to get lots of unexpected guests dropping by now, as they always seem to do when I haven't done a tidy!

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