I absolutely love this book, and the whole idea of accepting the fact that cleaning our homes is a fact of life, not to be shunned all year until December when company is coming.  (Like someone I know does!)   The author, Lauren Cassel Brownell, quotes her wise Aunt Verna of New Mexico who says, “I try to think of housekeeping as a short mental vacation — let my mind freewheel like I do on a walk or a swim.  I sometimes come up with solutions to problems I didn’t even know I had.”  Now, that last part is humorous, but also profound.  Housekeeping is repetitive, much like basket-weaving, but with more movement.  And therefore, very conducive to pondering the questions of life while you’re scrubbing the tub.

In the beginning pages, Brownell says that the Zen approach of housecleaning “The Middle Way” is one to aspire to.  “The Middle Way,” she writes, “encourages us to practice all things in moderation. When it comes to household chores, we need to let go of the extremes of love and hate, do the work that needs to be done, and be perfectly present in every moment.”  It’s a way of cleaning that Brownell hadn’t embraced, and quite honestly, had been labled a “slob.”  So she went on a journey to discover why she found the simple task of keeping a house so incredibly disdainful, and began looking for answers.   She came up with some scientific beliefs that says maybe we are predisposed (or wired from birth) to either cleanliness or sloppiness.  Uh-HA!  So there may be something to the phrase, “I don’t know how some people can keep a house spotless 24/7.  I guess they are born that way.”

And it may have something to do with the left-brain/right-brain notion that we act according to the dominant side of our brains.  Left-brain people, Brownell says, “like to color inside the lines and usually enjoy keeping house.  They are logical and analytical.  The right-brained people of the world prefer to scribble on the walls and are okay with disorder.”  Are you still with me?  So, as you look around your house, or think back to your coloring days, you may have already figured out which side of the brain you’re leaning towards.  I am a scribbler.  I admit it.

So, what can I get from this book?  I found that I have “perfection paralysis.”  As I go about my house, I get overwhelmed at everything that needs tending…the dishes in the sink, the dust in the corners, the weeds in my garden, the pile of towels in the laundry, the foodshopping, the ironing, and the list goes on.  Because I can’t do it all, I do nothing.  Instead, I go outside and play with my dog.  Eventually, she gets all tuckered out, and I’m ready to head back into the house and do something.   And when I do, I say to myself, “tackle one thing.”  And that one thing is usually the kitchen.  If the dishes have been cleaned out of the sink, the clean ones put away, the countertops wiped, and there’s milk for the morning, then I’m good. If I have a few extra minutes, and I’m feeling chipper, I may sweep the floor, and like Scarlett O’Hara, will think, “Tomorrow is another day.”

What else do I get from this book?  That a sense of humor about the most mundane parts of our lives is key, that we have so much more in common than we think.  My most favorite part of the book is when she writes, “Get trashy!  Peruse your house with a trash bag.  If it’s broken, ugly, or irritating, pitch it immediately.”  That may be all I need to know!!

This is a wise and funny read.

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