To Clean or Not to Clean…isn’t even a question, really

It’s not going to happen.  Oh, I have the ambition to clean the house.  Or at least my bedroom, which is more neglected than the rest of the house.  And to trim the fruit trees, weed the flower bed, fertilize the lawn, throw away all that stuff  I’ll never use in the pantry, and, and, and…

The problem is the time/energy tradeoff.  If I had all the energy in the world (or even the energy I had when I was thirty) I’d have enough time to accomplish all I need to get done.  If I had all the time in the world (which has never been the case, and probably never will) I’d have enough energy to accomplish all I need to get done.  But given the constraints of limited energy and limited time, spring cleaning is among the many things that just aren’t going to happen.

I’m one of those people who keep to do lists—and while a lot of things slowly get crossed off it, more things keep adding themselves, and there are a bunch of things that never get done.  I was complaining about this to one of my saner friends, who gave me an are-you-crazy? look and told me that was how it was supposed to work.  “The things that are important get done,” she said.  “The things that aren’t as important either get done eventually, or they fall off the bottom of the list.  And if they fall off, then they didn’t really matter, anyway.”

I know she’s right, but I can’t help regretting all those things that inevitably fall by the wayside.  Which usually includes cleaning, so for me Spring Cleaning has given way to Spring Prioritizing:

Writing’s at the top of the list, followed by the publicity stuff that goes along with it, and friends and family are allowed to disrupt that schedule.  (Unless I’m composing a first draft.  Then only a fire that actually threatens the house or arterial blood spurting are a sufficient excuse.)

Then comes a mix of necessary house and yard chores, and going camping and other fun things that make life worthwhile.  All work and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy, it makes you crabby, and after a while the world starts looking very dull and narrow.  And that’s fatal for everyone, not just writers.

The trick is not to feel guilty about the stuff that’s not getting accomplished while you’re having fun.  But the world really won’t come to an end if I don’t fix those occasional leaks under the sink—the catch pans are doing a fine job, so far.  And if I get the sprinkler system running, who cares if the grass gets mowed on time?  (I really should weed & feed.)  The fruit trees will survive another year without being trimmed.  The un-weeded flower bed may not.  So I’ll either get to it…or I won’t.

But either way, I’m going to try to accept the fact that I can’t accomplish everything I’d like to, and it’s stupid to make myself crazy about the fact that I can’t.  And maybe I should apply that attitude to more than just Spring Cleaning.

So are you a lister, or not?  And what are your spring priorities?

Hilari Bell writes SF & fantasy for kids and teens—and this spring she’s working on the fourth book of her Knight & Rogue series.

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6 thoughts on “To Clean or Not to Clean…isn’t even a question, really

  1. I totally agree with you about no distractions during the first draft. And, the all work and no play policy 🙂

  2. My mom got me a beautiful SToryPeople bag that says: Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.
    This is my life philosophy. When someone says to me, “I don’t have time to exercise,” I know that this isn’t important to that person.
    So worry not! Cleaning … meh! The only time I get REAL cleaning done is when I’m looking for something in the rubble of toys. 🙂

  3. Spring cleaning? What’s that? Spring is for planting, and early weeding, and walking around the block to see if my neighbors with south-facing flower beds have daffodils yet. Seriously, I clean in the fall (by which time it’s desperately needed) and when I have company coming. And occasionally when it’s bad enough to distract me from getting writing done.

    I do make lists, knowing that not all of it will ever get done. My mother taught me to put “Make List” at the stop so that you have something to cross off right away.

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