Virginia Woolfe wrote that for a woman to write fiction, she must have money and a room of her own. I heartily agree, but I think that list needs to be expanded. I doubt that Woolfe would have completed “Mrs. Dalloway” if she hadn’t been blessed with housemaids, a cook, a driver and nannies for the children. Of course, Woolfe was born into a family of wealth and privilege, so she probably assumed that other women writers belonged to the same social class. I doubt that she ever considered that women would have to take time away from their creative endeavors to perform mundane tasks like laundry and cleaning. Come to think of it, I don’t think the women’s suffrage movement would have succeeded if Mrs. Pankhurst had to bake five dozen cupcakes for her youngest’s kindergarten class.
I have a slightly compulsive nature so I can stand a messy house for only so long before I am compelled to tidy things. I am fortunate to live in a time when laundry and dishes are washed by machines while I do other things, but at some point that laundry needs to be folded, the dishes put away in their cupboards. Counters cannot scrub themselves. I have managed to condense all these tasks into small blocks of time before I settle into writing or researching each day.
The one household chore that I can’t condense is vacuuming but it’s unavoidable (we have a long-haired daughter and a long-haired dog). Imagine my delight on Christmas morning when I opened a large gift box to discover my own Roomba. The angels had answered my prayers! I named the cute thing WALL-E and set him to work.
At first, all went smoothly as Wall-e scurried about, sweeping up dust and crumbs throughout the house. He slid under furniture and terrorized our dog. He chased my husband around the kitchen.
But then he would disappear. The first time he vanished, we couldn’t find him for hours. He’d wandered into my daughter’s room, straight into the Bermuda triangle of her closet. He slowly ran out of power as he tried to escape. The next day, he became entangled in a computer cord and died under my desk. We played a daily game of “where’s Wall-e?” Somedays, I’d find him cowering under our bed, afraid to come out. I’m afraid that our cozy house was a death trap for Wall-e.
Now each morning before his scheduled run, I dash about the house, picking up electrical cords, moving chairs, tucking back the drapes. I am reminded of years ago when I cleaned the house before the cleaning lady arrived (did I mention that I’m compulsive?). After I’ve made the house Wall-e-safe, I retire to the den with my headphones while he valiantly (and noisily) cleans the rest of the house. I’ve one less excuse to keep me from writing.
We’ve learned to adapt, Wall-e and me. Now, I just need to find a room of my own.
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