The Order of Things: Housework

by Eva-Maria Simms

Anyone who lives in a house or an apartment for a period of time knows how quickly human living spaces deteriorate if we neglect our things and fail to vacuum the carpet, do the dishes, pick up our dirty clothes of the floor. The lovely, orderly, well designed room turns into a dirty cave within weeks and things get lost in the clutter. Housework is the continuous battle of ordered human design against nature who wants to do something else with our spaces and things: grow mold, create crevices for bugs and rodents, festoon with spider webs, push roots through the foundations, level walls, return the bricks to the dust where they came from.

Housework demands a different kind of heroism than the conquering of places or the building of city structures. To love housework means to love not the glory of the new but the eternal return of the same. It means to attend to things already there by touching them and by returning them to where they want to be. It means to rinse the dishes from last night’s supper and load them into the dishwasher so that the celebration of eating can happen once again, tomorrow, around the table with its ensemble of plates and crystal and forks, knives, and spoons. It means to set yourself against the mold and keep the minuscule predators out of your territory, out of your body. It means to rest on the seventh day and look at the order of it all and find it good – and mess it up again just by living in it.


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