Weekend Update:
New World Order

Here’s a New Year’s resolution for you: I’m not going to spend Saturday afternoons tidying the apartment anymore. I’m going to look after the household on weekday afternoons, after lunch, one room per day. The amount of work won’t change, but its impact on my reading-and-writing life will be greatly diminished.

I hope. I’ve been doing the dusting on Saturday afternoons for nearly forty years. It used to be something to do while listening to the Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts — which I stopped listening to over twenty years ago. But the center of my daily pattern has been reversed in the past couple of years. In the old days, I worked at a job, took care of the house, and wrote, in that order. I had no real idea of what to write, and that lack of drive and direction made most of what I wrote (outside of letters, a significant note) fairly unreadable. When I stopped working (practicing law), I allowed housekeeping to take its place: we had a house in the country, with a garden, and between the two places I was busy every day. But was this what I wanted to do with my life? No. And the house in the country often kept Kathleen and me apart. So we got rid of it.

That was in 1999. (I stopped spending time at the country house two years earlier.) It would take a full ten years to reverse the polarity between housekeeping, on the one hand, and reading and writing, on the other. What is all this housekeeping, you may well ask, and I do mean one of these days to write something about it; for the moment, I’ll just say that: it’s a great deal more than washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and running a vacuum over the rugs. Library management, for example. That’s part of housekeeping — a rather headachy part if you have a few thousand books and are always buying new ones. More recently, as I’ve written about in Nano Notes, I’ve put the iTunes playlist to work as a device for filling the air with the sound of many times more recordings than was practicable in the days of “putting on a record.” It takes oceans of time — I’ll never get to the end of the job I’ve set myself, unless someone comes up with some intelligent apps for handling classical music on iTunes. Bref: housekeeping is simply personal hygiene, conducted on an exoskeletal basis. The walls of this apartment are my true skin.

Something that’s true for everybody, I believe — although most people are unaware of it. I have the sneaking suspicion that more men would be aware of it if their housekeeping weren’t being seen to by women. (Or, as in bygone years, by servants.) And the fact that women (and servants) do most of the housekeeping explains why it is not thought to be important. Or interesting. I’ll agree that dusting is not very interesting, and I hope that I haven’t bored anybody with a description of my way of seeing to it. But look what has happened to cooking in the past thirty years. Happened, that is, as a matter of interest. Now that it is generally understood that men do most of the serious cooking in the world — there are more Anthony Bourdains than Julia Childs in professional kitchens — cooking has an edge. I don’t think that dusting will ever have its own TV show, but I do hope that home storage gets more attention from designers and essayists. What do essayists have to contribute? Nothing less than thoughts on the most pressing philosophical question that we face in our everyday lives: what do I keep, and what do I pitch, and why?