Why Am I Here Cleaning Toilets

Why am I cleaning toilets

Writing Life



The kitchen is all mine again and now the laundry is Bill’s. When he first retired he dabbled in both. I remember him and his engineer friend discussing how they did the laundry. I’m glad I got washing the dishes back. I do have a dishwasher and I really like to use it, but you still have quite a few things to clean up in the kitchen, especially after supper. I didn’t realize until that job was more or less usurped how important doing dishes was to me.

When I was a child, my parents had a restaurant. When things got busy my brother and I washed dishes. We lived in Colorado where many people came to be treated for TB, and the Health Department insisted we use antiseptic in our rinse water. The antiseptic was pink and beautiful.

When we got together for family dinners with grandmothers and such I always had to help with dishes. I enjoyed it because all the women were in the kitchen talking. and I felt like a part of something important and meaningful.

Actually, I am learning how important it is to my creativity to engage in physical tasks. Washing dishes, dusting, cooking, making beds, and yes, even laundry, frees something in us so that our brains are able to work out problems and be roused to new heights of inspiration.

Long ago, a myth about writers said they drank and took drugs and often went crazy. That myth has pretty much been put to rest. There are a few more, though. One, we are rich and have lots of time, two, writers are  the most important people in the world, and above ordinary mortals, and three, we must be famous or we’re not really writers.

I’ve recently re-read one of my favorite writing books, A Broom of One’s Own: Essays on Housecleaning and the Writing  by Nancy Peacock. The New York Times selected her first novel as a Notable Book of the Year. But, she still had to make a living cleaning houses. It was hard, but the job suited her need for autonomy and solitude. She could think while she was working, and she could listen to books on tape to keep up with her reading. She got many stories from and about the people she worked for. She wrote more books.

A writer friend who had three teen-age children said once when she was cleaning the bathroom she thought humorously, the world waits for me, why am I here cleaning toilets.

Almost everybody has to do that now and again (and again). It helps a lot to know how much our psyches and bodies need to work. Housework and yard work are good for the soul. I for one am grateful that I am able to work and that I have work to do.

What is your favorite job around the house or in the yard? What is your favorite myth about writers?









  1. Love your thoughts on this! It’s hard to beat walking, working out at the gym, and showering! to get my creative juices and words flowing.

  2. I think I enjoy working outside more than in, especially in the Spring when Hope jumps eternal with me planting seeds and plopping little seedlings into the ground, knowing how beautiful they will be in a short length of time. Yes, I read all the January release fantasy books (seed catalogs) and hope… Of course, the summer means watering, mowing, raking, weeding, etc etc and I don’t enjoy that. Harvesting garden veggies is fun but canning 2 bushel of tomatoes- NO! I once was told to go clean a toilet when I was a jr. manager. At first I was a tad miffed that I, a manager, was relegated to cleaning toilet bowls but then realized, I was being paid BIG BUCKS to do it. Since that humbling moment, I’ve never really gotten upset about doing anything. Even my youngest son (age 34) has come to that same mindset. He worked for Sam’s Club in the Tire Dept – they were slow and they needed somebody to gather shopping carts from the parking lot. They tapped him for the job and, like me, he realized, he was getting paid the same to change a tire as he was to collect the shopping carts… and getting the shopping carts was a lot easier, more fun, and he was outside on a gorgeous day! Proper perspective.

  3. Though it always seems to fall onto the last possible place on my to-do list, cleaning can be very cathartic and serves me well when I need to suss out a problem or clear my mind. Then I can sometimes come up with and write my best stuff.

    • When all things fall properly into place in our lives, we feel it is finally time to clean and then we discover that our minds and bodies needed it as much as our houses did. I’m just saying what you said because I liked what you said.

  4. I won’t lie – I really don’t like housework. If I had money, I’d hire a cleaning lady. I’ll cook – I just love it, and I’ll wash the pots and scrub the pans, but dusting, cleaning toilets, vacuuming, tubs, the sheer bending (I have a bad back, so I personally find all of it very uncomfortable). So, that said, if I had to pick one, I guess I like re-organizing a pantry, cleaning out cabinets and while I love a clean house, I dislike the work it takes to get there. And my favorite myth about writers is that “all we do is sit around and write stories and how hard is that?” Seriously?

    • I really liked your comment. I agree that the myth you chose is a really annoying one–mostly because people who believe it, also believe you are available to them at least 12/7.

      I’ve had cleaning ladies. Boy, are they expensive! I did like having the house clean every two weeks and knowing I didn’t need to worry about it. But I always had to leave the house because they were talkers and I didn’t want to pay them to tell me their stories, although, I probably missed some valuable stuff.

  5. I can sooooo relate to this! I like to fold laundry, its warm and smells fresh, helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something. Great post!

  6. Let me see… cleaning-no, yard work-no, washing dishes-double no. I guess this is why I am not a writer! I do like cooking.

    • As I told Onisha day before yesterday, I don’t know what I’m doing talking about all the housework I do. But, then I am a writer of fiction, and we tell tales so, I’m just doing my real job. Ha.

Now it's your turn. Tell us what you think.

google-site-verification: googlef32d30d369629217.html
%d bloggers like this: