COVID-19 Reflections While Staying Home: The Housework

I have been writing some rather serious pieces lately about COVID-19 – including an ongoing series on my small blog, which is tucked away on the Jamaica Gleaner website. I have written about COVID and environmental pollution, COVID and water issues, COVID and vulnerable Jamaicans (starting with those living with HIV/AIDS). There is more to come.

This miserable virus has taken over our lives, hasn’t it? Meanwhile, on the home front the atmosphere has changed. Here’s another, “lighter” side to the dreaded coronavirus…

I’m in love with a Shark.

Well, not unusual for a lover of our environment, you might say. But this Shark is an inanimate object, although quite an alluring one. It is made mostly of plastic (not environmentally friendly). It makes a not unpleasant whirring noise, with little rattles when it picks up something particularly interesting. It has lights on the front, so you can see into dark corners (a bit like those dark corners in coral reefs). It is rather slinky and you can twist it around a little bit, just like the sinuous movements of a real shark.

A shark doing that slinky thing.

Yes, you’ve guessed correctly. It’s a vacuum cleaner.

Now, I have never been enamored of the housework thing. I have never found it rewarding. Does anyone actually enjoy it? After all, no sooner have you completed some tedious task than you find yourself needing to do it all over again. “But I only just did the washing up!” you protest, in vain. Nevertheless, there it is, Washing Up Round Number 5,069, sitting there, looking at you. The only positive side is that some domestic tasks use up a few calories, so it might be considered a healthy pursuit.

In her book “The Second Sex,”  – which, though written in 1949 still resonates in many ways and is considered a feminist classic – Simone de Beauvoir put it rather well:

“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.”

I am not a “domesticated” person (although I sometimes wish I was). I think actually that I am physically lazy. I did warn my Dear Husband about this many years ago – and he has graciously accepted the fact that I am not fanatical about cleanliness (and that, dare I say it, I dislike cooking – which may be a shocking revelation to many Jamaicans).

Household Chores
When I looked up pictures of “housework,” almost all of them depicted women. The only manly household pursuit, according to these images, is “taking out the trash” – hardly very demanding.

I also confess that we are privileged. We normally employ a helper, who comes one day per week and waves a magic wand on our scruffy old house, making it look quite decent at least for a few  hours. We generally don’t worry too much as we pop in and out a lot. But now we are both here, 90 per cent of the time. I find myself scrutinizing the carpet, and running my finger along surfaces to find my fingertips coated in dust. We don’t have AC and as every day the wind starts up and blows dust into every nook and cranny… Yes, the battle is on, and the Shark is my companion at arms.

Of course, we are obsessed with cleanliness in the reign of COVID-19. I have discovered other small domestic pleasures. One is Foam. Yes, foam – not foaming at the mouth (although one would be if one ingested this stuff – again, I don’t think it’s very eco-friendly). It’s disinfecting, cleaning foam. It’s almost like magic. If you spray it on a surface it turns snowy white. When you wipe it off – voilà!

No one’s washing line ever looked as pretty as this…

And there’s more. The washing. I usually do this anyway, so that our helper can kindly do some ironing when she comes. Ironing is probably the chore I detest the most. But now, under the COVID regime, I have gone into overdrive with washing. I order DH to remove his outer clothing as soon as he steps in from outside, and toss them in the machine. Towels and face clothes spend more time in the washing machine than outside. There is always washing on the line (the current heat and wind is better than any dryer) with usually one or two cloth masks getting the germs baked out of them.

I used to have one washing day a week. Now it’s six.

By the way, there’s another exciting aspect of the Shark: it has accoutrements. We have a bag full of little bits and pieces in odd shapes, that can be attached to the beast. I am looking forward to using these to their maximum capabilities. And no – this is not an advertisement. The Shark just makes me feel good.

A messy old cobweb.

However, I fear the novelty is wearing off. I found myself lying on the bed the other morning, gazing at a cobweb in the corner of the window. I felt absolutely no desire to dust it off. What does it matter? It’s still there – even though the spider appears to have abandoned it some time ago. It’s still there.

The sad truth is, COVID-19 stifles us, physically and mentally. It is ever-present, in the back of our minds.

Everything else is a distraction.

Home, sweet home.

Here’s a delightful little commentary on the joys of housework from a “house husband”…I stole the Simone de Beauvoir quote from this article.

5 thoughts on “COVID-19 Reflections While Staying Home: The Housework

      1. As a retiree and in the hi risk group for Covid-19, I am finding it quite a challenge to not be too fanatical about housework! As a professional in my work-force years, I could handle it ‘on the w/ends’ and feel quite satisfied to leave what was not accomplished…’till next w/end! ‘..Now, it is in my face..all the time! quite disconcerting, as I find it cuts into my R&R of reading the Mystery Novels which became a ‘tower’ in my working days….and now needs to be read-down! I am quitee empathetic with others who have to return to work after the release order is given….Tips & tricks will include…Do what you can../ When you can…/ Use your time to reflect on what really matters……..FAMILY..GOD…FRIENDS! Thank God for the digital era.


      2. Exactly my feelings…I am a retiree too but with the luxury of a lady one day a week, and I have renewed admiration for her work… (I had a 15 minute session with the Shark just now, by the way!) Yes, I would look at it on a weekly basis before. Now it’s every DAY! Thanks for your advice on what really matters… and go back to your mystery novels!!


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