Wrestling with the Question of Flaws

Are flaws subjective? That’s the question I’m left with 30 hours after I was standing in my kitchen crying because I had a guest arriving and my house wasn’t clean.

Anyone who pays attention to my Facebook posts can attest to the fact that my struggle with housekeeping is an ongoing one. My house is very rarely really clean. Sometimes I can make light of that. On rare occasions, I even teeter on the edge of believing people when they tell me that it doesn’t matter that much. Most of the time, my seeming inability to manage basic housekeeping is a real, often paralyzing, source of anxiety for me.

I was raised to believe that not keeping one’s house clean is a character flaw. It’s supposed to be easy, not take much time, and even be enjoyable. If there is clutter or a thin layer of dust on anything, your priorities are out of order, or you’re just really bad at time management.

The only problem is that sometimes it isn’t easy, and no matter what anyone says, it is never enjoyable. I’m willing to own the bad time management thing, but I’m not sure about the priorities. When I’ve worked for 10 hours, I don’t know if doing the dishes should be my priority, or if I get to opt for reading something. (Yes, I know I could do both, but I also have to grade and would like to sleep.) If I have two free hours on a Saturday, I want to write something or see people, not wash my floors. I certainly don’t question other people’s priorities when their houses aren’t clean; I just assume they must have other, more important things to do.

But there is still part of my brain that tells me very loudly, and very often, that this inability to manage housekeeping actually says a lot about my character and that it isn’t good. Several years ago, I stopped reading the book Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris because I convinced myself that I already knew what it was going to tell me: that my decision to rest instead of sorting through accumulated papers was a clear sign of laziness and a source of profound spiritual decay. Of course, I have no idea if it would have implied any such thing, but the idea was in my head already anyway.

I would like to believe that someday I am going to wake up and decide cleaning is fun, but I know it isn’t going to happen. I would also like to believe that I will someday come to believe that it doesn’t matter that much. So I’m left hoping that maybe flaws really are subjective and other people really aren’t judging me as much as I’m judging myself.

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