Sunday, October 1, 2023

Cleaning House by Molly MacRae

I wanted to use housecleaning as a metaphor for this post. I can’t, though. I’m too tired from actual housecleaning. Not your garden variety housecleaning like dusting or sweeping or bathtub scrubbing. Oh, there was scrubbing involved, all right. But what I’m talking about is actual house cleaning. I’ll explain.

Think about being lost in the woods, in the northern hemisphere, without a compass. Help! How on earth will you know which way is north, south, east, or west? According to legend, you can use a tree as your compass because moss only grows on the north side of trees. In reality, moss can grow just about anywhere it’s damp and shady, so a tree as a compass isn’t reliable. But, if you get lost in our town, you can use our house as a compass. Or you could have until we did our housecleaning today.

Our little mellow yellow house, surrounded by trees both short and tall, grows lovely green algae on the north side. This happens to be the front of the house, visible to everyone stopping by or walking down the sidewalk. It takes two or three years for the algae to be noticeable. Wait five years and it’s really noticeable (guess how many years we waited this time). But then we just get out the bucket, the hose, a bit of dish soap, and the scrub brush. I do the first floor, because I’m first-floor short. Mike does the half-story above because he’s half again as tall (and we attach the scrub brush to a short pole for me and a long pole for him). It isn’t hard work. All it takes is a scrub and a rinse. No elbow grease necessary. There is a lot of bending, reaching, and stretching, but that’s good for us. Maybe it was the ton of pruning and weeding I did afterwards that did me in this afternoon.

We can only wash the house when the weather is just right. Or so we tell ourselves. Too cool and getting as wet as we do is unpleasant. Too hot and the windows will be wide open, an obvious oops. Today was a Goldilocks day—exactly right.


(If, in looking at the front of the house, and knowing that I do the first story and Mike does the half-story above, you think that I have more to scrub than Mike, you'd be right. But my part is more satisfying because when I'm done, the clean facade is right there in front of my face to admire. Plus, he has to reach higher with a flimsier pole.)

I checked the Internet for “housecleaning as a metaphor” and found this gem from Christine Zusk, the self-described Communication Queen: “Don’t give me that look. Hear me out. When you throw yourself into chores with complete abandon, each completed task leaves you feeling renewed and fresh, just like the home you are cleaning. Apply that action as a metaphor to your life and see what happens.” (She included an unnecessary comma that I cleaned up for her.) Her words are nice but it wasn’t our bout of housecleaning that left us feeling refreshed. That left us completely beat and smelling of mosquito repellant. The cold beer left us refreshed.

I do see how housecleaning can be a metaphor. In writing it can symbolize getting organized, clearing out stale ideas, etc. In the end, though, I wasn’t really using housecleaning as a metaphor; I used it as procrastination. But really, scrubbing the whole front of a house to avoid writing? Let’s call that what it is—Extreme Procrastination. My advice is to go big or go sweep.

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” Look for her new Haunted Shell Shop mystery series coming in July 2024. Molly also writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. As Margaret Welch she writes books for Annie’s Fiction and Guideposts. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and she’s a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction.



  1. I think I'll celebrate your house cleaning with a cold beer and procrastinate over my own house cleaning.

  2. I wonder what the metaphor for hoarding is? My place isn't like those ones on TV, but I dread to think what's lurking in the back of the closets, although an expedition to explore is as likely to yield treasures I'd forgotten about as junk I need to get rid of.

    Would spraying the siding with a dish soap solution every six months or so take care of the algae problem without the scrubbing?

  3. What an adorable house! I love the setting. We do ours with a pressure washer and extension wands. Our house is built into the corner of a hill so we go from one story on three sides two two stories on one side. I confess, we don't do it as often as we should!

    Funny you use housecleaning as a metaphor for writing. Lately I've been in housecleaning before writing mode. My stack file is overflowing and really, I don't know what's in it! I select a file every morning and cull it. Then I'm good to go for the day. :) Also feels great to have something off the to do list.

  4. Splendid idea, Jim. Let me know when you tackle your own housecleaning and I'll return the favor.

  5. Doing one small chore is a great way to start the day, Kait.

    I love houses built into hills like that. You definitely need the pressure washer for the three story side. We've thought about a pressure washer, but there's really so little to wash (and knowing us we'd only use it a few times a decade). Plus there's something fun about washing the house like a giant dish.

  6. Hoarding as a metaphor - KM, that stirs all kinds of thoughts for storylines. Your idea of spraying soapy water over the front of the house a couple of times a year is interesting. That really might work. I'll look into it. Thanks!

  7. Beautiful home and fun post! I'm tired just looking at what you've done--good on ya!

  8. Thank you, Lori! The neighbors, neighborhood, and walking distance to the library are the real draw.