‘A tradition has now for long been established that cooking and cleaning are woman’s work. As these occupations are among the most tiresome which humanity has to endure, this tradition is very unfortunate for women. But there it is; and the problem is how to get what is needful done as rapidly as possible, so that one can go and do something else, more lucrative, interesting, or amusing. The general rule is that there must be something to eat at stated intervals, and the house or the flat must be about as clean as the houses and flats of one’s acquaintances. It sounds simple, but actually to secure both these results will often be found to take the entire time. All the time that there is. And that is so tragically little. None left over for reading, writing, walking, sitting in woods, playing games, making love, merely existing without effort. And ever at your back you hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…and so the grave yawns, and at the end you will be able to say, not ‘I have warmed both hands before the fire of life,’ but ‘I have kept house.’ The only solution of this problem which I can suggest is Do not keep house. Let the house, or flat, go unkept. Let it go to the devil, and see what actually happens when it has gone there. At the worst, a house unkept cannot be nearly so distressing as a life unlived.’
This great piece was written by the formidably intelligent Rose Macaulay in 1923. Macaulay, author of the brilliant Towers of Trebizond, lived an unconventional life and was the lover of a married man for over 20 years. This deprived her of many of the comforts of married life but also meant she avoided some of its drudgeries. You don’t produce 40 novels if you’re preoccupied with smeary windows and unmade beds. She captures the tedium and infinite quality of housework so well here – too long for printing on a teatowel perhaps but none the worse for that and anyway – teatowels – who needs them?