Our dining room table from above, in March.

Our dining room table from above, in March.

There I was yesterday, merrily gobbling up Laura Vanderkam’s time-management book, 168 Hours, when all of a sudden:

“[If] you need to do something else with [the rest] of your 168 hours [every week].…housework is the easiest choice, and is the ‘hobby’ many women choose. It seems more productive than watching TV, is cheaper than shopping, seems like it has to be done, and you don’t have to leave home to do it.”


Housework, a hobby?

But the texture rang true: housework feels productive, it seems necessary, it’s close at hand, and—at least for me—it’s weirdly free of a feeling of interpersonal obligation. (I do feel some pressure to clean up before guests come over, but we only have guests over a few times a week—and certainly not typically on Sundays, the day when most housework ends up happening.)

Waking up this morning to tidy before Rachel and Duretti arrived, the thought kept ringing in my mind. If this is a hobby…then it’s done whenever I say it’s done. If this is a hobby…I’m doing it mainly because I want to. (And I should stop whenever I stop wanting to.) If this is a hobby…it makes sense to buy trinkets and tools to make the process more delightful. If this is a hobby, I can stop bullying myself with high standards and the curse of never-enough. It’s just a way to pass time.

As the day wore on, I realized that the same could be said of my email inbox: pruning it is a hobby. Vanishingly few emails must be answered, just as vanishingly little laundry must be done. But I get something out of catching up and, eventually, feeling caught up (for a hot second). The challenge is, I complicate my relationship to my inbox with the weight of disappointing others—just like I complicate my relationship to my house by believing it’ll someday be done.

My home and my inbox will never be done.

My home and my inbox will never stay still.

But: they’re hobbies. So isn’t never ending kind of the point?

Diana Berlin