Labor Day is not usually life-changing for me, but this year, I learned something extremely important: cleaning takes time. Others may have grasped this concept much earlier in life, but I’m pretty excited about it.
Let me unfold the revelation for you. I played soccer all day Saturday. On Sunday, a friend and I went to an art show and then some other friends had me over for dinner. Monday morning I looked disconsolately around my house and wondered how another weekend had gone by without any scrubbing, vacuuming, or mopping taking place. No hope beckoned as most of the coming day was slotted for eating pancakes, giving my dad a birthday call, buying groceries, and hanging out with my mom.
Then, while describing my weekend to my dad, divine inspiration descended: I realized I could have cleaned only if I had done it instead of all those fun things. True, this is a bit like mastering a kindergarten-level mathematical concept while doing your Ph.D., but I had never accepted the either-or idea in this context before.
I always felt as if it should be possible to do it all—the fun stuff and the cleaning—as if everybody else knew some secret technique. But no, they were actually spending time with sponge in hand. That’s the problem with this whole finite thing, every moment can contain only one action, no matter what we like to think about multitasking.
I have a quote from Mastercard above my desk at work. It says, “Not having to choose—priceless.” It’s there to remind me that the people who say I can have it all are selling me something and that the freedom to choose is a great gift.
So if I have to decide between a soccer tournament and a clean bathroom, the bathroom will lose every time. And I’m OK with that now. Mostly.