Friday, October 8, 2010


My house was never cleaner than it was the year I was on Dissertation Fellowship.

Because anytime it was time for me to sit down and work on my dissertation?  I was suddenly overwhelmed with the absolutely unavoidable compulsion to clean.

Since I've finished the dissertation?

Um, not so much.

I mean, seriously?  Do PhDs have to clean their own homes?

Answer:  Well, it's that, or live in filth.  Which, actually, a lot of them do.  Oh, and I guess you could pay someone else to do it, but the percentage of PhDs who could afford to do that is probably relatively small compared to the number of PhDs who simply live in filth because they are too high-minded and busy thinking about important philosophical things to bother cleaning their homes.

Or maybe they are just too busy grading countless stacks of papers to actually have time to vacuum up dog hair.

All I know is that I had a huge stack of essays to get through today.  I need to return them to my students tomorrow and the grading had to get done.

Grading is stressful because I am always afraid the first grades of the semester will change the dynamic of the class and create an explosion of anxiety, resulting in frantic e-mails and students in my office either fighting back tears or getting all belligerent and entitled with me.  So it takes me far longer than it should to phrase my comments so they are constructive and to consider my grades so that I can clearly explain why this essay deserved a C+, even though on the first read-through I can pretty much peg the letter grade.  (Yes, I teach students who freak out about C+'s.  And B-'s.  And I totally understand, bless their little hearts.  But it's still annoying.)

Of course, as soon as I sat down with the first essay and my favorite green pen, I couldn't help but notice how messy my house was.  And wasn't there one last load of laundry to do?  Why don't I take just a second to wipe down the kitchen counter?  What about all the junk mail--not the mention that layer of dust--on the bar?  Has the dog been walked today?  Maybe I should check my e-mail...

So I worked out a deal with myself.  Everytime I graded an essay, I'd let myself get up and do one little project.  Grade an essay - walk the dog.  Grade an essay - clean up the kitchen.  Grade an essay - fold the laundry.

Granted, these are chores I am interspersing with essay grading.  But when it comes to grading or doing household chores, chores always sound like more fun.

I am shocked to say that I probably had the most productive afternoon of my life.  In about five hours, I graded twelve essays and de-cluttered each room of my house, put away a basketful of laundry, organized my desk, made my glucose tolerance testing appointment, painted my toenails, and spoke to a friend on the phone.

I'm thinking about running the vacuum before David gets home, but without the layer of dog hair on the sofa, he might not feel like he's at home. 

1 comment:

  1. That is AWESOME. My house was a freaking showplace while I worked on my dissertation. Now? I load the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher as I am making dinner. It's disgusting.