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No, not my home office furniture. That would keep me from writing, but my dear friend Ava just gave me her husband’s ergonomic office chair.
It was a conversation with Ava that made me aware that, although I’m not a “neat freak” by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, housecleaning takes up a lot of my (writing) time. It was just before Christmas when we spoke, and I was deep into the kind of cleaning you only undertake before company’s coming and you think everyone will be judging you. It wasn’t the once or twice a week type of cleaning you do just to prevent a gradual slide into squalor.
My problem is that my husband and I own antiques and heirlooms. Here’s a mere sample of their demands.
Our lamps incorporate complicated curlicues and fretwork (which, in some cases are hidden by the shades). To dust them, I have to painstakingly slip the point of a rag through each tiny opening and make sawing motions. The early 20th century dining room chandelier from my childhood home in New York is too fragile to swipe with the vacuum cleaner. Preventing dust from hanging from it like fuzzy grey icicles requires my mounting a wobbly, 100-year-old oak chair and executing a precarious balletic stretch over the dining room table, duster gently flailing.
We use an old-fashioned Duncan Fyfe affair as our kitchen table. That wonderful reference book, What’s What, describes it as supported by swinging gates, turnings, stretchers, and even knees. Those knees are attached to as many legs as a spider has and I take trips to the floor on my hands and knees to clean them. The dining room table has only two legs, but they are giant pedestals that can only be reached by easing myself under the table, stretching my arms, and waving my cloth around, hoping it hits dust.
A friend was moving to London and offered his antiques for sale. For $35, we bought an authentic Morris chair with slender balusters on the sides and horizontal spindles in back; a Victorian “lady’s” chair with wooden thingies I won’t even try to describe, but which, like the lamps, have to have a rag poked through them, and an old library lamp with green glass shades mounted in the fragile brass necks. Caught up in a rare bargain hunter’s euphoria, I didn’t consider what all these would take to maintain.
Unlike modern furniture that has the sense to be manufactured to look polished, our blond oak chest with designs etched on its doors, the large Victorian bishop’s chair, and all the rest of the stuff has to be occasionally, but actually, polished.
In my booklet, Polish and Publish, I offer tips for finding time to write. I can’t believe I forgot to include: “If you own fussy furniture, exchange it for sleek modern.”
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And check back for the next in this series of excuses, I mean reasons, for what interferes with my writing.