From Dust Thou Art

I really wanted to work on my novel this weekend.  I had a very good day on Friday, writing 5,652 words, but since I am well aware of all the commitments facing me over the next few weeks, I don’t see how I will be able to keep up the pace of my first week of NaNoWriMo.  But as I started to say, I really did want to work on my novel this weekend, but I do have other obligations, like housework, so I spent Saturday dusting while my husband was at his office.

Dusting.  The most ridiculous job ever invented.  As soon as you’ve done it, it needs doing again.  One of the problems I have is that we’ve been married nearly forty years, and you accumulate a lot of things over time.  My daughter-in-law, when she and my youngest son came for a visit last March, said she loves coming to my house because it’s like walking through a museum.  Stop laughing.  She meant it in a good way.  She loved all the little knickknacks I had placed “just so” on every possible surface:  two little antique books (a Tennyson and a Spenser) piled one on top of the other at a 45-degree angle with an old brass-handled magnifying glass next to them, a spyglass next to dishes of seashells, ceramic birds purchased from El Mercado during our years in San Antonio, a vintage cranberry glass candy dish next to a cut crystal tea light candle holder, and many more objects that held my daughter-in-law’s attention.  And pictures everywhere, pictures of all the people I love or ever loved it seemed.  How sweet of her to notice.

But she doesn’t have to dust everything!  There is something refreshing about going to my son and daughter-in-law’s apartment in Boston.  It is totally clutter free.  They haven’t lived long enough to accumulate the paraphernalia that comes with longevity.  I’ve started sticking things in drawers or boxes, trying to aim for those minimalist roots I started with.  Yesterday, after taking nearly two hours to dust—just our bedroom—I decided I had had enough of all the pictures that adorn every surface.  I do not need pictures of all these people.  I know who they are.  I have their faces memorized in my heart.  For goodness sake, I get to see them several times a year.  I don’t need to dust their little faces every week.  I’ve made one concession.  If you’re dead, you get to stay.  That’s the least I can do.  Sort of a place of honor, you know.  But if you’re alive and kicking, I’m rounding you up and you’re going into the trunk.

Note to children:  When I’m dead, feel free to stick me on your shelf.  My picture, of course.

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About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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26 Responses to From Dust Thou Art

  1. Leah says:

    Dusting is no fun. But you know what I hate more? Mopping the floor. And don’t worry too much — I haven’t done as much as I should on my novel either. We’re only 9 days in, right?

    • Coming East says:

      LOL! I was going to tell you we’re only seven days in, Leah, because I forget all about the weekends. I don’t write on the weekend because I want to spend time with my honey. So this is my seventh day of writing. If I were a really serious writer, I should be writing on the weekends, huh!

  2. Robin says:

    lol! I’m about to join the minimalist movement for the very same reason. Dusting. Ack! Too many knickknacks, too many photos, just too much stuff in general. I like the idea of starting with the photos. 🙂

    • Coming East says:

      Photos are the easiest, Robin. Besides, you either have to have everyone’s picture out or no one’s because people feel slighted if they’re left out but cousin Joey gets his picture on the mantlepiece.

  3. Emily says:

    Yes! I wish someone would’ve warned me about this before my husband and I started traveling, but all those great knick-knacks we picked up around the world suddenly morphed into chores. It’s crazy! Good luck with the de-cluttering though, and I totally agree: if people are alive, you absolutely shouldn’t be responsible for dusting their faces.

  4. I often have those afternoons where one task in on the agenda, then I “take a few minutes” to accomplish a maintenance task (like dusting) and become absorbed in the maintenance task for hours! What I also later realize is that the process is a metaphor for mental house cleaning and organizing. The original task on the agenda (writing?) then has a clear road to continue!

    • Coming East says:

      You are so right, Carol. Sometimes chores get in the way of writing because I know they are piling up, and when I’ve taken care of them, I finally feel free to get busy with my writing.

  5. Patti Ross says:

    I understand and share your predicament. But my solution is simply to not dust so often. Fortunately for me I am more bothered by irritating sounds (dripping faucet, ticking clock) and can readily overlook visual clutter. When I spent time recuperating from major surgery and could not do as much around the house, I also got into the habit of having someone come in the home to do housework–now that took getting used to. Maybe you could try out some of these options in your novel–to let the one problem address the disappearng plot. Someone gets killed because the house is not tidy enough, an odd sort of serial killer, or the murder commited by the housekeeper, or the essential clue written in the dust on the shelves and highlighted by what is missing from the heirlooms on the shelf–only noticed because of the dust-outline. Then leaving things un-dusted could be research. Good luck with your word count–I am impressed!

    • Coming East says:

      I am still laughing, Patti. If I use any of your suggestions to further my plot, I’ll be sure to give you credit on my acknowledgment page! My husband said you are a clever lady!

  6. judithhb says:

    When I moved into this tiny house last year I gave away so many things that I became the Sally’s donor of the month I think. And now that I have fewer surfaces to fill they all seem to be cluttered with memories of my life. They do get dusted and polished occasionally but life is too short to worry if the silver is cleaned and the pictures dusted. But I think I might take up Georgette’s suggestion and put some of the photos into books.

  7. Amy says:

    It has been ridiculously dusty here in San Antonio because of the drought. Listen to the downloaded music or NPR on my iPhone makes the dusting chord a little bearable.
    5,652 words on Friday! Congrats!!

    • Coming East says:

      I can’t imagine what our old yard in San Antonio looks like now after this terrible summer. I’m willing to bet the new owner did not take such loving care of it as my husband did.

  8. pattisj says:

    Aha, you did get a LOT of writing done Friday! Good job! My body rebels, I can only write for so long a period of time. Dusting is my least favorite CHORE. I have cut down on a number of things that required dusting, but there are a few things that are special. I just try to not see the dust when I look at them. I thought putting my mom’s glassware collection in a curio cabinet would be helpful, but somehow, the dust found its way in there.

    • Coming East says:

      HA! Patti, you’ve discovered what I have. How does that does manage to find the cracks in the curio cabinet? It’s a conspiracy. My writing is slowing down because I’m running out of plot. I don’t know where I’m going now. I’m driving without a road map.

  9. E.C. says:

    Boy can I relate to what you are saying. I’ve tried being a minimalist, but my heart and my art gets in the way and my shelves stay happily cluttered.
    I like your attitude and hope you can get things thinned down so you can get more time to work on that award winning novel. 🙂

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, E.C. I hate how messy the house is right now, but I’ve just got to get through this month. Luckily, we’re not entertaining for the Thanksgiving holiday. We’re being entertained.

  10. Shary Hover says:

    Every time we moved, I would clear out clutter and donate as much as I could so I didn’t have to pack it. Then when I unpacked, the house felt sterile, so I set about finding things to make it feel homey. Silly! We just might have moved for the very last time and I’m trying to choose my knick knacks more wisely since I hope they’ll be with me indefinitely. 🙂

  11. Finally I took many of those pictures and placed them in a scrapbook. We still have them and we can reach for the book in the drawer of the coffee table when when we want to remember. Now what to do with all those frames? Donate them, I guess.
    When we bought the house we’re in some 25 years ago, the realtor commented, you will never fill this house. O lordy, he should see it now.

    • Coming East says:

      Love what the realtor said, Georgette. What was he thinking? Good idea about taking the pictures out of the frames. I need to do that. Maybe in January after the holidays are over and things slow down a bit.

  12. Love that last line! There must be something about fall and the approaching winter that causes people to simplify: I’m getting rid of so much stuff this year.

    • Coming East says:

      Every time I say to my husband, Kelly, “I’m thinking of giving this____ to one of the kids,” he says, “Oh, but I really like that.” Well, he doesn’t have to dust it!

  13. Oh thanks for this laugh! Right now, we are pretty clutter-free but that’s only because we have small kids that can and will break things. I’m sure that once they are moved out, I’ll be back to dusting all of my knickknacks like crazy…

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