I opened the refrigerator to get something to eat. I had only an hour and a half to shower and get changed, but I was suddenly consumed with an overriding passion to clean the refrigerator.
No. I am not a clean-freak. In fact, I am SO not a clean-freak that should my husband ever leave me, my biggest fear is what the house would look like a month after he was gone. I am SO not a clean-freak that I sometimes forget about laundry for weeks on end. If someone snuck in and ransacked my office - looking for an important clue to a mystery, of course - I would never even notice.
And yet, every now and then I take an unusual amount of pleasure in cleaning out the refrigerator. And so it was last Tuesday. With a burnt out brain, cleaning, scrubbing and reorganizing the contents of the refrigerator was just so satisfying. Afterward, with just the right number of condiments pruned from the shelves, I felt revived, calm, and maybe just a little powerful.
This is not just me. My husband (although he is a clean freak) takes this pleasure in cleaning the car (and yes, my car, too) every single weekend. My aunt (not a clean freak) used to really love polishing silver.
So what strange menial tasks bring you YOUR BLISS?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Ironing. I love to iron. I love to iron wrinkly, damp men's oxford cloth shirts, and make then starchy and perfect. Now that I say this, I am overwhelmed with double entendre, which I promise you I did not mean. I am going to stop now, and find a menial chore that's less graphic and suggestive. (Or is it just me? And it's just--ironing?)
JAN: Yes Hank, I think we have a new Fifty Shades of Starch thing happening, here.
HANK: For the record, I have NEVER loved cleaning the refrigerator, or cleaning anything else. Once I put my spices in alphabetical order, that was fun. And I arranged my jackets by color. Also fun. That's it, sisters.
HALLIE EPHRON: Don't let me near your laundry. I specialize in shrinking adult clothing to child-sized, turning white things pink, and my ironing skills are minimal.
I do rather like to weed. Under bushes and around plants, not in the lawn, ever. In fact, I've been known to pull wturn a eeds from the front yards of complete strangers and our town library. So satisfying, pulling black swallow-wort by the roots. I can't help myself.
JAN: Weeding, really? That's the reason I hate gardening. I can be somewhat upbeat about the planting (despite the dirty fingernails), but it's the relentless need to weed that makes me want to pave the yard.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: For me, it's organizing. Which is ironic, as I may be the least organized woman in the state of Maine. But under pressure from deadlines or a particularly knotty plot problem, I will line up spices by alphabetical order, separate all the different types of bath products into coordinating containers, and convert an unsightly heap of papers into a stack of labeled manilla folders.
I suspect it's the sense of instant accomplishment that makes these menial tasks so compelling. All of us do work that takes months and sometimes years to complete. Being able to start and finish a job in an hour or two? That's heaven.
LUCY BURDETTE: Laundry. Utterly satisfying to start with an enormous pile of dirty clothes, herd them through washer and dryer (or out on the line if the weather holds), and then fold into neat piles. Ironing? Only if absolutely necessary. I have perfected the art of extracting a shirt from the dryer to hang at just the right moment so the wrinkles are minimized.
In fact I've done four loads today when I NEED to be writing...
RHYS BOWEN: Oh dear--ironing? Cleaning the refrigerator? Have I stepped into the wrong universe here? I was once being interviewed and the interviewer was listing my accomplishments and said "is there anything you can't do?" And I replied "Ironing." Me neither she said.
My mother ironed everything. Sheets. My father's underpants. I am terrible at it. Maybe if it gave me success and satisfaction I would do it more.
But polishing furniture--that's a menial task I do enjoy. So satisfying to see it gleaming. And sitting on the balcony with a glass of chilled wine, shelling peas or preparing other vegetables... that's okay too!
Yours from the Olympics where I saw badminton today!
JAN: We are SO JEALOUS!! (not about the furniture polishing, about the Olympics -- although I have to admit to enjoying polishing furniture - even though I rarely do it.)
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I think I have an iron ....somewhere. The last time I was moved to use it was for a tablecloth. As I recall I got a big rust stain on it and had to use a different one. Wrinkled, but no one noticed.
Weeding is definitely a good one. But my go-to mindless activity, any time of the year, is rearranging the furniture. The anchors stay the same - sofa, bed and three enormous armoires, but anything else is fair game. End tables, coffee tables, shelf units, my office. Collections of... things. What's amazing to me is how much I always love the new arrangement - even if it's the same as it was a year or so before.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I can't iron. I have very few things that need ironing, and if it must be done, I ask my husband, who is a crack ironer. (Is that a word?) But I'm afraid that I, like Jan, fall into the cleaning out the fridge category. I've just finished a brutal week of revisions, where I've not had time to cook or to shop, and I am completely brain dead. What I need is a long nap. What I did was clean out the frig. It's sort of a fresh-start thing, isn't it?
JAN: The weeding I just don't get. But even though I NEVER do it myself, I can see the appeal of room-rearranging. But as Debs clearly understands, it could never stack up to the nirvana of tossing out expired sour cream and scrubbing the vegetable bin.
Okay, we've all bared our souls about our lower-order brain machinations, but how about you -- what dull, routine, dirty, stupid or downright Susy Homemaker task brings you inner peace?