The Slacker’s Apprentice

April 10, 2017

Most days after work, I tidy up the house and toss in a batch of laundry before settling in to read or write. Most days after work, my husband sinks into the sofa and unwinds by watching zombies, alligator hunters, families who rough it in Alaska, and/or documentaries about historical events. This (in)activity can and sometimes does carry him all the way to bedtime. Most weeks, I watch two hours of TV: This is Us on Tuesdays and Grey’s Anatomy two days later. When those shows are in reruns, my TV time goes down to zero weekly minutes.

On weekends, he may or may not shower. I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without a shower, even when I’ve had the flu and a fever of 103. He opens cabinets to get dishes and snacks and then walks away, leaving the doors flung wide. On weekdays, he leaves for work at just about the same time I hop into the shower so we don’t have breakfast together, but once I’m in the kitchen, I can tell you exactly what he ate: crumbs on the counter mean toast, a ring the size of a pan lid represents either fried eggs or oatmeal and a quick glance at the sink strainer will show which.

Despite the row of coat hooks just inside the entranceway, his jacket will likely be hung over the back of a kitchen chair and his shoes can be found near but not on the rug meant for them. Because my hormones provide me all the heat I need and then some, I keep our thermostat set just this side of where the pipes might freeze, so he’s taken to grabbing a blanket for his nightly TV-a-thons. Mornings often find the blanket on the couch rather than in the cabinet where I put it, about ten steps from his viewing seat.

Though it might sound like it, this post is not meant to be a gripefest about my husband’s habits. That’s not to say I haven’t grumbled about them, because I certainly have. And maybe it’s simply a male/female thing like man colds, because our four-year-old granddaughter shakes her head when she sees a blanket on our couch and says, “Oh Grampy!” in a tone that suggests she’s the one who’s been picking up after him for the better part of four decades.

This isn’t a gripefest, it’s an acknowledgement of my need to learn how to be a proper slacker, to take it down a peg (or six). One look at the two of us provides proof that his way trumps mine. He’s all chill and comfy while I fret over unfolded towels. I admit to my shortcomings and this absolutely is one of them, though I have come a long way. My standards are much lower than they used to be (I never make the bed!), but going full bore slacker (Is there such a thing or is the very act of trying to excel at slacking proof of the inability to slack well?) isn’t my default mode.*

So I decided to sign on as his apprentice and this weekend was slacker boot camp. Comcast (aka the devil) offered a free watchathon week and I’ve been wanting to see Grace and Frankie, which has earned rave reviews from friends. Golden opportunity. The universe provides.

I settled into the sofa and queued up Season 1. It took only a few minutes for me to fall in love with the show—funny and smart with heart. During the second half-hour episode, I hit pause to throw a load of clothes in the washer. In episode three, I paused again to vacuum the living room and wipe down the kitchen counters. As the weekend wore on, I watched but never without stopping to tend to something. First batch into the dryer and another in the wash. I swept the stairs and wiped out the sink. Folded clothes and carried baskets of clean stuff up the stairs. Called my brother, which doesn’t sound like a chore, but is. Gave the upstairs bathroom a quick once-over. Took out the trash.

Realizing I hadn’t done all that well in my quest for slacker stardom, I took a blanket from the cabinet and tossed it on the sofa then kicked off my shoes and put them smack dab in the middle of the room. I got myself a bowl of ice cream and when I finished it, I set the bowl and spoon on the coffee table instead of jumping up to put them in the dishwasher. I looked around satisfied and decided to leave the mess until morning. Two hours later, though, I folded the blanket and tucked it neatly away, brought my dish into the kitchen, and grabbed my shoes before I headed up to bed. I’d give myself a solid D+ for the weekend, but I am just an apprentice. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect, after all.






* Except for on this blog. For the past few months, I’ve been one serious rock star blog-slacker.



  1. Reply


    I’m so glad you’re watching Grace and Frankie!!!

    1. Reply


      It’s SO good! We don’t have Netflix, but we may have to ante up now and get it.

  2. Reply

    Jesse Chapman

    Being able to rest is a gift. Keep pulling the edges of the ribbon, EG. It will come to you.

    Lovely write. Miss Chris and I have similiar differences. This piece just helped me smile at one that was troubling me. Thank you.

    1. Reply


      Thanks, Jesse. I really am working on it. Decades ago I used to get up early for the specific purpose of getting things perfect before my workday began. No wonder I was so tired. 😀

  3. Reply

    Jo Heroux

    I, too, have come a long way in my quest to not live in a home that looks like no one actually lives in it. I can let some things go. Never my bed though! It must be made. I can leave dishes IN the sink for a while, but not on the counter. The blankets not where they belong? No, can’t walk past that and not fold and put where it lives. My relaxation has gotten much more extensive! I accomplish this by daily hustling through the little pick up, put away and wipe down chores so that I can veg out or read or play computer games or sit at the pool, the beach or a neighbor’s. All of this while living with Carl’s older version. My Roomy training is on-going.
    I have concluded that since I am the one bothered by the disarray, I am the one to see it is cleared.
    I am content to accept he has different standards and accept that I cannot relax in my home being cluttered with stuff that needs to be put away, wiped off or tossed.
    I can ignore a little dust, a floor that needs scrubbing, laundry…for a while. Something I once could not do.
    Worry and fret, however, I have completely given up. It’s a start. 🤓

    1. Reply


      Like you Jo, I’ve learned to give everything a quick going over rather than making it mother-in-law clean. It takes just a few minutes and then I can sit without being distracted by the shoulds. I’ve come to terms (mostly) with the fact that it’ll be me doing that picking up. Clutter bugs me. It bugs him, too, but I think we’ve sort of settled into our chore roles over the years. When the kids were still at home, they all did chores. I seem to have inherited most of theirs, though.

      I can ignore some dust too, and as long as the floor is swept, I can live with it needing to be mopped. And I’ve started leaving my laptop on a table in the living room if that’s where I last used it. Baby steps. 😉

      I worry about pretty much nothing these days, having kicked its ass to the curb some years back. Good call.

      I should probably mention that Carl does do some chores, since this post makes it look like he doesn’t. He starts the dishwasher at night and empties it most mornings, and he takes care of 99% of the outside stuff.

  4. Reply

    Christopher Mitchell

    I’ve gone the other way. I’ve always been cleaning challenge, but the clutter started getting to me. There is a happy balance out there…isn’t there?

    1. Reply


      There must be. Right?

  5. Reply


    Some people need order, and others are fine with a little “chaos”. According to psychologist Jordan B. Peterson this is genetically predetermined.

    1. Reply


      My hubby and I are in close agreement about how tidy the house needs to be–some mess is fine, but mostly we like it pretty picked up. I do more of that picking up than he does, but that’s just sort of been our practice and the routine has become habitual for both of us. I used to have three helpers in the chore department, but they all grew up and moved out. 😀

      I’m only surfacely (so not a real word) familiar with Jordan B. Peterson and have mixed feelings about him from what little I know. I think he might be right about this, though. A bunch of the adults I know, myself included, are in many ways simply taller versions of their child-selves.

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