Get to work – manual work


We seem to be conveniencing (not a word but convenient) ourselves out of much life-affirming, vitality-giving manual labour, opting instead to outsource just about everything to someone else.  I applaud the jobs outsourcing creates with their opportunities for entrepreneurship and self-reliance, but what has been lost by not doing things oneself?

There is an argument to be made that one of the factors triggering the increase in consumer spending is a result of more leisure time, and more leisure time has been freed up because we are outsourcing chores that have previously been done the owner/occupant.  That would be us.  Chores typically done within the family (parents and kids) are relegated to an external service provider.  In my experience, most kids don’t have any weekly chores – no housecleaning, grass-cutting, window-washing – nothing.  They don’t know where the vacuum is in their house!  These chores aren’t difficult but there is a how-to for just about everything and that knowledge is not being shared on any level. There is a sequence to manual work, a method within the routine that renders it more efficient and effectively completed, and there is a great sense of satisfaction in seeing the physical results of effort so well applied.

Let’s consider the benefits of manual household labour, shall we?

The big one is house cleaning. It must be done, it is repetitive, endless and seemingly thankless.  On the ‘up’ side, it’s also a prime example of what has been identified as the absolutely perfect level of exercise for health and longevity – a steady, consistent pace – neither taxing to the body nor the mind.  For those of us with stairs, that up and down with the vacuum and mop will help to outperform the fitness tracking device in just a few hours.  And what of the pleasures of managing your house yourself?  Having close knowledge of what goes where and why – the Marie Kondo effect of keeping on top of the belongings, those that belong and those that don’t.  Some of you may remember that housecleaning made a bit of a comeback when Martha Stewart was at her height in the ‘90s.  Things just got out of hand with a set of standards that could only be met by Downton Abbey’s entire domestic staff.  It’s a chore not an obsession.

Granted, housework bears the moniker of ‘women’s drudgery’, and lord knows we’ve done too much of that.  The great divide has always been women do the indoor work (frequent and often complex) while men are relegated the outdoor chores (infrequent, simple and often seasonal). It makes no sense at all and fortunately, that’s what we’re here to do at the Great Woman – realign and assume only those behaviours, routines, actions and thoughts that will make women truly great –  and discard the rest.

If we put housework to one side, let’s consider the other opportunities for manual labour.  For those who like to garden there is plenty of manual labour to be had there, and if you’re so inclined then you’re probably doing it already and enjoying every moment of it.  If you don’t then you’ve already hired someone to figure that out and so we’ll put that aside too.  Focusing on some of the manual jobs typically enjoyed by men let’s consider the maintenance and restoration of outdoor furniture and decks, as one example.  Restoring wood is incredibly satisfying and hardly challenging at all.  One of my favourite tools is this little sander that is both light and powerful, allowing you to finesse around joins and into crevices.


Finish with an easy to apply stain and your tired wooden table and chairs gleam.  It’s like taking them to the spa.  An easy win. And once you’ve tackled that then you can take the paint off your indoor door frames, freshen up your kitchen cupboard doors, refinish your stairs – there’s just no stopping you!

Consider pruning trees –one of these telescopic pruners, or a handy little saw that can be strapped to your toolbelt (and do get yourself one) makes the job easy regardless of height or strength.


Of course, when a branch 40 ft. up needs to be taken out you call a professional – we can handle anything in the 20 ft. range or below.  Nice to have your man hold the ladder for you though.

How about snow shovelling?  What a fantastic workout!  All that weightlifting you’ve been doing will really pay off.  And there is something truly wonderful about going out into the cold and quickly becoming flush with warmth.

Cleaning out the eavestrough – again, not rocket science.  You need someone to hold the ladder or tie it off but after that, you are entirely capable of this simple chore.  While you’re up there you can take your sander and clean up those outdoor window frames.

Sadly, now that cars are essentially computers on wheels, car maintenance has been reduced to changing the washer fluid, maybe the oil.  My goal is to learn the fine art of tire rotation.  Really, I just want an excuse to wear a coverall like the gals in the top photo.

Surely, this work is what the fitness regime should be designed for – to prepare us for the work of life – the ability to manage our households independently and competently.  And importantly, this work is entirely different from what most of us do for a living, namely sitting in front of a computer, how we get to work, either sitting in a car or in a train, and what many of us resort to for leisure – watching tv.  And for those who simply cannot find time for a distinct fitness routine, a little household manual labour provides easy opportunities for bone-building, muscle-enhancing activity.


Short-term satisfaction versus long-term accomplishment is the promise of manual labour.  Something to reconsider.



The life changing magic of tidying-up, Marie Kondo


More work for mother, Ruth Schwartz Cowen


Never done, Susan Strasser