Book Review: How to Keep House While Drowning

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What if I told you there is a book out there–less than 200 pages long–that will change the way you think about cleaning and housework forever and for the better? That book exists, and it’s How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis.

I first learned about KC Davis because of her TikTok account, but since I’m not on TikTok (ha!), I followed her on Instagram, @strugglecare. And I love her Instagram handle because it captures what she’s all about: caring for ourselves and our spaces when we are struggling. And who among hasn’t struggled at one time or another (at least) over the past several years?

How to Keep House While Drowning is a short and sweet guide to rethinking how we approach keeping our homes clean and tidy. And when she says “drowning,” she means it–the book even includes an explanation about how to de-matt your hair if you haven’t brushed it or showered lately. If you have ever struggled with depression or severe mental illness, you’ll find grace and practical help in this book.

When I read this book, I wasn’t at that point. But I was overwhelmed by the mess in my home and tired of feeling guilty about not being able to keep the house as well as I thought I should. Davis’ book opened my eyes to a reality I had never considered before: keeping a clean home is morally neutral. Seriously. Having a clean house does not mean I am a better person than I am if my house is messy. This simple reality blew my mind.

Now, when I look at my house, I see tasks that need to be done (or not), but I do not see any proof or value judgments about what kind of wife, mother, or person I am.

Even the language Davis chooses is subtle but profound. She doesn’t call these responsibilities “chores.” Instead, she calls them “care tasks.” And I love that. I genuinely believe language matters, and all of these tasks used to be obligations, dreaded to-dos, and should-dos. Now, I think of them as care tasks–simple jobs that help me care for myself, my family, and my home. It helps me have a more positive attitude toward these jobs, at least some days.

I also fall prey to an “all or nothing” attitude about most of life, including those care tasks. I have lived by mantras like the “one minute rule” (if you can do it one minute or less, just do it now) and “OHIO” (only handle it once). But David gave me the freedom to think differently, to do whatever small amount I could manage. If that means washing the dishes for five minutes and leaving the rest of them for tomorrow, so be it. Doing something, anything is still progress. I don’t need to be a completist or perfectionist about this.

I read this book in 2021; since then, it’s been updated and expanded! I plan on buying the new edition because I need more of KC’s practical, compassionate advice in my life.

If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the mess in your house, or if you have ever thought negative thoughts because you aren’t keeping up the way you “should,” How to Keep House While Drowning is for you.

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