Our housework tribe

A few years ago, I read an article in Mothering Magazine about these women who would get together and clean each-other’s houses. It was called, “Finding your Tribe.”


These women would get together, and while their kids played, they would do things like clean out the fridge. And they had fun doing it! I thought this was cool, and secretly wished that I was friends with people who would do this sort of thing with me. When I went on maternity leave with my third child, I met a group of amazing women who got together to “knit.” I half jokingly mentioned the article to one of them, (I think it was Lauren) and she said, “We should do that!” Apparently, the idea was pretty popular with friends and we formed what was called the “housework tribe,” or “the tribe” for short.


Kids playing outside during a work party. 

We started hosting work parties at each-other’s houses once or twice a week. The kids would entertain each-other with exhausting play, and the moms would drink coffee, chat, and get an amazing amount of work done! I remember hosting an early one where I thought we could change out the winter wardrobe into the spring wardrobe.  I had my living room filled with bins and piles of clothes to sort. This task would usually take me all day because A. it is a huge job, and B. I have 3 kids who are constantly needing my attention and they like to jump in piles of folded clothes. With the tribe, it took about an hour because the kids were outside and I had 3 women helping. If one of us had to stop to nurse, or kiss a boo-boo, we did, and the work continued. But the most amazing part, was that it was FUN! Seriously. Work is fun when you do it with friends. At the end of the day, my house was clean, my kids were happy and exhausted, and I was psyched because I had stumbled upon something great.

At other work parties, we sheet-mulched Lauren’s garden, we sorted and labeled the contents of a freezer, painted my “dining hall,” cleaned kitchens,  made cheese,and purged playrooms. Soon, the formality of the housework tribe dwindled, and I feel like whenever we do play-dates, we moms just helped each-other with whatever is needed. There is no “hostess” who waits on her guests.  We all pitch in by preparing food, cleaning up, or folding laundry.  And because of this, I am comfortable having this group of friends over any time. They’ve seen my house messy, and I’ve seen their house messy. Its awesome.


Lauren wheeling her barrow during the “sheet mulching” work party.

Sarah paints at my house!

Sarah paints at my house!

About a year ago, my friends Sarah and Jacob were getting ready to get married at their home. There was a lot of work to do. They decided to host a work party with friends and family at their home to help prepare for the big day. I’m not sure how many came, but there were a lot. We trimmed trees, mowed the lawn, arranged hay bales for seating, made signs, landscaped their garden with rocks and plants, and did countless other projects.  The day was beautiful, and everyone enjoyed working together. It was great to see how beautiful we were making the place, and seeing how much FUN everyone was having. There was such great energy.

Two other workers were a couple named Michael and Christine. I had met both  before but didn’t know them very well. Dave, Michael and Jacob were doing something with apple trees, and spent the whole time talking about various things, including cobb houses. I later learned that the day had a big impact on Michael and Christine- they wanted to have that kind of experience of working together and having fun again. It was around this time that Sarah and I started sharing our secret dreams about living together in a community, like Ina Mae Gaskin’s “the farm.” Where people live together and have fun working together. We immediately thought of Michael and Christine because Michael seemed very in to natural building and Christine… Well, when you meet Christine you just love her and want to live near her!  We hoped they’d be into the idea, and of thankfully, they were. I mentioned the idea to Lauren (our friend from the housework tribe) and she was like, “Yes!” and went on to tell me that her and her husband Craig had been envisioning something like that for a while! Thus, the ecovillage was born.

I envision having lots of opportunities to work together when we move onto our ecovillage. Everything from building our homes, to planting and harvesting and making communal meals. How cool will it be to be in charge of making dinner, except instead of doing it by myself with my kids at my feet, I will do it with one or two friends in the community kitchen, and my kids will be at home or playing in the woods with the other kids at the ecovillage. And the next night, it will be someone else’s turn to make dinner, and maybe I get to spend some time just playing with a bunch of kids!

Remember “Free to be You and Me?” I grew up going to sleep to the record, so I think that some of those ideals are imbedded in my brain somewhere. There is a poem about housework that must have had an impact on me. Its called “Housework.”

Housework by Carol Channing

You know, there are times when we happen to be

Just sitting there, quietly watching TV,

When the program we’re watching will stop for a while

And suddenly someone appears with a smile,

And starts to show us how terribly urgent

It is to buy some brand of detergent,

Or soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,

To help with the housework.

Now, most of the time it’s a lady we see,

Who’s doing the housework on TV.

She’s cheerfully scouring a skillet or two,

Or she’s polishing pots till they gleam like new,

Or she’s scrubbing the tub or she’s mopping the floors,

Or she’s wiping the stains from the walls and the doors,

Or she’s washing the windows, the dishes, the clothes,

Or waxing the furniture till it just glows,

Or cleaning the fridge or the stove or the sink,

With a light-hearted smile, and a friendly wink,

And she’s doing her best to make us think

The her soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,

Is the best kind of soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,

That there is in the whole wide world.

And, maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t,

And maybe it does what they say it will do,

But I’ll tell you one thing I know is true.

The lady we see when we’re watching TV,

The lady who smiles as she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,

Or whatever she does on our TV screens,

That lady is smiling because she’s an actress,

And she’s earning money for learning those speeches

That mention those wonderful soaps and detergents and cleansers and cleaners and powders and pastes and waxes and bleaches.

So, the very next time you happen to be

Just sitting there quietly watching TV,

And you see some nice lady who smiles

As she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,

Remember, nobody smiles doing housework but those ladies you see on TV.

Your mommy hates housework,

Your daddy hates housework,

I hate housework too.

And when you grow up, so will you.

Because even if the soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach

That you use is the very best one,

Housework is just no fun.

Children, when you have a house of your own,

Make sure, when there’s house work to do,

That you don’t have to do it alone.

Little boys, little girls, when you’re big husbands and wives,

If you want all the days of your lives

To seem sunny as summer weather,

Make sure, when there’s housework to do,

That you do it together!


Sarah, Taylor, and Lauren making cheese in my very small kitchen.