I have only hired a maid once in my life, and that was because the doctor ordered me to get help while I recovered from a serious illness. As soon as I got better, the maid’s weekly visits came to an end. Truth be told, I missed her. Even in our modern world with so many conveniences, I sometimes wished I could just have my servants do at least some of the housework.
About a year after I stopped having a maid, I was pregnant and exhausted. Wishing once more that I had more help, I turned to Jane Austen. This time, though, her books became my incentive for doing housework. For every 100 items I picked up, washed, folded, or put away, I would read a chapter from an Austen novel. Sometimes, I did a chore per chapter. For particularly distasteful tasks (vacuuming), I rewarded myself with two or three chapters. Thus, Jane Austen helped me keep the house clean as I made my way through all six of her published novels. The highlight of my pregnancy was when I discovered Persuasion. I had never read it before, and I loved it so much that I read it three or four times before I had the baby
.Jane Austen may not have done much housework in her lifetime, but she has helped me more than any maid. Now that I spend so much time writing, I rely on audiobooks. I have fond memories of listening to Sense and Sensibility while I painted my living room, Mansfield Park while I canned jam from my apricot trees, and most recently Northanger Abbey while I deep cleaned the kitchen. I have to confess that I didn’t really enjoy Northanger Abbey until I heard it read by a skilled narrator. Doing the dishes is so much more enjoyable when I’m listening to professional actors reading my favorite books.
I’m able to get Austen’s books on CDs from my local library, but I have sometimes downloaded free mp3 files from librivox.com, a site that shares free public domain audiobooks. As with other sites, the quality of the narrators varies. I loved the narrator for Pride and Prejudice, but some other narrations weren’t as great, so it helps to listen before you download. Librivox also has free downloads of Jane Austen’s other works like Love and Friendship and Lady Susan.
I was happy to learn that several of the Austen authors have audiobooks available for us to listen to. Pam Dixon, Regina Jeffers, Katherine Reay, and Barbara Silkstone have titles available on audible.com. (Some of these are also available on Amazon and iTunes.) Also, look for audiobooks from Elizabeth Ann West, Melanie Schertz, and Jeanna Ellsworth in the future.
As for other chores, I love to fold laundry and file papers while I’m watching Austen-inspired movies. There are so many movies to choose from that I still haven’t exhausted all the possibilities. My to-watch list includes the old version of Pride and Prejudice with Laurence Olivier and a few versions of Northanger Abbey. Not to mention that I haven’t seen all the fan fiction-inspired movies. What a great incentive to do my work!
What have you done to make your chores go faster? Or can you recommend an audiobook or movie?