Author: has written 1136 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

33 Responses

  1. Lindsay
    Lindsay February 26, 2007 at 12:19 am |

    My boyfriend is messy and I find myself cleaning up after him on occasion just because a mess makes me cranky and irritable, but he cleans before I come over most times. I think in my own experiences my mom was the one that took care of the inside of the house while my dad did all the yard work. It seemed pretty equal to me because dad did what mom didn’t want to do and mom did what dad didn’t want to do. Somehow us kids always got the dishes and I hate those damned things and can’t wait to make my own kids do them, ha!

  2. Jess
    Jess February 26, 2007 at 12:29 am |

    The influence of roommates is a potent one: I’m definitely the sloppiest roommate of the three of us, which amazes my male roommate’s ex-girlfriend. Historically, he’s incredibly messy. My female roommate is ridiculously tidy, and motivates the two of us by unintentional guilt. I (think) can safely say that childhood gender roles are not at play here; only ocd tendencies.

  3. rainne
    rainne February 26, 2007 at 1:05 am |

    One of the interesting things about that study, to me, is that the sum of the housework done in a couple is 20 hours, whereas the same two people, living apart, do 17 hours between them.

    My partner is very conscientious about housework and does half of it – but even then, I end up doing more than if I lived alone. He used to have a job whereby he was absent for six weeks every two-three months, and back for 2-6 weeks, so this exercise was repeated over and over.

    I clean more when he’s around not because I get slothful otherwise, but because he generates more mess. When I cook for myself, I clean as I go; so half an hour cooking (and cleaning) is half an hour’s housework. When he cooks, that’s half an hour cooking, and then requires me to clean the kitchen afterwards; another 20 minutes. Total, 50 minutes housework. Then add in the fact that when I’m on my own, I cook and clean in half an hour and generate enough food to eat for 2-3 days, whereas when he’s here, since he dislikes leftovers, the cooking is done from scratch every day, it gets even more inefficient; 30-50 minutes per day, divided by two people, is still more housework than half an hour every three days. And this is in a scenario whereby we do equal shares of housework. If he was lazier, I’d pick up the slack rather than live with a dirty kitchen. I’d resent it, but I’d do it.

    Two people together may live cheaper than two people apart, but I contend that they generate at least double the housework of two single people. And when double the housework is being divided evenly between two people, and one of them is more efficient about it than the other, the net result is more housework per person.

    Or, in a lot of cases, a lot more housework for the woman. Still.

  4. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski February 26, 2007 at 1:19 am |

    Most women a lot of women are obscesive-compulsive when it comes to cleaning. I’m barely exagerating.

    How many times do you enter a girl’s appartment and are told “don’t look at the mess” and yet you could eat off the floor?

    Why are all cleaning products advertized to women? Because it’s sexists? I dunno, but even if they were advertized to men, men wouldn’t buy them anyway (or not as much as women).

    I dunno if women’s obscession with cleaning is caused by patriarchy or whatever, the fact is women need to do like men and just stop cleaning every week. If the husband complains, he can clean himself or shut the fuck up.

    I never understood the need to clean stuff that isn’t even dirty. And it’s not very ecological and cleaning product are probably bad for kids’ health.

    Or maybe I’m a lazy pig looking for excuses not to clean (nobody’s cleaning for me either). :-p But women, learn to be messy!

  5. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2007 at 1:38 am |

    Yet more proof that I seem to be, in actuality, a man, despite all of the anatomical proof otherwise. Somehow I missed all of the indoctrination that told me I’m supposed to be a clean freak, probably because my (step)mom, who mostly raised me, is a genuine bordering-on-OCD clean freak who doesn’t like wallpaper because you just don’t know how much dirt is accumulating behind it.

    No, I’m not kidding. She said that to us one time when we were discussing their newly-painted house.

    Of course, my grandmother once told me that my late mother was a terrible housekeeper, so I’m assuming it’s a combination of genetics, lack of early training, and rebellion against the scary OCD-ness of my (step)mom.

  6. Nick Kiddle
    Nick Kiddle February 26, 2007 at 7:22 am |

    I don’t think it’s obsessive-compulsive. I think it’s a completely understandable insecurity that comes from being expected to produce perfection in all areas of the domestic sphere.

    And I managed to skip that day of girl school as well. You should see the state of my kitchen, and although some of the mess is down to the xCLP’s experiments with self-feeding, some of it is purely about my casual attitude to getting the dishes washed. But I pay for it when it gets to the middle of the week and I can’t prepare a meal without washing every dish I need first, and rearranging the mess so I have a clear work surface.

    That’s something I was thinking about this weekend, because I got roped into helping my dad clean the house I used to share with him. You can do housework a little at a time, or you can let it slide for weeks (or even months!) and then blitz it. I don’t know if little-and-often is more efficient (although I’m pretty sure it is in the dishes example) but it is more pleasant when you’re cleaning eg a toilet that was last cleaned a week ago, vs one that hasn’t been cleaned in months.

  7. Dan S.
    Dan S. February 26, 2007 at 9:50 am |

    Now, given those numbers, one could almost assume that it averages out at 10hrs/week per person-generated mess to get up to the required-of-women standard of cleanliness; when they’re living together, you end up with 20hrs, men drop down to cleaning half a (single) mess, and women end up with the other 3/4s of the job.

    Not that simple, of course (and I suspect that if they looked at productivity, the difference would be even starker). But it’s just sad, if entirely nonsurprising, that guys are on average putting even less effort into cleaning when a gf/wife/etc. is around . . .

    women need to do like men and just stop cleaning every week . . .

    Except all that would probably happen – in manty cases -is that the cleaning would go from 20hrs/week to 5 (maybe 7, once the dishes and clean clothes run out), at the cost of a) domestic unpleasantness, b) open, implicit, or assumed judgmental criticism from others (& self), and c) having to deal with dirty countertops, grimy bathtubs, dusty floors, smelly trash, etc.

    I dunno, but even if they were advertized to men, men wouldn’t buy them anyway (or not as much as women).

    You wanna bet?

  8. kje
    kje February 26, 2007 at 10:11 am |

    One of the interesting things about that study, to me, is that the sum of the housework done in a couple is 20 hours, whereas the same two people, living apart, do 17 hours between them.

    I’m really surprised that the difference is that small. When I went from single to coupled I went from going out with friends about five nights a week to staying in five nights per week. I also go out to brunch a lot less on the weekends when coupled. Staying in more and eating out less generates more mess but it’s also more economical and, as I get older, more and more desirable.

    But women, learn to be messy!

    Silly women, your standards are crazy! If urine on the bathroom floor, sheets that smell like socks, and sinks piled with dirty dishes digust and depress you you just need to learn to suck it up. Ummm…no. I like living in a clean house and I should not have to apologize for that. I deserve to have a house that I can relax in and feel proud of. It also saves a lot of money, because cooking is easier (less emergency take-out), staying in is more pleasant, and I don’t need enough clothes, sheets and towels to last me a month between washings. For those of us with young children it is a safety issue as well. As children get older, childcare is still much easier in a clean house because children who are overwhelmed by a mess don’t keep themselves occupied as well. With a clean living room, I can put on some music and just comment on what my son is doing every ten or fifteen minutes. When the room is a mess, he wants constant attention — he just doesn’t know what to do with himself.

  9. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2007 at 10:58 am |

    I don’t think it’s obsessive-compulsive. I think it’s a completely understandable insecurity that comes from being expected to produce perfection in all areas of the domestic sphere.

    In my mom’s case, it’s definitely bordering on OCD, because she had the standards (sometimes literally) beaten into her by her mother. So, for her, it goes far beyond society’s standards and gets into some really deep stuff from her upbringing. And, unfortunately, given some of the comments the last time this came up, I don’t think her experience was all that unusual.

    There’s a movie from the 1930s that I keep meaning to see called Craig’s Wife, which is about a woman who becomes so obsessed with keeping her house clean that she ends up driving everyone in her life away. It’s apparently not terribly sympathetic towards her, but it still sounds interesting.

  10. NeilC
    NeilC February 26, 2007 at 11:00 am |

    My wife is a neat freak. Since I work nights, she works days, I do the laundry and clean the bathrooms once a week. But should I leave anything around she’ll complain about “leaving me a mess to clean up when she gets home,” but I never think it’s that bad. Newspapers always need to be thrown out right now, like in the 20 minutes I procrastinate, the Queen will show up for a visit. I’m a ‘neat slob’ :)

  11. alphabitch
    alphabitch February 26, 2007 at 11:04 am |

    Moderation in all things, I guess. There’s a difference between tolerating a bit of dust and a few piles of clutter and living in a filth palace.

    My grandmother, on the other hand, would be up half the night cleaning and polishing everything so that the cleaning helper we hired for her after her stroke wouldn’t see what a mess it was.

    You’ve gotta draw the line somewhere.

  12. amanda w
    amanda w February 26, 2007 at 11:09 am |

    the influence of roommates doesn’t really refute what the article says, though.

    why is it women see the need to clean obsessively when their pods are going to be in the view of any “outside” person, while men apparently clean less when there’s anyone else to do it?

    that pretty much proves the point of the article altogether, no?

  13. preying mantis
    preying mantis February 26, 2007 at 11:09 am |

    “You wanna bet?”

    It really depends. Most current marketing hinges on creating anxiety and feelings of inadequacy in the consumer. 90% of the cleaning product ads I’ve noticed have had the implicit message that either your children or reputation would suffer if your house wasn’t clean enough. The other 9.5%* were geared toward convincing the (female) consumer that their product got your house and clothing cleaner than what you’re presumably already using.

    Given that the fulcrum they’re using to move this load is the years of social conditioning most women get hit with in regards to how their house is supposed to look and how they’re doing something wrong if it doesn’t look like that, I’d say there’s not really a comparable ready-made vector for a male-oriented pitch. The closest I’ve seen are ads whose message is “Women will not like you if you don’t use our product.” It’s hard to imagine a campaign succeeding with men as thoroughly as it does with women without the social weight to drive it home.

    *The stray 0.5% involved accepting the fact that the males in your family are filth-pigs and that, thanks to this product, you can live like they aren’t around even if you can’t actually get rid of them.

  14. amanda w
    amanda w February 26, 2007 at 11:15 am |

    p.s.

    the truth is, of course, somewhere in the middle, though imo closer to women’s habits than men’s. of course this problem gets framed as the fault of women, for believing those silly crazy womanly things (like a house is probably at least a tad healthier and pleasanter when there isn’t a fine dusting of urine across the bathroom) and for doing the extra work when anyone else is around.

    this is, of course, bullshit.

    what’s disappointing and wrong is that 1) men do almost nothing in the way of cleaning in the first place, and 2) they shunt off the responsibilities to anyone else available.

    it’s a worse vice to be irresponsible and burdensome imo than to have a bit of a perfectionist streak.

  15. Ron O
    Ron O February 26, 2007 at 11:32 am |

    I’m not suprised that it takes 3 more hour per week for a couple than 2 single people. Like others, I think it is mainly due to eating out v/s eating it. Also, inour case since we don’t eat out as often, we treat ourselves a couple times a week to fancy home-cooked meals, which I never did on my own, unless I was hosting a dinner.

    I’d say we both picked up additional hours of housework when we started living together. I’m the clean one, she’s the cook; Neither did the other’s job very well when single, so we picked up more than we lost. I got to clean for both (and her dog!); she cooked for both. We split laundry.

    Speaking of which, when single I only did laundry every 2-3 weeks (I still have a huge stash of underwear). Now we have to do it 2-3 days a week, though a big part of that is the very short, preverbal person in our house. Even before the baby, I had to step up with the laundry. I was still operating on the 2 week schedule which meant Spouse was doing ALL the laundry. Naturally she resented that, and after losing this battle of the schedules, I had to walk the talk and start doing a few loads at least once a week. I tried to convince her to just buy more underwear, but lost that one because bras ain’t cheap. I bet a lot of men just stop doing laundry when coupled.

  16. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon February 26, 2007 at 11:47 am |

    Ha. The rule in my house is 1. After a certain age the kids take on the chores to “earn their keep” and learn responsibility.

    2. If it bothers you so much, clean it up yourself! (Of course that usually devolves into an argument with my dad about how much he works and how he shouldn’t have to because he works so much, blah, blah, blah. I blame the abuse he received from his mother for his reluctance to do any house cleaning and I blame the army for training him to be OCD. So basically he ended up with a mentality of “wants it spit-shine but doesn’t want to do it”.)

    The result of these two rules means that I usually wind up cleaning up whatever my slothful, irresponsible teenage sister doesn’t. *sigh* Which means the house is never really clean enough for my dad’s standards, which means I have to listen to him bitch about the house not being clean enough, which usually causes me to bring up rule #2… and the cycle goes on and on. LOL. *Head meet Desk, now shake!*

  17. mythago
    mythago February 26, 2007 at 11:49 am |

    If Dad pitches in, we see that as normal.

    Especially because we see what Dad does as “pitching in” or helping Mom, who is the one ultimately responsible for all that housework.

  18. Ron O
    Ron O February 26, 2007 at 11:56 am |

    I’m not suprised that it takes 3 more hour per week for a couple than 2 single people. Like others, I think it is mainly due to eating out v/s eating it. Also, inour case since we don’t eat out as often, we treat ourselves a couple times a week to fancy home-cooked meals, which I never did on my own, unless I was hosting a dinner.

    I’d say we both picked up additional hours of housework when we started living together. I’m the clean one, she’s the cook; Neither did the other’s job very well when single, so we picked up more than we lost. I got to clean for both (and her dog!); she cooked for both. We split laundry.

    Speaking of which, when single I only did laundry every 2-3 weeks (I still have a huge stash of underwear). Now we have to do it 2-3 days a week, though a big part of that is the very short, preverbal person in our house. Even before the baby, I had to step up with the laundry. I was still operating on the 2 week schedule which meant Spouse was doing ALL the laundry. Naturally she resented that, and after losing this battle of the schedules, I had to walk the talk and start doing a few loads at least once a week. I tried to convince her to just buy more underwear, but lost that one because bras ain’t cheap. I bet a lot of men just stop doing laundry when coupled.

  19. elyzabethe
    elyzabethe February 26, 2007 at 11:57 am |

    TEN hours per week? What would you possibly clean for ten hours per week?? Maybe I’m just messy, but …

  20. Ron O
    Ron O February 26, 2007 at 11:57 am |

    Sorry about the double post. I got a ‘server did not connect the first time’.

  21. Ron O
    Ron O February 26, 2007 at 12:20 pm |

    It;s hard to remember how long it took to clean when single, but getting to 20 as a couple is easy.

    cooking – 0.75 hours 6 days a week=4.5 hours
    dishes/kitchen cleaning – 0.5 hours, 7 days a week= 3.5 hours
    6-10 loads of laundy, 1/3 hour per load = 2-3 hours
    bathroom, once a week = 0.5 hour
    pet clean up (kitty litter & dog poop in the yard) = 0.5 hour
    Walking the dog (I consider it work) – 20 minutes 6 days a week = 2 hours
    Vacuuming/mopping = 1-2 hours per week
    Emptying trash & other misc tasks 1 hour
    Cutting grass/weeding (summer) snow shoveling (winter) 1-2 hours (often more because I like to putz around in the garden)e

    That brings us up to 16-19 hours per week for our household of 3 in a 1300 sq ft house. I suspect it would be more with a bigger house and a bigger yard.

    Actually, I forgot about all the time we spend putting our toddler’s toys away. That’s at least 10-20 minutes a day, every day.

  22. preying mantis
    preying mantis February 26, 2007 at 12:28 pm |

    “TEN hours per week? What would you possibly clean for ten hours per week?? Maybe I’m just messy, but …”

    I imagine it depends on how they’re calculating time spent on housework. Take doing laundry, for example–if you use a washer and dryer, the time you actually spend fiddling with laundry is probably fifteen minutes. The time the laundry’s going in the machines, though, is closer to an hour or an hour and a half. Same thing with a dishwasher. If the study is counting the entire time you’re waiting for the machine to finish (and presumably doing something besides clock-watching) as housework, it adds up quickly.

  23. Penny
    Penny February 26, 2007 at 3:17 pm |

    It’s not hard to get to ten. Our house stays at a pretty livable level if I do 1.5 hours a day, 6 days a week. I take a day off. If you spend 15 minutes a day putting stuff away, and another15 minutes getting rid of stuff that’s piling up (throwing out junk mail, recycling, garbage, donations, whatever) that’s half an hour right there. That’s without even ‘cleaning’.
    When I had surgery my partner agreed to take over the housework I did. But he thought he’d take the opportunity to show me that I was being too fussy and that it works better to wait until the place gets messy and then clean it. We discovered that to get to ‘messy’ takes 3 weeks. After 3 weeks, we both felt pretty depressed when we looked around. (I felt it a week sooner). To get the place clean, to his level of clean, took him 2 solid days. He’d estimated 2 hours. Good thing he’d booked time off work! He felt mad the whole time he cleaned. I felt mad for living in a messy place and then being around him cleaning angrily. I sure don’t want to repeat that again.

  24. DDay
    DDay February 26, 2007 at 3:26 pm |

    My parents split things pretty evenly: my mom did the cooking, gardening type stuff and all of the non-specific cleaning, while my dad washed the dishes, mowed the lawn, did the laundry/ironing, and the vacuuming. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how uncommon this was (my parents also received almost equal salaries). It was one of those moments where I realized that I had a pretty charmed life in terms of gender equity.

    These days, I seem to lack that cleaning gene as well. I’m decent with general cleanliness but have a very high tolerance for clutter. I’m pretty sure my boyfriend spends more time doing housework than me but we don’t live together. I don’t know how much or if this would change if we co-habitated but for what it’s worth, he currently spends more time cleaning than his two female roommates.

  25. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2007 at 3:40 pm |

    why is it women see the need to clean obsessively when their pods are going to be in the view of any “outside” person, while men apparently clean less when there’s anyone else to do it?

    I think those are two different things. I know my now-husband would pick things up in his apartment before I came over. But I think most women would consider him “normally clean” even on a female scale. He’s not one to mark the toilet with urine or leave his underwear on the bathroom floor. He’s a packrat like me and will let newspapers pile up, but he’s not a true slob. And he had NO illusions when we moved in together that I would suddenly turn into a domestic goddess, though he would have liked me to at least get up to his level.

    I’m just glad I only have a minor amount of guilt about my horrendous messiness. That means that I have no problem picking up the phone and getting Merry Maids to do the work for me rather than angst-ing myself to death about my failures as a woman.

    Ironically, the Merry Maids workers that they send over most frequently are two men who do a great job, at least to our standards.

  26. Penny
    Penny February 26, 2007 at 4:24 pm |

    For me, it’s mostly about efficiency and not wasting my time. It takes 2 seconds to wipe a blob of jelly off the counter and 15 minutes to get the jelly out of your shirt if you lean in it. Add on extra time if you didn’t take 10 minutes to put the groceries away so you don’t know where the stain remover is. Add a trip to the store if you didn’t take 5 seconds to write on a grocery list that you had run out of stain remover etc.

    I use this example because I personally would say the hell with it and walk around town with a jelly stain on my shirt. I just can’t be bothered, and in that sense I’m like the guy upthread who thinks women just need to care less. But my partner, who normally is like the carefree guy upthread, has a problem with the woman he loves walking around town sporting a jelly stained shirt. Because it hurts him that people might think I look a bit like a crazy woman. And I love him, so I try to tend to these things. I don’t think he should ‘care about them less’. I think, in a couple, unless someone’s being absoloutely psychotic, the person who has the higher standard of cleanliness or order should have his or her needs respected.

  27. figleaf
    figleaf February 26, 2007 at 5:54 pm |

    I’d want to see more of their methodology before drawing any conclusions.

    Next I’d like to know what’s considered household cleaning because, based on recollections of single life, both seven and fifteen hours a week seem a little off. Do single women really average more than two hours a day cleaning, even including laundry and dishes? Does the average single man really spend an hour a day?

    I once had a job that involved in-home research as follow-up for phone-based surveys (about personal record keeping) and I gotta say that self-reporting isn’t very reliable. Two generally accepted reasons in human factors circles: people are lousy estimators of time, and people tend to inflate up or down based on how much they think *other* people do (whether or not, in fact, other people really do that much.)

    And finally I’d want to know if the couples component was limited to childless couples since a) the workload goes up when children arrive and b) although I love being a stay-at-home dad most women tend to stay home, for longer, when there are children around.

    That said, the claim that most women clean more than most men, and that in relationships women clean even more than men sounds unfortunate but about right. I think that Zuzu and other correctly suspect that women feel under more pressure of responsibility when someone else is around, although I expect that for similar reasons men tend to let themselves go. Which is a shame.

    I’d point out another possibility for the extra three hours some folks have noticed: different people have different criteria. Thus my partner drops both clean and dirty clothes on the floor. Since I lack her magic clean-clothes glasses I end up doing more laundry than I would if I was single. On the other hand in the kitchen she does more hand-washing while I use the dishwasher. Since I tend to use more kitchenware when I cook she winds up doing more dishes than she would if she was single.

    Finally there’s a sort of Murphy’s Law for roommates to contend with: in any given household even if one roommate has even a slightly lower threshold for cleaning they’ll almost always wind up either doing most of the cleanup (leaving the other with less to do) or initiating cleanup (leaving the other roommate feeling less in control and/or more like a slob.) Socially acquired gender expectation can muddy that dynamic, which helps account for Mnemosyne’s “proof I’m actually a man” quip. But because it’s a structural phenomenon you can encounter the same dynamic whatever the gender mix.

    figleaf

  28. Scott Lemieux
    Scott Lemieux February 26, 2007 at 9:14 pm |

    What’s the deal woth making beds?

  29. Nomie
    Nomie February 26, 2007 at 9:35 pm |

    Mnemosyne, my mom ended up much like you after growing up with a nearly-OCD-levels-of-clean-freak mother. Up in the middle of the night cleaning floors, ironing everybody’s clothes, and so forth. Our house, by way of contrast, was often messy but always sanitary and livable. Mom’s also allergic to a lot of modern household cleaners, though, so the cleaning is Dad’s responsibility. And he also does the laundry (he has a perfect anal-retentive system for the five loads a week) and all the cooking (he almost went to culinary school and still is a lover of all things gustatory) and dishes. A lot of his perfectionism, though, comes from being an only child who spent a lot of time with his mom, who taught him all her tips and tricks. It was interesting when I hit the “feminist awakening” stage and realized just how weird it was on a societal level that my dad did all the housework. And now I’m a total slob. Oops.

  30. Carrie S.
    Carrie S. February 27, 2007 at 10:16 am |

    In my house the boyfriend ends up doing most of the cleaning because he’s the one who cares. I empty the catbox and do most of the laundry and cooking (insofar as you can call our two standard meals “cooking”), but that’s about it.

    Of course, we end up with a problem whereby some particular bit of clutter is annoying one or the other, but the perturbed one doesn’t want to do anything about it without help from the other (or the bothersome bit “belongs” to the other, such as my pile of clean clothes, which I know bug him but that he doesn’t want to touch because they’re my clothes).

  31. Jewel
    Jewel February 28, 2007 at 3:11 pm |

    I love bucking trends. The BF cleans waaay more than me. His house is pristine; my apartment’s a dump. When I’m at his place, he cleans up after me all the time. I love it. :)

    In return, I make him the occasional cup of tea. :)

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.