“Despite its apparent banality, housework has always been an intellectually confounding problem.”
- Stephen Marche
On Sunday, I read an opinion piece, The Case for Filth, in the New York Times.
According to the piece’s author, Stephen Marche, younger men are doing about the same amount of work around the house as their fathers did.
“At least one thing is becoming clear: The only possible solution to the housework discrepancy is for everyone to do a lot less of it.”
- Stephen Marche
Marche points out that, although men aren’t doing any more housework, the housework gender gap is narrowing. It’s because women are doing less.
Housework is perhaps the only political problem in which doing less and not caring are the solution, where apathy is the most progressive and sensible attitude. Fifty years ago, it was perfectly normal to iron sheets and to vacuum drapes. They were “necessary” tasks. The solution to the inequality of dusting wasn’t dividing the dusting; it was not doing the dusting at all.
The solution to the gender divide in housework generally is just that simple: don’t bother. Leave the stairs untidy. Don’t fix the garden gate. Fail to repaint the peeling ceiling. Never make the bed.
A clean house is the sign of a wasted life, truly. Hope is messy: Eventually we’ll all be living in perfect egalitarian squalor.
“Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter productivity.”
- Erma Bombeck
I’m not ready to concede we need to live in squalor, but I do hate housework. So, how can we live in relative order and cleanliness without spending a lot of time cleaning?
Having less stuff is one solution. The less stuff you have, the less you have to dust and organize. Plus, you don’t need as much furniture. This saves more time since you don’t have to dust or vacuum that either.
Cleaning the floors is easy when you don’t have a bunch of items to have to pick up first. And cleaning the kitchen counter is amazingly fast when it’s not cluttered.
Most importantly – with less stuff, you can have a smaller home. It’s easy to see how it would be much faster to clean 1500 square feet instead of 3000.
So how clean should your house be anyway?
My grandmother used to iron pillowcases and sheets. My mom used to iron pillowcases. I don’t iron any bedding. Actually, it seems most of us rarely iron at all.
Makes you wonder which of today’s “requirements” you could give up without have any significant impact on your life, doesn’t it?
“My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?”
- Erma Bombeck
Think about what else you could forego without your home looking or smelling like a pig sty.
You can probably think of a few things you can either skip or do less often. If, however, you’re already doing the bare minimum, don’t cut back!
I’ve noticed most of my friends don’t care too much about what their homes look like (within reason, of course) unless company is coming. But do you really need to panic then?
We use guests as a good excuse to dust, which rarely happens otherwise, but don’t spend long tidying up for them. We haven’t lost any friends yet. They’re probably secretly happy they don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning for us.
Maybe you have a special guest (like your boss) you’re really worried about. In that case, you might want to shoot for perfection. However, your family and friends should be able to tolerate a little clutter and dirt.
In the comment section below, please share what you’ve given up on cleaning without noticing any problem from your newfound efficiency. Also feel free to share what you won’t give up.