Good housekeeping?


I read an article last week claiming that women should stop nagging men to do more housework, because a study had shown that cleaning reduces men’s testosterone, and therefore their libido. So if you want a healthy sex life, don’t make your man clean the loo.

Well fine, I can well believe it. But, funnily enough, scrubbing the floors doesn’t really turn women on either. Housework, however necessary, is fundamentally unerotic. I think the problem is, for women at least, that a dirty house is equally off-putting.

I’m feeling very fed up about the amount of housework I do, but also about how that compares to the amount of housework I probably should be doing. My husband works fulltime, in a busy job, and commutes for an hour each way. I work part-time from home, and look after our daughter. Fairly obviously more of the responsibility for housekeeping devolves on me, and I’m happy with that. Some of it, such as shopping for food, and cooking, I enjoy. Well, actually, they’re the only aspects I enjoy, but still.

However, when I think about the things I do every day, just to keep the show on the road, and then the things I do every week or so to keep us vaguely civilised, it amounts to an awful lot of time. And then when I list the things I don’t do at all, or hardly, but probably ought to, then it looks like managing one 3 bedroom terrace really is a fulltime job, and it’s a job I have no appetite for whatsoever.

So here’s my daily list:

–       Unload dishwasher from previous day and put dishes away

–       Make breakfast for me and daughter (husband deals with his own)

–       Clear breakfast things away, wipe down kitchen surfaces and table

–       Make beds

–       Put on load of laundry

–       Clean filters on tumble drier

–       Plump up cushions, smooth throws etc

–       Collect up dirty cups etc from all over the house

–       Put away clean, dry laundry from previous day

–       Make lunch for me and daughter

–       Clear lunch things away, wipe down kitchen surfaces and table

–       Sweep kitchen and dining room floors

–       Attempt to tidy up (ie, at least return things to the room they’re meant to be in)

–       Make tea for daughter

–       Clear up tea things, load dishwasher, wipe down kitchen surfaces

–       Wash up anything that can’t go in dishwasher

–       Load breadmaker (not every day, but at least twice a week)

–       Make dinner for me and husband

–       Collapse exhausted and thank goodness that the after dinner clear-up and bin-emptying are husband’s jobs

And my weekly list:

–       Vacuum

–       Dust

–       Clean bathroom

–       Clean downstairs loo

–       Clean fridge

–       Give kitchen a proper clean

–       Wash kitchen floor

–       Change beds (in theory. Actually it’s once a fortnight, but in my head it’s once a week)

–       Sort through post, action bills that need paying etc, put things for filing in pile to be ignored to be dealt with at a later date.

–       Make any admin phone calls

–       Hunt down all the toys and books that have gone missing and ended up under beds, down side of sofas etc

–       Take all the shoes that have migrated into the hall back upstairs and put them away

–       Plan our meals for the week and make a shopping list

–       Do the supermarket shop and put everything away

And then things I do once in a blue moon (and, according to Aggie and Kim should probably do monthly, if not weekly):

–       Clean windows (actually, I’m lying. I never do this really. I just think about it once in a blue moon)

–       Clean under furniture

–       De-cobweb ceilings and shadowy corners and dust anything higher than head height

–       Clean under/behind kitchen appliances

–       Turn the mattresses

–       Disinfect the bins

–       File paperwork

–       Clean rugs

–       De-scale kettle

–       Clean grouting in bathroom

–       Sort through Anna’s clothes and bag up things she’s grown out of

–       Polish shoes

–       Clean out kitchen cupboards

–       Wash throws from sofas

And then there’s the things I never do at all:

–       Ironing. Husband irons his work shirts, but everything else goes resolutely unironed.

–       Do something to look after our wooden floors (I actually don’t know what I should be doing, but suspect it should be something. Waxing? Polishing?)

–       Wash down walls with sugar soap. I had no idea I was meant to be doing this, but apparently so.

–       Scrub skirting boards

–       Wash duvets and pillows

–       Wash curtains

I really hope I don’t lose half my readership for being a disgusting slattern. And I hope any friends reading this aren’t put off visiting such an unhygienic household. Especially given the mice situation. The thing is though, I spend enough time dealing with categories one and two – if I started doing category three more frequently, or category four at all, these are the things I suspect I’d miss out on:

–       Baking cakes, muffins, biscuits and lots of other delicious but unnecessary treats

–       Hours spent reading to and chatting with my daughter

–       Curling up with a good book myself

–       Chatting to my mum, or a friend, on the phone

–       Having a glass of wine with my husband while we talk about our days

–       Spending weekends exploring London with my husband and daughter – discovering hidden green spaces, quirky little cafes, interesting museums

–       Having a half hour walk every day after nursery drop off

–       Writing my blog

–       Catching up with friends via Facebook, email or text

–       Playdates with my daughter

–       Meeting up with friends

And to be honest, that last list is the list of things which make life worth living. If I stopped, or reduced those, and instead made time to clean the windows or turn the mattresses, would I be happier? Would my family be happier? I strongly suspect not, and yet I still have a vague sense of guilt, which I’m trying to expunge with this post. And maybe that’s the crux of the matter. Why do I feel guilty? Why do (some)women feel somehow that their sense of personal worth is connected to the cleanliness of their houses? I really don’t think that it’s something that worries most men. Maybe housework, rather than fat, is the real feminist issue.


  1. I’m exhausted just reading your lists… Once my Great Aunt polished our laminate flooring – with furniture polish. Cue comedy wobbles and slides everytime it was stepped on! It took a good 6 weeks before it wore off and was safe again. So perhaps if you aren’t sure how to clean it, leave it? ;)


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