September 2009

She Says: Who Should Clean The House

Author: Jean Wharton

I love the recycling center. I love everything about it. I love sorting the glass bottles into brown, clear and green. The clinking, crashing and smashing echo of a bottle landing inside the huge metal bin delights me. It never fails to make me smile when someone has dutifully brought bottles to the recycling center but is at a loss as to where to put the mysterious blue glass bottle, and it sits all alone between the green and clear receptacles. The people-watching and junk-admiring are reason enough to take your cardboard boxes and yard waste to the recycling center. Every time I take our baskets of glass, plastic and tin down Dillon Road, I feel a little lighter in some way and get a tiny thrill.

My roommate does not bask in the glory of the recycling center. She doesn’t share in my frivolous joy of cleaning out the magazine basket in our living room and dropping off aluminum cans. She most certainly does not delight in taking mass quantities of items after we host a party or when we forget to take the recycling for a couple of weeks. This is fine with me, because I don’t like emptying the dishwasher.

I don’t know where everything goes in kitchen, and I hate putting something back where my roommate can’t find it. Subsequently I hate the guilt feeling I get for putting a whisk or frying pan in the wrong place. We work great as a team. I like taking the recycling and she likes organizing the kitchen.
This is how best to survive civilly in any living situation. Everyone has to tend to their own mess while contributing a bit extra for the greater good of the house, condo, trailer or RV.

It hasn’t always been so easy for me. At one time I shared a house with several friends—their friends, their lovers, their pets and their nasty habits. Cleaning the house was like launching an assault—timing was everything. Arguments were started over whose job it was to clean up common areas, and often an argument ended with one individual leaving the house in a huff while the other stayed and cleaned, also in a huff.

What is the difference between my current house and a previous living arrangement? Well, many things are different. Such as…hmmm…well…let me think (dramatic pause while the author reflects back, racking her brain as to what is so different). Currently, no guys live in my house. I’m not making a sweeping sexist generalization. I am simply saying that, in my experiences, the guys I shared a house with didn’t clean up after themselves, nor did they contribute to the “community cleaning.”

This is not to say that men are genetically incapable of washing the floor or wiping a countertop. I would argue that some men are simply conditioned and trained from birth by their mothers and sisters and later their girlfriends and wives NOT to clean. Men are more than capable of caring for their own environments.
We all know the guy who’s been cared for and catered to his entire life. The guy whose mom did his laundry for him when he was in college. The guy whose wife vacuums around his feet in the living room. The guy who only empties the silverware basket of the dishwasher. The guy who drinks beer but doesn’t know where the recycling center is.

As with so many debates that Keith and I enter into in He Says/She Says, the glaringly obvious solution to domestic tidiness disputes between the sexes is COMMUNICATION! If you want a man to do something around the house, ask him (and vice-versa). If you don’t like making your bed, trade bed-making for vacuuming. Hate folding laundry, ask your housemate (husband, boyfriend or roommate) to fold while you change the sheets on the bed. There is always a way to avoid the cleaning tasks you despise, however, that doesn’t give you a “get out of cleaning” pass.

Guys are capable of cleaning, and if you happen to have one who was coddled in the housekeeping department, it’s just a matter of training to get him on the path to cleanliness. It also must be noted that women can be just as ineffective at housekeeping as men; we are not genetically disposed to be good housekeepers. So gents, if you’re in a living situation with a slovenly female, take the same advice.

The bottom line: Pick up after yourself and talk to your partner. If you can’t balance the chores, ladies, don’t stew or waste your energy being mad that you have to “ask” him to take out the trash because he doesn’t automatically do it; and men, don’t ague when your wife asks you to rinse your beard hairs out of the sink. HIRE A MAID! Pay the maid well and he/she won’t hold your sloppiness against you.

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