Housework Questions

I've been thinking about housework quite a lot over the past few weeks.  I like having a tidy house and do enjoy the washing being put away (I even managed it again today).  But I don't spend hours and hours on it every day.  I find other things - well, being truthful - mostly anything else - more interesting.

If I could justify it, I'd pay a cleaner with money from my new job (but, I obviously can't, because I'm saving up for that holiday).

Anyway ... here's a couple of questions for you, my friends in blog land, to answer for me:

1.  Do those of you who spend many hours a day doing housework, really enjoy doing it?

2.  Would those of you who have very neat houses find coming to my less-than-perfect house stressful?  Would you be quietly thinking to yourself, 'gee, if only she spent a bit less time on her blog, and more time on this house...'?

Just curious (and you can be anonymous - I won't make fun of you).


Anonymous said…
Hi! I can't remember how I came across your blog, but I'm enjoying reading. I wouldn't say our place is "very neat", but I think it is pretty good considering we have a 1 year old, a 2 year old and I am 37 weeks pregnant (therefore not inclined to a lot of strenuous housework).

1) I don't spend hours a day on housework. I have a system that involves about 1/2 hour a day (+ a couple of "pick up" times before the kids have lunch and dinner). I just divide everything up, so I only do one "big" task per day (vacuuming OR ironing OR bathroom etc). I try not to be a perfectionist about it - it will only get dirty again anyway. I also do one load of washing each night and hang it out first thing, then bring in, fold and put away that afternoon. We are blessed with a dishwasher, so I run that every night and unload while kids are having breakfast in the morning. I can start loading it up again throughout the day so no dirty dishes sitting around.

2) I sometimes get stressed with lots of friends and their kids at our place making a mess, but I honestly never even notice other people's places. I think I am more worried about stopping my kids wrecking their place than worrying about how much housework they do!

Okay, feel free to laugh... but I find doing stuff in a routine REALLY helps!
Tasmanian said…
(We have a four year old, a two year old and one due in March.) I teach piano in the evenings so I can't get much housework done once the kids are asleep. I feel like I spend hours a day doing housework. I love being neat and tidy, but I battle mentally every day as I do the housework because I can think of so many things I would rather be achieving. I get so much satisfaction from completing other tasks (I self-publish piano books and want to learn new piano pieces) but it feels like housework is never ending. I also feel like by the time I collapse into bed, I haven't done anything "fun and educational" with the kids like puppets or percussion or collages or the zoo.

If someone is coming to my place, I freak out and spend a lot of time cleaning. My in-laws drop in when I haven't mopped the floor or folded the washing, and I feel like a complete failure. I think my friends and I all tidy up for each other so it is very seldom that I see a messy house except mine. I feel uncomfortable in a messy house, but my friends generally have more children than I do so far, so I don't know how they manage anyway! Does the housework get worse with five kids? Please say no.

My daughter has four housework jobs to do every day because she is four years old. If I have enough kids, they can do the housework cheerfully and eagerly, right?
Simone R. said…
Tasmanian - Love it! My kids are 10,9+6. I should be getting 25 jobs done a day! Ummm - toilet, bath, shower, toy pick up (x3), breakfast, lunches, dinner, vaccumming, mopping, dusting, washing up (x3), washing, hang wash, bring in wash, fold wash, beds... I am going to suggest it to the kids tonight!

Write your piano books. If you don't make the beds today, they won't need to be made twice tomorrow.

[The best way to keep a tidy house is to stick the kids in front of the tv or computer all day.)
Cat P said…
Hi Jenny,

I keep our house reasonably neat and tidy - clean is another matter! Although I have a dust mite allergy that forces me to vacuum and wash sheets more regularly than I would otherwise.

As long as there is a clear spot to sit in other people's houses, I don't mind at all. It's often refreshing to visit someone's messy house - it tells me that we're close enough for me to see that, which I love. The only thing that stresses me about other people's houses is if all the seats are covered with dog/cat hair!!

We only have three of us in our house, too, so the bits of housework that I do are reasonably enjoyable - a change of pace from studying! I love cooking, washing is only a couple of times a week, my daughter cleans the bathroom sink, my husband does toilet, shower and bins, dishes are for whoever doesn't cook, picking up stuff is regular through the day and I have a vacuuming system that involves about 20 minutes per week! I love the feeling of satisfaction when the lounge room and kitchen look tidy. :)
Jenny said…
So I expect that you'll be sitting around with your feet up Simone while your kids do everything! Cool.

I think that's interesting what you said about messy houses meaning that people feel comfortable with you Cat P.

It seems all very complex - the way we look after our homes shows something very personal about how we see ourselves and also how we'd like others to see us.
Simone R. said…
Yep. Just like you'll get that holiday.

I wonder if sometimes the clean house can be a power thing. Of course, no one wants to go to a house that is smelly and a health risk, but do we feel more powerful in a relationship if our house if clean? We've got it together. We prefer visiting a home that is a bit messy but don't like others to see ours messy. We want to win. Not consciously, of course...
Pip said…
I can't really comment because I generally have a messy house. I try to keep the lounge room tidy but that is really in vain as visitors come to the back door and walk straight into the kitchen/tv/kids toy room. Often unexpected visitors turn up on Monday morning. I used to stress a lot about this but now I just push the washing out of the way, clean a space for them on the kitchen table and make them a cup of tea. One lady said to me once after my many apologies about the state of the house "it is ok, you have young children and you have to live your life". So now if visitors don't like it then too bad. I feel relieved when I go places and there is a bit of mess, a bit of clutter, makes me feel at home, and that they are real people and not putting on the pretence of an immaculate house.
Julie-anne Laird said…
My house goes in waves. I keep on top of things for a while and then when things are busy with other things I let it get behind and then I can't stand it anymore so then I put in a burst of energy and get it looking good and keep it going for a while. As you can tell...I'm not a routine person but a project person so this actually works for me as I'm able to get other things done. My kids do some routine stuff every morning like empty dish washer, vacuum etc.

I also find the weather affects me. If it's sunny outside I feel like cleaning and having the windows open but if it's cold in the evening I just want to hop into bed.

However, I've been amazed at how critical some of my friends are when I haven't had much energy and the house is in a mess. I work 3 days, teach CRE, head up KLT (Kids Learning Time) etc. etc. so often the things I do are for their kids.

I know this is their issue so I really try to have the house tidy when they come around so they won't be uncomfortable however tired I feel but I find it stressful.

Another thing I've noticed about myself is that the first time someone comes over I like to have it clean and then after that I think they can take me as I am!!
Motherhugger said…
Jen, I have piles of clutter all over the house. My partner says the house smells like a nursing home. (OK, that was just after I cooked broccoli.)

I have a dust allergy too, (so does my partner) which means LESS dusting - do it all in one go and take an antihistamine. Today I started shifting things around to tidy up - to move the books (I moved about 50) from my bedroom to another room means getting rid of some books from other rooms (seven bookcases just aren't enough) so they are in piles in the loungeroom. To tidy up means getting rid of stuff to make space for other stuff, and then I can clean.

I reckon my house is the messiest I'm ever in. My partner regularly says 'other people don't live like this, you know.' Might be time for Flylady. (But I don't shine my sink because I AM the dishwasher, and I don't get dressed to my shoes in a heatwave.)

When I saw your house the other day I thought the cleaner had just left!
Beck said…
oh jenny... I'm reading your blog just so I dont have to look at the mess!! uh oh! I turned around and its still there!!!
I reckon its genetic... why dont they ever put into pre marriage prep the chapter "One of you needs to have the clean gene"?
Laura said…
Hi jenny,

I thought I might pipe in here its an interesting topic and one I wrestle with every day.

My husband has just finished 3 years working in student ministry and is now running a musicians christian group in the opera house and in 1st yr at moore college. His schedual is NEVER the same. Each day and each week look different.

We also have three kids ages 7, 4 & 2 and a 25yr old uni student that lives with us.Our house is always pretty busy.

I think that if I had a routine housework would be sooooo much easier. I find that I can't set aside tasks like cleaning for certain days because it just gets in the way of getting family time or other things that pop up. I do try and do our washing every day, but rarely does it make it to the cupboards off the line.I also try and clean the kitchen dishes at the end of the day so i can wake up to a fresh start. Apart from these two things the rest gets done when it gets done.

Something that i am learning is that a persons house is not an indication of how organised they are in their life. You can know exactly what is going on in a bomb shell house even better than a pristine clean one with some people.

Dare I say, I have also realised that I am so much like my mother. My husband says when we visit her house he knows exactly where to find things because I put them in the same places in our home. This is both annoying and comforting at the same time.
Donna said…
Hi Jenny,

Speaking of kids helping out: I met a woman a while ago at a retreat centre, who has 8 kids. I asked "how do you manage?!" she said that 8 is easier than one, because they do most of the work for her. I watched for the week that we were there together and she was rather relaxed as her elder kids did most of the work.

At the moment I live in a country where (thanks to our very good exchange rate) I can afford househelp. Every time when I come back to live in Australia, the amount of cleaning which needs to be done is the biggest stress I encounter. I can't honestly say that I enjoy housework (apart from watching clothes dry on the line on a hot day, that's certainly fun). But when I have to do housework, I try to look for the joy.

Sandra said…
I feel like life is out of control when the house is messy. At the moment our house is VERY messy - an indication that we are both working far too many hours and need a holiday. I have just picked up an extra 10 hours a week work, and have done a lot of locum work in the last 4 months, so things have really gone to pot! And, like Laura, the husband in ministry with a part time secular job and erratic hours means that routine is impossible. And this week I've been sick, so the priority has been getting the washing done and doing the shopping and cooking, though the take away was a godsend last night.

Our house has also become more messy as I have tried to shift responsibility onto the kids (10,13 and 15) and get them more involved in the bigger day to day processes. I've had to accept (and don't do it very graciously sometimes) that things aren't always done to my standards. It is all part of the process of them realising the house doesn't clean itself and that they do actually learn some skills before they leave home. Another aim is to try and get them cooking 1-2 nights a week, as the days I work I don't get home till 7:30-8pm. This has mostly worked, though I have had a number of phone calls at work around 5pm saying 'what's for dinner?' to which I reply 'what are you going to cook?' (or 'perhaps the same fairy that cleans the house is going to cook') I am now finding that when they do bigger household jobs they are becoming intolerant of their work getting mucked up.

For some reason washing is sort of theraputic- perhaps it's the fact we have a fantastic view from our back yard and when they were little I could come out for 5 minutes of peace and hang the washing out and gaze at the view.

I don't really mind the housework aspect, in fact I can clean a house fairly efficiently, but I find the endless tidying up mind numbing and when I'm tired or time poor that is what I tend to neglect in a big way - thus the mess. Plus, when it's not my mess I get very resentful at times - I need to work out some strategies to help my godliness. I have resorted at times to allocating a laundry basket for each child and just chucking their belongings into that and dumping it in their bedroom (and a teenage girls bedroom is a sight to behold) but then you need to be able to mentally cope with the fact that it will be there for the next 3 months and when you finally run out of washing baskets you have to put the energy into getting them to deal with it

And I am going to use some of my new found extra money to pay the children to clean the house this weekend when I'm at work. And to finance our holiday, but not overseas- I can't afford the passports yet.
Anonymous said…
I'm a messy house person, but I worked out a long time ago that it's important not to apologise about about it. If I apologise it implies that I think it should be different. And if I think it should be different, but it's always messy, then I've got to get on and do something about it!

In reality it's messy because there are (almost) always things that I think are a higher priority. So that means I have to be content with mess.

(Just an aside... mess I'm OK about, but filth I don't like! Also, I learnt this lesson when we were averaging 8 different groups of guests in our house each week.)
Deb L said…
Random thoughts:

My house is not the model of virtue by any means. But it has actually gotten tidier as I've got better at "keeping house" and it is certainly tidier than when I was working full-time before I had children because now that I am at home to see the mess I feel more motivated to move it (sometimes). I know that is astonishing!

Most families come to their own "level" of what is functional and acceptable. Ours is usually dependent on how many visitors we are having in a week (more visitors, more tidying!). Praise the Lord for visitors - they keep me from descent into chaos. There's not one right level of mess and clean - although ongoing filth is a health hazard - it's just the mess one makes living. I like my house to be welcoming and clean in areas like the bathroom and kitchen.

I have become more thorough about cleaning up in the mornings since living next to a lady from a different culture who places strong emphasis on cleanliness. I clean up more on days I will be home so that I may make the most of any opportunities to invite her in and share my life and faith with her.

Houses are there to serve a family's needs. A family is not there to serve the house.

I've never liked housework. Don't think I ever will. And I'm usually "behind" at any given moment and busy ignoring things I ought to be cleaning. But I accept that it's good for me, good for my family and a worthy task in most cases. A bit like going to the dentist.

The fact that any work you do is undone within a heartbeat is probably the main reason it drives me mad!
Deb L said…
Oh and what I really meant to say (before I waffled on) was that only God is infite and gets everything done. The rest of us live as finite beings and only have so much time and energy available and choices have to be made.
Jenny said…
Wow - thanks everyone for your comments. This is really interesting. It is comforting to know that (a) lots of people find housework hard work and (b) that we all manage it differently.

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