Signs of Life

How our culture promotes judgmental views about housekeeping


My daughter came home from a friend’s house and told me, “That was the cleanest house I’ve ever seen and they kept talking about how messy it was.”

This got me thinking about how our culture conditions people to do this. I realized that I was doing it as a reflex. The pressure is real though. If you’ve seen this Chris Fleming video, you know what I’m talking about.

We just moved to a townhouse and although we still have a bunch of boxes lying around, we haven’t had time to accumulate much dirt and clutter. Whenever someone comes over, I find myself apologizing for the “mess,” even if we just cleaned. One friend even mentioned how: a) The house wasn’t actually that messy, and b) it made them feel insecure about the state of their own house.

Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of guests over at our house unless we cleaned our asses off. Our dirty house was a source of shame. It was messy pretty much all the time. My hyperactive brother ran around leaving sticky hand prints on everything and cookie crumbs in his wake. Clutter was a constant battle. Our solution was to never let anyone inside unless we’d had a chance to clean, which was almost never.

My husband had a similar experience, hanging out at friends houses instead of inviting them over to his. As adults and new homeowners, we want to have lots of guests. I figured we’ll just do our best to keep it clean, but not obsess about it. This is reality, not Instagram.

I assumed that everyone else was naturally much cleaner than us and we were abnormal for not being able to maintain a clean house. I have always given other people the benefit of the doubt. If friends are inviting me over to their house, I am just happy to be there. I don’t care about the mess. As long as there’s a place for me to sit, I’m good. In this respect, I am much kinder to other people than I am to myself.

It’s all relative. Everyone’s got a different threshold for dirt and mess. I’ve known people who had to boil their utensils immediately before using them and others who are comfortable with a little cat hair in their food.

When it comes to housekeeping, there are three main factors to consider.

1. Economic Status – Full time jobs don’t really leave much time for cleaning AND relaxing and most budgets do not allow for maid services.

2. Neurological differences / mental and physical health – Those with ADHD can find it difficult to get started and focus on cleaning tasks. Depression and chronic illness can make it difficult to even get out of bed let alone clean.

3. Help From Family Members – Is one person in the family shouldering all or most of the cleaning? Is one person handling the mental load of reminding everyone else to help with household chores? Having a partner who will take initiative can make a huge difference.

In my research on this topic, I stumbled onto social media star, Auri Katariina’s instagram videos. Auri cleans people’s homes for free. Of course, everything on social media should be viewed with a certain degree of cynicism. She is sponsored by a company that sells cleaning products, after all. But I like her approach.

The New York Post

Unlike the TV show Hoarders, where the homeowners are paraded in front of the camera to be gawked at, she’s not shaming people, she’s just giving them a fresh start. Watching these videos gives the viewer a sense of catharsis. This adorable woman seems to genuinely enjoy cleaning and offers easy cleaning tips for the rest of us.

I think we would all do better to give and receive help in this way. We should give ourselves and each other a little slack. Our lives are not always so simple. A clean and tidy home is nice, but we are all human. Being human is messy business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *