Service of Why Women Stress Over Maintaining a Tidy Home

August 8th, 2019

Categories: Chores, Housework, Marriage

I drove my husband nuts when I’d tidy the apartment before a trip lest the plane crash and family and friends, clearing out the place, think I was a crummy housekeeper. When our house was for sale, I’d scour every inch when strangers I’d never meet viewed it.

Claire Cain Miller addressed probably why my husband didn’t care and why I stressed about it: the condition of where we lived reflected only on me.

The headline of her New York Times article was: “Why Women, but Not Men, Are Judged for a Messy House– They’re still held to a higher social standard, which explains why they’re doing so much housework, studies show.”

Miller didn’t address something just as important to me: I like returning to a neat and clean home if I’ve been away at work for a few hours or on a trip.

Miller wrote: “Even in 2019, messy men are given a pass and messy women are unforgiven. Three recently published studies confirm what many women instinctively know: Housework is still considered women’s work — especially for women who are living with men.”

One of three studies concluded: “Socially, women — but not men — are judged negatively for having a messy house and undone housework.

“The additional time that women spend on unpaid household labor is a root of gender inequality — it influences how men and women relate at home, and how much time women spend on paid work.” She reported that according to Department of Labor stats “women spend 2.3 hours a day on house tasks, and men spend 1.4 hours.”

Indoor chores are mostly women’s and outdoor ones–more weekly than daily–are men’s. Men who live where there are no lawns to mow or cars to wash don’t pick up additional indoor tasks she reported.

“When participants” in a study where 624 people were shown photos of either messy or neat rooms, “were told that a woman occupied the clean room, it was judged as less clean than when a man occupied it, and she was thought to be less likely to be viewed positively by visitors and less comfortable with visitors.” Respondents were harder on messy men, concluding that they were lazy slobs.

“But there was a key difference: Unlike for women, participants said messy men were not likely to be judged by visitors or feel uncomfortable having visitors over.” My first husband had an aunt who, I was told, washed her kitchen floor as often as two to three times a day. I never dared invite her.

Miller interviewed one psychologist who said many women thought “‘I should relieve my husband of burdens’ — it’s so automatic.’”

You’d think that these days when both parents work and fathers help with chores their sons will spend more time doing them as adults. “So far,” wrote Miller, “what we know about the next generation is that girls are doing less housework. But boys aren’t doing that much more.”

My boss in one job said that if her wastebaskets were empty she considered her home was ready for company. And you? If you live with someone, how do you divide the chores? Do you feel that women are on the hot seat where keeping a home tidy is concerned and that men are off the hook? Does such thinking impact dynamics at work?

10 Responses to “Service of Why Women Stress Over Maintaining a Tidy Home”

  1. ASK Said:

    I learned from my years of working with professional photographers: Dust bunnies don’t show up in photos. That said, there’s a big difference between tidy and clean…just sayin’.

  2. BC Said:

    We honestly try to share chores. My husband moves faster than I, so he likely does more!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I must admit that the family’s first impression, had we died together in an accident, would have been good especially if they didn’t check for dust in the apartment. Digging farther they’d have seen my husband’s belongings stored neatly in bureau drawers while my stuff would have been crammed in helter-skelter.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What’s to say other than I’m impressed [and not surprised]!

  5. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie wrote on Facebook: We just fight, often and loudly! Maybe you heard us this am!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What drove me nuts–and caused voices to be raised–was that my husband wouldn’t put back tape, scissors and other often-used items, where they’d been stored for eons. He’d shrug when I’d ask where he’d stored them and I’d waste time looking.

  7. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie wrote on Facebook: I live solo many years but when I co-habitated decades back, I insisted that we divide up the chores. He liked the result of our efforts so not too much bickering in that regard. My brother was always willing to do his part & still does in his 30+ year marriage

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Seeing how organized you are and how perfect you always look, I suspect that your apartment is whistle-perfect 24/7. As for your brother, his wife is a lucky woman! I, too was lucky. My husband wasn’t into cleaning or laundry, but he became an excellent chef starting when he’d semi-retired. I’d work so late that it became a necessity or we’d be eating dinner goodness knows when otherwise.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Hello from a lousy housekeeper, who spends stress on what she thinks are far more interesting activities. I insist on eating and drinking from sparkling glasses and dishes, but that’s it. Present stresses? Yesterday’s two hour power outage which gratuitously zapped phone, computer & TV until Verizon came to the rescue a couple of hours ago. Antidote: Football pre-season starts tonight! Feeling better already.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    No electricity means no lots of things in addition to TV, phone and computer. Good for Verizon for hasty repair! Assume entire building was impacted so no water no toilet and no shower or bath AND no vacuuming—great reasons for putting off cleaning plans.

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