Gender stereotypes and uncluttering

When I was single and messy, I was told on three occasions that I would “never get a man” because I didn’t have the skills to “properly keep house.” As offensive as these statements were (ugh!), what upset me the most was that the people who said them never would have said something similar to a man.

In the comments to last week’s post “10 more uncluttering things to do every day,” a few readers were upset because they believed the list put a greater burden on women to vacuum more often. If you read the post, you’ll notice that gender isn’t discussed a single time in the text. The post’s author never says that women should vacuum more, just that it might be a good idea to run the vacuum every day (especially if you have kids and pets). The assumption that vacuuming is a woman’s chore is just as ridiculous of a stereotype as thinking that a woman is required, simply based on her gender, to “properly keep house.”

It’s 2010, and I say it’s time we let go of gender-related stereotypes associated with men and women and their duties at home. Women can mow the lawn and men can run the vacuum cleaner. Women can take out the trash and men can wash the dishes. In relationships, housework can be shared equally. Or, if a couple decides that one person should be responsible for more housework because it’s what works best for them, that we support that couple’s decision without passing judgment. If a single male or female chooses to be messy (as long as it’s not threatening his or her health and/or safety or infringing on someone else, such is the case with hoarding), we accept that it’s none of our business how someone of either gender chooses to live.

Gender-based stereotypes, especially related to uncluttering and keeping house, are antiquated. I think it’s time we make the change and stop perpetuating unproductive ideas that clutter up our lives. Are you with me?

75 Comments for “Gender stereotypes and uncluttering”

  1. posted by Steph in Seattle on

    Totally! I tend to do more of the housework, not because my husband is not capable (he’s a MUCH better unclutterer than I am!), but because I’m more picky about the hygiene stuff (ie, scrubbing down the kitchen and the bathroom) and he’s in grad school, so I have more time. He loves to have a clean house, though, and is more than willing to pitch in when he can. And I’m actually grateful he does things like take out the trash and clean the litter box, which I suppose you could call “typical male chores” – I hate doing them! Part of not giving in to the stereotype, though, is being willing to serve each other and not be selfish about our time. Then I’m not pointing the finger at him saying, “That’s a man’s chore! YOU do it! I don’t want to!” There are things he normally does around the house, but I am more than willing to step in if he can’t get to them. And vice versa.

  2. posted by Christine on

    I agree with you completely: Gender-related stereotypes need to go. My husband and I both work full-time and therefore split the housework. He get home earlier than I do, and therefore goes to the laundromat in our development and does the laundry; I fold it while we watch TV. We both cook dinner, he vacuums, I clean the bathroom and dust the house. My parents operate this way, with my mom helping out with the yardwork so I learned from them (and I’m glad I did!)

    In a society where both males and females are working so many hours it would be unfair to have either partner do all of the housework. If I didn’t work, I would take on these chores in full, and vice versa if my husband didn’t work. But that’s not the case. Anyone who still feels that certain chores belong to a woman or man is ignorant.

  3. posted by Inki on


  4. posted by Andrea on

    My boyfriend hates to get sweaty so he does the laundry and vacuums. I mow the grass and do the outdoor chores. I will agree that his level of “clean” is not the same as mine, so I regularly have to go back and fix some of his cleaning jobs. But, we’re pretty evenly matched in the chore department.

  5. posted by Lynne on

    Seriously! It irks me so much that society encourages people to look at guys’ messy apartments and say, “You need a woman to come take care of you!”, then turn around and tell ladies with messy apartments that they’ll never get a man. Hooray, gendered *and* sexual-orientation judgments together, two-for-one special. ๐Ÿ˜›

  6. posted by Amy on

    Yes the stereotypes need to go! There have been times when my hubby was the one at home and did the housework. And now we choose for me to be home with the kiddos and I do most (not all) of the housework. Do what works best for your family and be willing to change as needed.

    We just recently changed from having me be the only one to do the finances to both of us doing the finances together. This is helping us to both have a good idea of where we’re at together and work together toward goals. Change can be good!

  7. posted by ael on

    Almost all of my relationships have had the default assumption that we share housework basically equally; the exception was a man ten years older than me, who was far neater than I, and picked up really well, but subconsciously really felt that cleaning was my responsibility, and resented that I am such a poor housekeeper.

    The man I ended up marrying is almost as messy as me. He also cooks every day, does all the dishes, takes out the trash, and generally does more straightening up than me. Oh he also does all the vacuuming, I had a traumatic vacuum incident as a teen and hate the thing. I take care of laundry, the bathroom, and help with the straightening. He absolutely does more of the housework, and since I am the breadwinner while he goes to school, we’re both ok with this. When we’re both working, we’ll probably get a cleaning service in, and then share the rest of the work equally.

    It would never work for us any other way, and I am astounded when I find out that friends I know don’t share housework in an egalitarian way. It is sadly still fairly common, though, even among my younger friends (my husband and I are in our late 30s, real Gen Xers).

    However, I am seeing that more and more of my female friends are having a lot of relationship dissatisfaction in this area, and while it’s never nice to know they’re not happy with their partners, it’s a healthy sign overall to me, because it indicates that what is considered normal in relationships is really shifting toward egalitarianism.

  8. posted by Kris on

    I am a new stay at home mom, my husband and I used to split all the housework when both of us worked. But now I do most of the housework because my son naps 5 hours a day and I get bored. What is interesting is my husband feels guilty that I do more housework than him now, so he is really grateful and thanks me a lot. But he still does all the vacuuming and all the floor washing. (I hate those jobs!) When I told him that I read this article, he said instead of vacuuming everyday, how about 3 times a week. I think that’s pretty good compromise since our son isn’t very messy… yet.

  9. posted by Kristen on

    I hate vacuuming, so my husband does it. I used to mow the lawn when we had one. I also hate putting up dishes and folding laundry. I usually wash the laundry and load the dishwasher, and he usually folds and unloads. We’ve never even had a discussion about gender involved in our daily chores.

  10. posted by Pam on

    I agree, we should hold everyone to the same standards of being able to clean — and do our finances and shop. Now a days you never know when/if you will marry or for how long, we can’t assume that women should be there to take care of all the household chores and men should deal with finances.
    I actually broke up with a boyfriend who was a hoarder (although it took me a long time to realize that it was him and not his “ex” (whom he claimed left the mess)and that their child was dangerously close to becoming a hoarder himself) who felt that he just “needed a woman’s touch”… I helped him clean and organize over and over, and every time I was able to visit it was worse than before, always with the “excuse” that he never learned how to clean!!
    I don’t like cleaning any more than any other person, but it has to be done, and I like the sense of pride when my house is clean! Same should go for a bachelor or single father as a single woman or mother!

  11. posted by Shalin on

    Good post Erin ๐Ÿ™‚

    Couple thoughts that came to my mind:
    1) My family violated most stereo-typical gender roles for chores, etc. In fact, I was basically assigned (and took a little pride in) vacuuming the house, helping Dad with laundry and the dishes.

    2) Old habits/values die hard. For soo long “I’m soo bad at math” has been an (unfortunate) badge of honor some people show off. Similarly, some people (basically guys) seem to have a “king of a castle” attitude about what they are to do or not do in “their” residence. If tidiness, cleanliness, and uncluttering isn’t *celebrated* in their lives…then it doesn’t seem to be important to them.


  12. posted by Andy Palmer on

    People complaining about gender stereotyping says much more about their stereotypes than yours.
    I suspect that the trigger was the phrase “especially if you have kids[…]” because, of course, the father couldn’t possibly be at home looking after the kids while the mother earns the money.

  13. posted by Kob on

    So long as the ‘destereotyping’ is applied evenly it can work. When it is done without recognizing either being overzealous (objecting to doing work because it is historically gender typed) or unfairly (refusing to be typed yourself but continuing to type the other gender).

  14. posted by Devils advocate on

    Hey, Julie…can you go outside and remove that huge tree stump for me? I will be here inside this air conditioned house baking some muffins for when you are done.



    p.s. – Make sure you stay hydrated. It going to be like 95 degrees out today.

  15. posted by Kari on

    With you. I do most of the “daily” work in the house and almost all of the gardening chores because I enjoy them. My husband does lots on a daily/weekly basis (including dishes, bathrooms, and ironing). I still get funny looks from people when I am mowing the lawn and doing heavy gardening work–like somehow I don’t have a man around to do it. Not the case–I love to garden so I want to do it.

    Don’t make assumptions about other people’s lives…you really don’t know.

  16. posted by Keri on

    The best advice someone gave me when we got married almost 10 years ago was that whoever does the “task” best should be the one to do it. We have found that this generally doesn’t follow typical gender roles in our family, and that is fine by me! If I can tackle finances in 20 minutes, while it takes hubby 2 hours, why should he do it? That would be extremely inefficient and a poor use of our time we could be spending together. The ultimate goal is family unity and health, and spending time TOGETHER! Not getting housework done. We are a team-we share the load. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. posted by Visty on

    Let’s not forget that kids can run a vacuum, too! Even the male ones.

  18. posted by Dax on

    Amen. And thanks. When people prolong gender stereotypes, I feel like it’s also a way to pretend couples like me and my husband don’t exist.

    We’re both men. So the idea of women’s work and men’s work kinda had to be tossed out a long time ago!

  19. posted by David Engel on

    I wonder why most of the people that have commented are women?

    No, really, I don’t mind vacuuming, and I don’t really like to mow, but I will if needed. But I guess my first question would be: do you need to?

    Our family has a few needs to vacuum: my wife runs an at-home daycare from our house with a number of younger children. Messes get cleaned up as they’re made. We rarely have guests, but when it happens, the family chips in to clean up.

    I am seriously thinking I need to move to an apartment when the kids move out of the house and I need to start mowing more often again. I’m not sure the having a house means enough to me to deal with the yard.

    Essentially, it boils down to knowing your essentials.

  20. posted by *Pol on

    I laughed out loud at this post…

    As the woman of the house I do mow the lawn, my husband does most of the vacuuming, I do most of the cooking, but the husband generally does the dishes, and I am the one that takes out the trash 95% of the time. It’s not about gender in this house it’s about respect and participating in running a house we can be proud of.

    Like Kristen, I hate vacuuming, and the hubby doesn’t mind (and he really needs a cleaner floor more often than I do). Also I really enjoy cooking, so my husband feels he is properly saying “it’s the least I can do after another great meal” every time he cleans up the kitchen. I genuinely like running around our small lawn with the push-reel mower. Oh and because the husband gets slight vertigo on ladders and I don’t I clean the gutters (I enjoy it…. dirt and heights, it takes me back to climbing trees as a kid).

    But we still keep some roles that are traditional. My husband does the heavy lifting, and maintains everything with motors around here. I stay home with the kids and do the grocery shopping, etc.

  21. posted by tabatha on

    me and my boyfriend have an arrangement. we decided what we both like and dislike doing and used that to decide who does what. he does most of the cooking b/c i hate cooking and I do the dishes and keep the kitchen fairly clean most of the time. he takes out the trash in the winter b/c I hate trekking out to the dumpster in the snow, but i have to let him know before he takes off his work clothes. he does the bathroom and I do most of the vacuuming and straitening in the rest of the apartment which is small so there isn’t much. we do our own laundry most of the time since we don’t have a washer and dryer. sometimes I do his if he’s tired and asks me nicely since I work a lot less than he does, but he doesn’t ask all that often. I don’t usually do it at all in the winter tho b/c I hate going to the laundry mat in the winter. I have a small pressure washer I usually use then hang my clothes to dry. so we have a pretty good compromise. I don’t mind doing more b/c he works more and pays all the rent and I only have to help buy food and pay my own stuff like car insurance and such.

  22. posted by lola meyer on

    I agree with Visty. We taught our boys from a young age to vacuum, mop, cook, clean bathrooms, and do their own laundry. My husband and I share chores ranging from making breakfast to painting the garage. It’s like Keri said, ‘We are a team-we share the load.’

  23. posted by gypsy packer on

    I prefer mowing, but can’t handle the weedeater. A couple of male family members adore canning, and many men genuinely adore cooking. Unfortunately, in my age bracket and region, it’s the guys who stereotype tasks.
    And, yes, guys don’t steal cookware, vacuums, or carpet cleaners, but they do swipe tools, unless they are decorated to female stereotype. No backing down on this issue.

  24. posted by Meagan on

    As the only woman here who apparently adheres to those stereotypes, I’m not sure what the big deal is. So I cook and clean most of the house? At least it gets done, and I don’t have to do the sweaty heavy lifting outside! The arrangement works for us. Nothing wrong with that.

  25. posted by Nina on

    I love the way my husband empties the trash. He looks sexy when he does it. I told him he looks sexy when he vacuums too, but he does that a lot less often.
    I told my husband I don’t like to clean the bathroom mirrors so if he notices they are dirty, he might want to clean them. Occassionally I do it but I’m not sure he does.
    His house was clean before we married — I think he would vacuum right before I came over. He admitted he never dusts so I love doing that for him. He’s basically very neat except when it comes to his desk and den but that is his domain. Together we do the laundry, he does 99% of the cooking and outside work. I do most of the cleaning a making sure we don’t run out of toilet paper.

  26. posted by Meg on

    My husband and I split household chores depending on what we prefer to do, what needs to get done, how we’re feeling, who has time, etc. When it comes to regular inside-the-house chores, there’s not really anything I do that he won’t and vice versa. And it works great for us.

    However, I have definitely noticed how judgmental others are! Even though my husband and I have a small business together and both work from home a lot, people make a lot more assumptions about what I’m doing — or not doing — when I’m at home. Since I work from home, people quite frequently assume that I don’t “work” or have a “job” at all — except if they consider “housewife” a “job” (which they don’t seem to). And I have nothing against women who choose to be housewives, but that doesn’t really describe what I do anymore than “househusband” would describe what my husband does. I certainly haven’t heard anyone refer to him in that way! He’s a successful business man, after all! (Apparently, our business is really HIS.)

    And of course, if certain people see or hear about my husband doing any household chores — whether doing laundry or cooking — well, all hell breaks lose! Out comes the judgments about how I’m an awful wife and don’t do ANYTHING (I get no credit for ANY housework unless I do it ALL). Never mind that I just assembled a pile of radios or did security updates on the web server or worked long hours on a database project! That stuff gets ignored because it doesn’t fit their stereotype and their prejudices about me!

    It’s very frustrating, to say the least.

  27. posted by chacha1 on

    At issue wasn’t “how do you split the chores,” it was “please don’t judge a writer based on your assumptions.” It is the commenters’ assumptions, not the post writer’s, that were the problem on “10 More Uncluttering Things.”

    Writers on blogs like this, that are devoted to helping people lead better lives, are not working from some nefarious agenda about perpetuating gender stereotypes, is the point. So let’s not knee-jerk it and assume when someone says “you might try vacuuming daily” they mean “you, the woman of the house, might try …”. Right, Erin? Word!

  28. posted by Karen on

    My husband does just as much, if not more, vacuuming than I do. Partly because he has a thing about clean carpets, and he has better vision and can see those little bits from a great height.

    He also does his own laundry and cleans up toys at the end of the day. So when I read the previous article, I didn’t feel offended. Because I didn’t feel it was telling me, the wife, to do all that.

  29. posted by Sue on

    Meagan, I think you missed the part in the original post about not judging people based on how they divide chores, regardless of how that division is made. No one was saying the traditional way is wrong. If it works for you, great!

    The point was more about not assuming the men will be messy and women must be neat. It was also about not assigning genders to specific chores. The post was inspired by a comment about vacuuming more often, and how many people assumed that was directed at women in particular.

  30. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    I am 50, and my husband is 49. We may be on the cusp of the generational divide for gender role typing. I was taught all the basic housekeeping skills and my two-years younger brother and my husband were not. My brother has chosen to pick up skills on the fly, startling my mother with his queries when he had kids and was primarily responsible during the day because he worked evenings on a newspaper. His sons can do all the basic housework.

    My girlfriend’s boyfriend is never-married at 52, in large part because of his clutter/ mild hoarding issues. I don’t know of any women who “didn’t get their man” because of cluttered living. My friend is 45. Maybe things are changing–she won’t live with him because of his mess-she has no interest in changing him or cleaning up after him…

  31. posted by terriok on

    I am with you, Erin!

    All you have to do to gauge the lack of progress in this area is to get a load of the commercials for cleaning products etc! Grrr!

    As a kid, there were 10 kids. All the 5 boys had to do was to take out the garbage. (My little brother was great but that was just his sweet nature.)The easiest job in the world is taking out the trash as it is done in 5 minutes (and there were FIVE of them!) I found it outrageous then and outrageous now.

    Have you ever tried to sort socks for 12 people when half of them are dark? The mound was overflowing, spilling all over our ping pong table!

  32. posted by flightless on

    I am known to be messier than my boyfriend. (I’m female.) (I also hog the remote.) I do like to cook more than he does, so I do more of the kitcheny stuff, but he does the grocery shopping. I tried to think about which of us vacuums more often, but to be honest we only do that when we’re going to have a party (sometimes also when we’ve just had one)… so… 4 times a year? Um, about as often as we clean the bathrooms. (Good thing we found each other, huh?)

  33. posted by Violet_LilyBart on

    All the responses seem to be focused on “who does what” but I would like to comment on Erin’s first paragraph – being “single and messy” and “not getting a man”. I hate to say it but there IS truth in that statement!

    I have a (single) female friend who is, in my opinion, THE WORST housekeeper in the world. Dirty dishes in the sink, dirty clothes in heaping piles, every available surface covered in clutter & fur, cat food/litter/dirt rolling around the floor. Don’t even get me started on the state of the bathroom – suffice to say, there are TIDE MARKS in the tub & toilet. Did I mention she has three (3!!!) cats & doesn’t clean on a regular basis???

    I’m her friend and it has gotten so bad that I refuse to visit. So it’s no surprise that none of her relationships last either. Because NO SANE MAN would consider that as a long term situation. And yes, I’ve tried to help her organize/clean but after doing that a couple of times, what’s the use when she won’t MAINTAIN it?

    This is just one (personal) example but the flip side is true as well. If I came across a man who I “liked” but then visited his house/apartment and it was filthy/messy/cluttered…. well, it wouldn’t last either.

  34. posted by Beth on

    I don’t care if the division of labor is traditional or not, I just laid down two ground rules with my husband.

    1. If you are doing something useful (like vacuuming) and I’m not helping you, I don’t get to make any negative comments or “helpful suggestions” on how to do it.

    2. If I get the bug to do something useful and you don’t feel like helping me right now, that’s OK, but you’re not allowed to try to talk me into procrastinating because you feel guilty for not jumping up to help me.

    Works for us! ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. posted by Megan on

    I have a friend who likes to play the gender card – she doesn’t do ANY outdoor stuff at all – no yard work, no trash can duty, no car washing, no garage organizing, no trips to the park with the kids – nothing outdoors.

    But, yet she finds a way to get out of inside stuff, too – she hates dusting and vacuuming, so her husband does it. Her husband is an awesome cook so he does that a lot, too. Oh, and he earns 100% of their very comfortable income.

    Plus, the grandparents babysit the kids often and they are both in preschool/elementary school. I’m still trying to figure out exactly WHAT my female friend actually DOES do. LOL!

    I really feel like the chore list should be about compromise and fairness. One person shouldn’t be responsible for everything – it should be a TEAM effort because the TEAM lives there – not one person. TEAM could be a husband and wife and/or the kiddos. In the best case scenario, there is fairly equal work AND gratitude!

    Thanks for this post! The topic and the comments have been very interesting!

  36. posted by Craig on

    Its like the Swiffer commercial with the mop trying to get back in the house. Those commercials are ALWAYS women doing the mopping/dusting. It’s ridiculous.

  37. posted by infmom on

    My mother told me that I’d never marry because I was such a slob. In so many words. Funny thing, though, all her obsessive housekeeping and screeching about my messy room didn’t keep her marriage from ending. The day my husband and I celebrated one more anniversary than my parents ever made it to, I smiled a secret smile of satisfaction.

    My husband and I don’t have gender-specific housekeeping jobs, for the most part. He’s used our new washer and dryer a lot more than I have. Before we got the dishwasher, he washed dishes way more than I did. Of course, that’s because he’s obsessive about a clean kitchen, where I can work happily with a certain amount of kitchen clutter and not have any problems. He, on the other hand, simply doesn’t see heaps of old magazines all around his chair in the living room, which drive me absolutely nuts.

    However, there are a few areas where I think gender stereotypes are definitely in play, and I’ve put my foot down and he hasn’t liked it. I will not do simple sewing tasks like reattaching buttons, for anyone but myself. A child can sew on a button, so a grown man can handle it as well. Yes, I’m much more skilled at sewing, but the corollary is that you wouldn’t catch me trying to get him to reattach loose screws or replace hardware that I could perfectly well do myself, just because he’s better at it.

    All in all, though, we both do what needs doing. I sure wouldn’t want a marriage like my parents had, where girls were girls and boys were boys and guess who got stuck cleaning everything up.

  38. posted by Kelly on

    I’m with you, Erin! I think the media and advertising play a huge role in perpetuating the stereotypes. You’ll NEVER find an ad for a cleaning product featuring a man, unless it’s a car washing product. Can you imagine a man in a Windex ad?

    My husband and I share chores based on what we like doing or don’t mind doing. I like to vacuum, dust, organize, pay bills and do laundry. He likes to do dishes, bathe the dog and cook and doesn’t mind cleaning the bathroom. We both mow the lawn, but I suck at weedwhacking. He fixes things because he enjoys it, but I help as directed and can hold my own when he’s not around.

    Good topic Erin!

  39. posted by Kelly on


    Your tree stump is no match for me…I love an outdoor decluttering challenge and look forward to those muffins!


  40. posted by Christine on

    I actually prefer the stereotypical male work. I prefer outdoor work and fixing clogged drains over vacuuming and dusting, that’s for sure!

  41. posted by Not My Mother on

    It’s amazing how people can read stuff like that into posts. I also found it amusing the number of people who complained it would take them an extra hour a day to vacuum. Obviously you souldn’t do a full, move-the-furniture vacuum, just a quick damage control.

    We are messy and have a parrot, and there are two rooms in our house that really suffer. We bought a little dyson handheld vacuum for just this purpose, it’s powerful enough to do a good job and it takes me less than 5 minutes to clean up every day. And I don’t have to haul the big vacuum out every time (a big barrier to doing the job).

  42. posted by Jim Henley on

    I agree! BUT!

    I’ve been reading a bunch of decluttering books (and some magazine articles) this year, and they are positively shot through with sexist assumptions. Specifically, none of the authors seems to believe that I might be reading these books rather than my wife. I read along and every so often bump into text that assumes I’m a busy mom. The “FLY Ladies” are the most obvious offenders here, but even Regina Leeds, whose book I like very much overall, keeps sticking in references to my shoe closet, my certain desire to have a special pretty pleace for myself, and my desire to figure out what to do with my husband’s stuff in the garage and basement.

    It’s not super-infuriating: one thing they’re doing is bowing to the background sexism of society. But the other thing they’re doing is perpetuating it.

  43. posted by Sharon on

    By coincidence I just got off the phone with my Mother who just gave me a dressing down when she realized I don’t make my husband a hot breakfast in the morning when he gets home from his night shift job. I make dinner every night and if he is hungry in the morning he knows where the kitchen is located. Now, my Mom is a product of the 1950’s and will be 70 years old this year, and I am 36. I got married when I was 34 and before that was a single career woman living by myself and I certainly did not have the best cleaning skills and ate out most every meal. Now, I am a stay at home Mom to a 1 year old. Since my husband works full time and is also a full time graduate student, I don’t mind taking care of the majority of the household chores and cooking, but you can be darn sure that when I go back to work in a few years when my son is in school that we will be dividing the chores in half.

    It is frustrating to have this generational gap with my Mother and to hear comments that imply I’m not a good wife because I don’t wait on my husband hand and foot. But fortunately I know this attitude doesn’t exist in my friends and others of the younger generations. I am definitely going to teach my son how to do laundry, cook, clean, etc. and make sure he knows that he shouldn’t expect his wife or girlfriend to do it for him.

  44. posted by Amy on

    It is nice to see that thigs are changing with so many couples.
    My husband is a stay at home Dad these days. I have to admit, it’s not by either of our choice. We’d love to trade places… However, I hate to admit that I still find that my husband seems to think that keeping the household running is my responsibility. He would not admit that though.
    He does do a lot, but he also overestimates how much he does and seems to pat himself on the back more when he does things. I still find that I am the one who is more likely to be up doing tasks non-stop when I’m home vs. my husband.

  45. posted by Bill on

    Before I got married I was under the impression that women were neater and cleaner than guys. Boy, was I dead wrong…one wife, 2 daughters, and one female dog later I am finding out that females are SLOBS (or at least mine are). Good God almighty, you ought to see their crap strewn from one end of the house to the other! I try to pick up after them and straighten up some but it’s a losing battle and man, if I EVER try to throw any of their junk out they all raise holy hell about it.

    In short, I love them but they drive me nuts. Solution: prayer and an occsional shot of whiskey

  46. posted by Sarah on

    My grandmother used to say that my uncle was “babysitting” again. (in that tone) We finally convinced her it’s not “babysitting” when it’s your own kids. It’s just being a parent ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. posted by Ash on

    Interesting topic indeed. I recently read the book “WifeWork” ( – if anyone is interested in finding out more on this topic, it was quite an interesting discussion of the division of household labour!

  48. posted by lhooqed on


    Of course men CAN vacuum, and perform the myriad of other household tasks women have traditionally been held responsible for.

    The point is that most men DON’T. Or at least, not to anywhere near the same extent as women.

    Which is why readers were alarmed that your advice was creating more housework for women; in the wider world – in which not every relationship is as domestically democratic as yours – for most women, it would.

    I don’t think it is fair or helpful to trivialize this concern by saying “well you shouldn’t assume I meant women”.

    How about instead you post some advice on how to make housework arrangements more egalitarian?

  49. posted by Lisa on

    My challenge is not only teaching my 2 young sons that housework is for everyone in the family to share, but that I feel that the messiness or cleanliness of my house has a direct reflection on ME. And ONLY me, as the sole female of the household! Am I nuts? When you go over to someone’s house, do you judge the husband or the wife when you look at their clutter? How about their dusty surfaces or their expensive tv or their shabby chairs? I believe there’s unconscious stereo-typing that occurs, but we just don’t discuss it. I hope against hope that I’m not being judged as harshly as I fear I am. I do most of the housework, run a freelance business from home, fill in support for my husband’s business and haul my kids to and from school and activities. My house is usually never as clean and tidy as I would like it to be and I struggle with doing something myself vs. saving it for my kids or husband to get to later. Should I vacuum once a day–with 2 kids and 2 cats, yeah, but the reality is, it’s just not going to happen!

  50. posted by nutshell on

    When we moved in together, I always thought my wife (girlfriend at the time) would be really tidy and me messy. However, I soon discovered that I was a bit messy on the outside, she hid her mess in cupboards and draws and frequently loses things!

  51. posted by Hilde on

    I never understood why it should be the husbandยดs duty to take out the garbage. I love to do this, somehow it gives me an instant feeling of accomplishment.

  52. posted by Meg on

    @ael – a “traumatic vaccuum cleaner incident”…? Details please! I had never considered the vaccuum to be capable of inducing a traumatic experience…

  53. posted by Colin Principe on

    Really? In this day and age, commenters on the previous article were stuck on gender stereotypes?

    My wife and I have a fluid chores division and there is never a division along gender lines. The only thing that seems to be a regular thing she does is clean the bathrooms, only because that is always the last thing on my list and she usually gets to it first.

  54. posted by Claycat on

    I was wondering about the “traumatic vacuum cleaner incident” myself, Meg.

    As I was growing up, my father cooked breakfast every morning, so I got used to a man helping around the house. My husband doesn’t help much, but he is working outside of the home, and I am not. I don’t mind for the most part. I just wish he would not make such a mess around the bathroom sink. I also wish he would put his shoes and coats away. Nagging doesn’t help.

    I’m the one who takes the trash out. ๐Ÿ™‚

    We definitely need to get away from stereotypes!

  55. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Jim — Please pick up a copy of my book. I tried my absolute best to avoid gender-specific language and to provide as many examples for both sexes as possible.

    @lhooqued — There is only one way to solve any problems in a marriage and that is to talk about the issues, come to an agreement for how to solve them, and then put the agreement into action. Possible solutions you could reach might include a chore chart, and this is a topic I’ve written about recently on http://simplystated.realsimple.....hores.html

  56. posted by flightless on

    @Beth: I like your groundrules! My version of your rule 1 is, if I am doing a task and he starts to kibitz, I assume that means he thinks he can do it better himself, so I immediately stop and hand it over. ๐Ÿ™‚

  57. posted by flightless on

    @MissPrism, wow, that is quite an eye-opener!

    “Married women in the U.S. do about 70 to 80 percent of the housework. When women marry, the number of hours they spend on housework increases; for men, it stays the same. When couples have children, her housework increases three times as much as his. Feminist women do less housework than non-feminist women; men married to feminist women do the same amount of housework as men married to non-feminist women.”

  58. posted by Kylie on

    I read the original post without any issue, and when I read this post I laughed. I had just assumed my husband would add the extra vacuuming, as he insists on doing it whenever it needs doing. He jokes that “vacuuming isn’t woman’s work” with a wink because he was a lone aregiver for his elderly parents before we got married. He does all sorts of things around the house, including cleaning the catboxes every other day and doing “housekeeping” on them every day (we have four cats and five catboxes), doing the dishes M, T, Th, F (I do the weekends and Wednesday because I know he doesn’t really like dishes, but he wouldn’t let me take over any other dish nights. He did them every night for the first year we were married).

    The thing that is even funnier to me is that I assume people read Unclutterer because they have a desire to unclutter their lives, then get angry because they feel, through their own internal stereotypes, you are adding more work to the women. Men who live alone and are reading the blog probably didn’t think anything of it. The bottom line for me is, if you don’t want to vacuum every day, don’t. Choose the tips that work for you, whether you’re a man or a woman.

  59. posted by KGPugh on

    Please all of you give me a very small break. All this time blogging, you can be improving your abodes.
    Just do it. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.

  60. posted by Treespeed on

    As a husband who is a former cook and dishwasher I do 90% of the housework in our home. But then I was raised with a Father who vacuumed and made breakfast, and a Nurse stepmother who was maniacally clean. It’s what works for our family.
    That being said, I cry BS when I hear these women do the majority of work in the house studies. These studies never count the house maintenance work that is still done by Men, at least in all of the families that I’m acquainted with. It always seems to be the husbands who are cleaning gutters, replacing water heaters, removing dead animals, and maintaining the cars. I know there are wives that do this sort of work, but I’m sure that in those homes all of the work is divided more evenly. It’s quite an eye roller to hear a wife upbraiding her husband about the vacuuming while he’s up on a ladder installing a new light fixture.

  61. posted by Catherine on

    Normally I don’t mind vacuuming, mowing, or taking out the bins but at this point (I’m currently 8 months pregnant) they are definitely the man’s jobs. They are the only things I really can’t physically handle at the moment. There are seasons in life when one partner needs to pitch in and do more than their usual share despite gender stereotypes or previously agreed arangements. It’s a beautiful way of demonstrating love.

  62. posted by Shana on


    1) You hear about a study and immediately declare it “BS” because you think home maintenance isn’t taken into account? Do you know that for a fact, especially that they “never” count those jobs?

    2) “…in all of the families that I’m acquainted with.” Exactly. Personal anecdotes are personal anecdotes, and studies are studies.

    3) “…cleaning gutters, replacing water heaters, removing dead animals, and maintaining the cars.” Dude. How often do these tasks need doing? Removing dead animals? New water heaters? Gutters? Compare this to the constant daily/weekly/monthly upkeep involved with the many rooms of a house, and…I think this point is incredibly weak. How about I deal with “removing” one “dead animal” or two a year and you take over the constant indoor stuff? THAT is a deal I would take. You can try to make it seem like outdoor tasks are grosser or harder or whatever than tasks traditionally done by women, but the big factor is TIME. Specifically, how much of your time-that-would-otherwise-be-free do you spend replacing a water heater every 10-20 years vs. how much time is spent cleaning toilets and doing dishes?

    4) Okay, I need my own possibly-fictional scenario. How about “it’s quite an eye-roller to hear a husband whining about ever-so-frequent water heater replacement while women all over the country are up to their elbows in house and kid care while their husbands are at their computers bemoaning dead animal removal?”

  63. posted by Shannon on

    I am the slob of the family, but my husband is not far behind. We’ve both made some good habits together, and I have tried my best to learn HOW to clean.

    As for the vacuum, my husband LOVES to vacuum! I never have to run it because he will do it anyways. We’ve just split our chores depending on who enjoys or tolerates the chore best. I still have a larger load because I tolerate more, but it has more to do with our personalities rather than what is between our legs!

  64. posted by patty on

    Having spent the early hours of this morning staining our wooden front stairs while my husband picked up inside the house, I am so with you. I never thought the first post was sexist.

  65. posted by calel on

    I’m a single woman in my own home, so I didn’t read the original post as sexist. I have to do everything anyway, and I’m allergic to spending money to pay someone else to do it. I still don’t vacuum more than once a week though, and the roomba is looking more and more tempting.

  66. posted by Melissa A. on

    My father is not allowed to mow the lawn! ๐Ÿ˜› He shouldn’t be allowed to trim the hedges either because he does a terrible job. My mother does a lot of the yard work and has one of the nicest yards in the neighbourhood.

  67. posted by Lily on

    My boyfriend is a real gem, he’s the one who taught me about cooking!… We usually split chores, though each of us has his/her (silly) preferences. He cleans the kitchen more often than me, and I always iron sheets (he wouldn’t! But then, he thinks only shirts have to be ironed…)

    On the other hand, a friend of mine (male) takes all his laundry to his mother *every week-end*. He doesn’t even own a washing machine! Some boys are treated by their mothers like princes who don’t have to move a finger, and still are when they grow up. Appalling!

  68. posted by tiffany on

    I agree with you completely, and I’m happy to say that my boyfriend and I divide chores pretty fairly. I do most of the cooking, but he does a lot of the cleaning. And then I do things requiring sewing (only because I haven’t taught him yet).

    Back when I was in high school my father told me that no one would ever marry me because I was too messy, so I can understand where you’re coming from!

  69. posted by Treespeed on


    considering that I do most of the inside cleaning I think I’m allowed to personally comment on the difference between the inside versus outside house maintenance. My wife has never picked up a toilet brush in her life, but since she was an econ major and handles all of our finances and social calendar I’m fine with calling it even.
    Yes, my examples were extreme, but had come from that morning’s cat surprise. My Tom Cat is quite a proficient hunter so dead animal removal comes up more often than you might imagine. And spare the me the PETA line, the fruit from the fruit trees belongs to me and not the squirrels.
    As far as the time investment for inside/outside chores I could and usually do fill most weekends with some sort of house maintenance/gardening/yard work. My point is that I think partners consistently gripe about the tasks they choose to do and forget the work that is being done by their partner. I’m sure there are plenty of husbands who have never picked up a toilet brush, but probably an equal number of wives who have never put a fresh coat of wax on the family cars.

  70. posted by Steve on

    One word: Roomba.

    Neither of us like vacuuming and we have all-laminate floors, so it keeps things very, very clean.

  71. posted by Philly on

    Treespeed, I appreciated your first post, and your response to Shana even more. I had to read all the way down through over 70 posts for anyone to mention house/car maintenance and repair (not just cleaning)?

    Shana’s response did a good job of minimizing the time and effort these things take–kind of reminiscent of an earlier poster’s joke about making muffins. As the baker in our family, I can attest to the work that goes into fine food preparation.

    Many others said it well–make a list of EVERYTHING that needs to be done to run a household, then divide it up, each according to his/her tastes and abilities. Time spent complaining about how unfair things are is time better spent working out a solution.

  72. posted by Nikki on

    I was raised by compulsive hoarding parents, so trust me, cleanliness and the uncluttered lifestyle were high on the list when I was seeking potential mates. Of course, I’m too polite to actually tell some guy that I wouldn’t go out with him because he’s a slob, but I made the choice nonetheless.

    I must also confess that my husband’s mad domestic skills were one of the first things that attracted me.

    We’re both committed to being uncluttered, and that goes a long way toward eliminating certain chores.

  73. posted by Gender bias derails a conversation on organization | The Hathor Legacy on

    […] Gender stereotypes and uncluttering, Erin talks about: In the comments to last weekโ€™s post โ€œ10 more uncluttering things to do every […]

  74. posted by Homestead on

    I’m with Steve. It only takes a second to press the start button on the Roomba.

    That said…. there is nothing sexier than a man with a mop…. who knows how to use it. Foreplay begins in the kitchen at our house. If you wash/dry/fold AND put away? You are going to be one lucky man tonight. I’m only sort-of kidding and, just to be fair, it goes both ways…. my husband has never been steamier than after watching me set a corner fence post. (A very sweaty job.) Rowr. hee-hee.

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