People assume that because I’m the editor of Unclutterer.com that my home is perfectly organized and clutter free. I’ll admit that my home is usually in better shape than the standard American dwelling, but currently it isn’t that way. In fact, since we moved, imperfect or chaotic would be the best words to describe our status. (A good portion of our furniture is still in the old house for staging, especially many of our large storage pieces.)
I’ve been referring to our cardboard box-riddled home as “living in transition.” It’s hard not to feel like a temporary resident in your own home when boxes line the walls of many rooms. The few friends who have seen our place since we moved think it’s “fun,” “quaint,” and “human” to see our house in disarray. Honestly, I’m glad someone is amused by the disorder because the novelty of living out of boxes (if there ever was any novelty for me) has certainly worn thin.
I understand the expectations others have for my home to be well organized, and I have these same expectations for myself. I believe it would be insincere if I didn’t practice what I preach. However, I’m surprised by societal standards for every American home to meet these same benchmarks.
Wait, I need to rephrase. I’m surprised by societal standards for every American home where a woman lives to meet these same benchmarks.
I think there is a standard for all homes to be filth free and environmentally safe. But, there is a greater assumption that all homes with a woman present will also be orderly, free of clutter, and ready to host a dinner party on a moment’s notice. I’m not claiming it’s bad or good or that I agree with it, I’m just stating that our society has a double standard for housekeeping (and office-keeping, to some extent).
Back when I was single and a pack rat, extended family members would often say things to me like: “You’ll never get a man if you don’t learn to keep house.” This statement is offensive on many levels, but I think it speaks to the heart of the double standard. Society expects a woman’s home to be pristine, while it’s okay for a man’s home to be cluttered and disorganized.
Consider the phrases most associated with male housekeeping: “His home lacks a woman’s touch,” “Boys will be boys,” and “Bachelor pad.” None of these phrases implies magazine-cover standards of order. If a man’s home is messy, Americans tend to give him a free pass. If a woman’s home is messy, there is a much greater likelihood that people will gossip about it or make a snide comment to her like people often did with me during my clutter days.
Again, I’m not advocating either of these standards. I’ve simply noticed that American society applies different pressures on genders when it comes to keeping house.
Personally, unless a home is filthy or is a danger to the person who lives there or a burden to others, I don’t care about the clutter. I just hope the person is happy and the clutter doesn’t interfere with her ability to pursue the life she desires or anyone else’s. Not only do I think gender is irrelevant to this topic, I believe we need to stop cluttering up our thoughts and time by concerning ourselves with how other people have chosen to live. If someone chooses to be an unclutterer, I think that is an amazing decision. However, I don’t think everyone should or needs to be an unclutterer to pursue a remarkable life.
Do you believe there is a double standard in American society about keeping house? What do you think of it? I’m interested to read the discussion in the comments.