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How Clean Is Your House?

When I was born, someone should have warned my neat-freak mom that this girl was missing a gene. But it didn't take long for us to butt heads about cleanliness. A favorite mom threat was that she was going to throw everything on my closet floor out of the house. Maybe it's because that would have meant there would be no clothes for me to actually wear if she followed through that she never actually trashed the wardrobe.

A glance at my desk at work will find many piles: newspaper on one side, Fresca cans on another. At home, it's not much different. Stacks of papers to go through on the kitchen counter that disappear just before company arrives at the house. As I type this, I'm seeing years worth of dust cemented in the keyboard. Hmmm. Does that even wipe out?

Thankfully, husband and I agreed long ago that it is worth hiring someone to clean the house every couple weeks. Plus, husband makes up for some of my big faults like waiting till the last pair of underwear is worn before starting the wash. And thus far, the clean gene seems to have made it into my kids, who are remarkably good about picking up after themselves (with some persuasion). Otherwise, I suspect our house would border on total cleanliness chaos.

The funny thing is that I actually do like organization and clean spaces. But there are always a million other things that take priority: school, cooking, work, play time, sports, reading. And so it was that I got a good laugh this week when a friend who's rejoining the work world asked, "How do you get it all done? My house is a mess."

What's your stance on cleaning? Do you let it go in favor of all the other priorities? Or do you need a clean house to think straight? Do you hire out or do it yourself?

This Week's Talkers: Parents Begin Potty Training at Birth ... $600 in Ad Sales Buys High Schoolers an 'A' ... New Asthma Guidelines Urge Daily Control ... Unbearably Trampy Back-to-School Clothes

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 31, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  The Debate
Previous: Mom to Mom; Dad to Dad | Next: Greening the Kids


When my husband and I moved in together, we got a cleaning lady. First it was once per month, now it is twice; I assume that when we have kids, it will be more frequent. There are just too many other things to do in the day (plus we both work) that cleaning has to take a backseat. A lot of our friends are in the same boat, even those with one spouse who stays at home.

Posted by: akmitc | August 31, 2007 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Duh! You and your husband are lazy slobs and you some how figured out that the magic solution ( after X amount of years)was to hire a cleaning service!!!! When is your Noble Prize ceremony?

And how is your #1 son doing with his 24/7 masturbation/thumb-sucking problem?

"And so it was that I got a good laugh this week when a friend who's rejoining the work world asked, "How do you get it all done? My house is a mess."

Yes, it's a good laugh, because YOU don't seem do get ANYTHING done besides making pathetic excuses!

Posted by: hillary1 | August 31, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I just returned to full-time work this summer and have hired a cleaning person twice a month - it works really well for us, mostly because it gives us back some time in our schedule that would normally go to "deep cleaning" to do things as a family (not that we don't also do meal prep and clean up, etc., as a family). I still suffer a bit of guilt about it (I kind of believe there is a lesson in cleaning up after one's self) but right now it really helps, and I pay her a good wage so I'm not exploiting anyone.

My husband is a packrat and loves clutter so he has his rooms (office, workshop) where that's fine and I have my office where it is not, and the rest of the house kind of waffles between the two.

My best tip for cleaning though is to get rid of stuff... and I can't believe how much harder that is with a toddler! Toys, art projects, play-dough, school notices... it's crazy.

Posted by: Shandra | August 31, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

That should be Nobel Prize...

Posted by: hillary1 | August 31, 2007 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Both DH and I are slobs, and I know I tend towards laziness. I'm trying hard to become a more organized, neater person, and I've made fair progress. Right now, we try to keep the bottom floor of our house reasonably clean and free of clutter, or at least neat enough that we can invite company over on about 1/2 to 1 hour's notice.

The rest of the house gets cleaned when I have time. Generally, I will make DH take the kid away one day a month, and I spend that day cleaning, organizing, etc. I find I'm much happier in a clean house and can maintain it well for a few weeks, then the laziness starts creeping back in. It seems like it only takes 2 or 3 days of goofing off for the house to look like a war zone again.

Posted by: newsahm | August 31, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

As a Secretary and a Teacher, we can't afford a maid, even once in a while. The house is a wreck. I can't wait until our son is old enough to help clean instead of going behind me and dumping out the cars/trains/blocks that I just put back in their tub and on the rack of toys. I try to wait to clean until after he's in bed, but after a whole day of working, commuting, cooking and chasing after a toddler, I'm often just too tired. My husband helps, but he is also in Grad School, adding to the money crunch and giving him even less time around the house. Strangely, even with the limited time at home, he still manages to help mess it up. I try hard to control the filth, but the clutter gets out of control quickly.

Posted by: RiverCityRoller | August 31, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse

We suffer from CHAOS - Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome!

Posted by: MDMom | August 31, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse


"Generally, I will make DH take the kid away one day a month, and I spend that day cleaning, organizing, etc. I find I'm much happier in a clean house and can maintain "

It's a BIG RED FLAG if you have to MAKE DH do ANYTHING. Sounds like DH spends a lot of time HIDING from his family!

And, DUH!!! If you are a SAHM (with ONE kid), why are you having trouble "finding the time"???!!! to do ANYTHING???

Posted by: hillary1 | August 31, 2007 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I have always been a person who needs things to be clean to relax. Even my coworkers marvel at my "clean" desk - I always think it's a mess. I am expecting our first child in Jan 08. I will really need to let go of my need for a clean house once he arrives! Thank God DH has been great about indulging my cleaning sprees. He's always right behind me with the windex.

Posted by: CTJM | August 31, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I have seriously loosened my neatness standards since having my second child. I can live with piles of things on the counter until company comes, then it gets moved to the floor of my office. Every once in a while I pull an all nighter to see my office floor again. It's not worth taking the time away from my kids since they will only be little once.

Now that my second has decided that everything on the floor should be in his mouth, we have enlisted the help of robots. We have a scooba to clean our kitchen/sunroom/bathroom floors and are gettting a Roomba to vacuum our playroom and family room. For now, I vacuum those floors every other day, but the robot frees me up to be with the kids and they love watching it clean anyway.

I Love Robots!

Posted by: AugustMom | August 31, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Crikey Hillary! - you gotta get a life and consider pointing fingers back towards yourself instead of attacking every single other poster on every blog you read. Sheesh. - or get medicated. It's the American way!

Posted by: btpduc748 | August 31, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

My house probably looks reasonably clean, but you can't really look in cupboards or closets. One thing that did wonders for our state of continual clutter was being flooded in 2003. Turns out we actually didn't need most of the crap we lost, though I definitely can't replace some of it (like photos). It was an important lesson for me and my husband. We figure we lost 50% of our stuff, and of the remaining 50%, 30% of that was in storage for 18 months until we finally moved into a house. We realized we didn't need a lot of that stuff either and did a huge Goodwill/Purple Heart donation that year.

Right now, our house seems to be 50% toys, 50 percent other. I never meant to be one of those moms, but it appears that Toys R Us could easily open a store out of my home. Does anyone else feel like that?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 31, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse


"Crikey Hillary! - you gotta get a life and consider pointing fingers back towards yourself instead of attacking every single other poster on every blog you read. Sheesh. - or get medicated. It's the American way!"

At least I have a NAME!!!!

Posted by: hillary1 | August 31, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse


"I never meant to be one of those moms, but it appears that Toys R Us could easily open a store out of my home. Does anyone else feel like that?"

Uh, NO. And if you REALLY don't want to "be one of those moms", don't let the crap into your house..........

Posted by: hillary1 | August 31, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"Right now, our house seems to be 50% toys, 50 percent other. I never meant to be one of those moms, but it appears that Toys R Us could easily open a store out of my home. Does anyone else feel like that?"

YES! It seems to me like DD has about 4.2 million toys. A lot of it is because so many of her toys have a lot of smallish parts (sets of blocks, little people toys, shape sorter, etc.) Part of it is my (terrible) habit of trolling the dollar section at Target, looking for fun, cheap little things that she'll enjoy. And then there are the stuffed animals -- every time we see a friend or relative, it seems they show up with a stuffed animal, and they're taking over the place.

I've started packing up some of DD's toys and putting them in storage. I left out the toys she plays with the most, and will trade out the stored toys as she gets bored. That's helped a little bit, but what I really want to do is bring the whole lot to the consignment store.

Posted by: newsahm | August 31, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

newsahm, if you are organized enough to rotate the toys (and cycle some out of the rotation and to charity), you are more organized than I am! My problem right now is that with two children 2 years apart, they're at different stages developmentally and so we need appropriate toys for both. (At least, that's my excuse du jour . . . )

One thing I started last year that I will continue to do is to have my children pick out ten of their toys to donate to charity. It makes way for the Santa stuff and (I hope) is teaching them that there are so many people in the world who are not as lucky as they are.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 31, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

We have someone come clean twice a month - it may increase now that our daughter is getting ready to crawl and vacuuming and dusting are therefore getting more important. We just have trouble picking up - projects get started and never finished, my husband leaves clothes all over the house. We moved into the house three years ago and some things just seem not to have found a home yet, possibly b/c we have zero closet space.

I need organization in some things or I go crazy, so every few weeks I have a total meltdown and just straighten up all night long. What I really should do next time this happens is dump things for Goodwill into a big trash bag - I know we have far too much 'stuff'!

Posted by: KLTA | August 31, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Cleaning is at the very bottom of the priority list. We have a maid service come in every couple of weeks to do the bulk of it, and that's pretty much it.

Organization is harder -- there's just so much crap that piles up, and you can't exactly outsource what to do with your kids' "art" projects. So I rely on the external motivating force -- no room left on the kitchen counter, someone's coming over, need to get stuff off the floor so the cleaning service can vacuum it, etc. Or the even-rarer internal motivating force: it surpasses even my relatively high clutter threshold. Then we have a big flurry for a few hours, and that's it until the next event.

It helps to have enough room for things. I just got a small closet all my own with an organizer system. Now that I have places for everything, it all looks so nice when it's put away that I actually want to KEEP it that way. So for the first time in my life, I am not living out of a pile of clean laundry on the floor. And it just feels so much better not to have "stuff" everywhere, all the time. Now if there was only a similar system to keep all of the different parts of all of the kids' toys together and out of the way, the family room might look halfway decent. Unfortunately, we can't throw any of it out yet, because the boy is now getting big enough to play with the stuff the girl has outgrown. Sigh.

Posted by: laura33 | August 31, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

A very wise older mother told me after the birth of my 4th daughter that "there would be so much time to clean when my kids were grown, that I should not waste their youth scrubbing floors"

It was very freeing! Now we have 5 kids. We do manage to keep the chaos at an acceptable level, but our house is never spotless. The kids share a bedroom, study and playroom and ALL of the toys are confined to that space and they are responsible for it. They pick it all up, dust, vaccuum, whatever needs to be done. It helps keeps the rest of the house more organized and leaves me with a more reasonable amount of housework (which only sometimes gets done). I just don't stress about it anymore! I figure that the first year they are all in school full time I will really clean my house, but until then I am going to enjoy my girls!

Posted by: buttercup | August 31, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

First off, Hillary girl, chill, get off your high horse and back off. If I had the money I would most certainly hire someone to clean my house. AND I DON'T EVEN HAVE KIDS!!! Just two dogs. I only stumbled upon this blog because of the title, I love that show on BBCAmerica.

Posted by: ! | August 31, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to say that I have a cleaning service in to do their thing every other week. It is the second best thing about working full-time (next to my paycheck). :) All my clothes are from Target (still) and Kohl's and the kids wear hand me downs -- got to have a trade-off somewhere!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 31, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

There have been numerous studies and a book recently about the issue with cleanliness, namely in an office environment there is no evidence that cleanliness is the mark of productivity (some studies showed the opposite). However, I do not know of any studies that test similar theories in a home environment.

As for my own place there are definately "active" spaces that tend to messy (I definately fall into the category of messy worker) and "reserved" spaces which tend to be clean. The trick is cleaning up after those "reserved" spaces are used - it takes an effort to find the time.

Posted by: David S | August 31, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I think "Hillary" is either a 15 year old boy or off her meds. Ignore "her" please.

I am a neat freak and my house is always reasonably neat, despite the contributions of my sloppy DH and 4 year old DD. That said, my standards are such that I am always failing them, which I find stressful. *Must*find*more*time*to*vaccumm*!

Posted by: Olney | August 31, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

We live in one of those countries where, if you make even an average American salary, childcare/housekeepers are affordable. Ours comes every day, does the shopping before she arrives, cleans, does laundry, cooks, runs errands and takes care of the baby. Now if only she could take care of our paperwork....

Seriously, it was a big consideration for us before we moved out to a place where the language is judged one of the hardest for English speakers to learn. We were thinking of having kids and couldn't figure out where to find the time to have kids if we continued to work 12 hour days with hour commutes each way [also couldn't figure out where to find the time to make the kids...] Our baby for a while never took a nap longer than 30 minutes although she was "sleeping through the night" in one 5 hour stretch. I doubt that even hillary [probably not even his/her real name :)] could reasonably expect one person to do all the cleaning and cooking and childcare under those circumstances.

The downside to this luxury is how easy it is to get accustomed to such a high standard of cleanliness. Imagine visiting your clean freak MIL and wondering when she became so slovenly.

Posted by: smug expat | August 31, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I have been a terrible slob all my life, but it has always been something that bothered me. I actually don't think it is "freeing" to let go and relax about mess. Mess is exhausting. My kids actually started to complain about the mess, even though they were a large part of the problem. They were tasked with cleaning, but they'd just dump everything in bins, and then dump it out within an hour.

Bit by bit I've learned through the Flylady system that you can have a relatively neat, organized house without spending a ton of time on it - and that everyone is happier if you can do this. Instead of letting things go to hell and then frantically cleaning, especially when guests are coming (just to repeat the cycle) I have a set of basic routines that don't take a lot of time but keep everything pretty much under control. These routines are in place for everyone - not just me - so we all feel more in control of our surroundings.

As a caveat - I do have a cleaner to do the mopping, bathroom cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, etc. However, before I started doing flylady, the place would look like a mess within a day of the cleaners coming, only to return to neatness the day before. Now it stays pretty nice looking all the time.

Posted by: Virginia | August 31, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse


"I think "Hillary" is either a 15 year old boy or off her meds. Ignore "her" please."

Thank you, Hall Monitor, for the Net alert.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Smug Expat - where do you live? I think that might be enough to make me move! Although I'd be worried about what happened if I ever moved back to the States again!

And Virginia - what is FlyLady? And how do I learn more about it?

Posted by: KLTA | August 31, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

There's a difference between 'clean' and 'neat' (just as there's a difference between sex and love, or race and nationality).

I don't have kids but I do have a cat and cat hair and the litter box are my biggest bug-a-boos. I, too, have stacks of papers, gift catalogs, books, magazines around the house but they're stacked and in order. Otherwise, the house is pretty clean. I tackle the kitchen and bathroom at least once a week with spray cleaner, vacuum, and lightly dust while the laundry is washing. All dirty clothes go in the hamper, not scattered around the house and is hung outside in the fresh air and sunshine to dry three seasons of the year. Closets are cleared and organized about twice a year. The kitchen floor is damp mopped as needed. I still have time to work a 13-hour day, take music lessons on weekends, and knit while watching DVDs. I'm the type who would clean the house before a cleaning service got there so they wouldn't see my messiness ;-)

I have an acquaintance who grew up filthy rich, raised by nannies. Her apartment was a pig sty. It looked like drug addicts lived there. I was there once in April to meet her for an event; I put film in her camera and left the film box on her end table. I visited again in September for something else and that film box was still on her table. She left dog poop on her floor, framed pictures hung lopsided on the wall, curtains torn off the curtain rods, overflowing ash trays all over the place, torn upholstery on the sofa. Not to mention she was a dysfunctional alcoholic. When she moved out I'm sure the management company had to fumigate the place. I blamed her lack of housekeeping ability on not having to clean up after herself when she was being raised by nannies. There was always hired help to do it for her.

Posted by: TGIF | August 31, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

TGIF - I think my husband suffers from some of this. Not that he was filthy rich growing up, but his Mom was always picking up after the kids and he never did it himself.

Although I have to say, I have plenty of friends who grew up pampered as you describe who are very neat and organized independent adults and keep house much better than I do and with less help!

Posted by: KLTA | August 31, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I actually do clean my house or at least straighten up when I know the dog walker is coming. Mind you she's only there to walk the dogs so she's not even in the house that long, but it is still motivation for me to put away mail and papers that are piling up on my dining room and coffee tables.

Posted by: dym | August 31, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

KLTA -- Most men are like your husband unless they are gay and into interior decorating. They think there is a dirty-clothes fairy picking up all the laundry left on the floor. They think there is a grocery fairy who stocks the fridge and pantry with food. They think there is a toilet paper fairy who magically refills the holder when empty. Not to mention the dirty dishes fairy who waves a wand and poof! the dishes are clean.

A comedian once commented that women endlessly complain about men but forget that women/mothers raise those men. Therefore, we're complaining about about our own lack of success in raising a caring, functional human being.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

To KLTA: FlyLady is a free website that helps us organize and run our households in small, manageable increments. Since starting the flylady system I no longer stash and dash (hide all dirty stuff in closets) before guests come. I no longer spend all Saturday cleaning my house. Yet my house is cleaner and neater than it ever was before.

Check it out. It's pretty cool.

(Yes, this is the first post from me, longtime lurker.....)

Posted by: beta | August 31, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

"We suffer from CHAOS - Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome!"

I love that!! We, too, hire someone to come in every two weeks and do the deep cleaning. I try to be a bit cleaner at work (usually failing), but home is a crazy mess. Laundry gets done but clothes rarely get hung up. I just don't care - there are so many other things to do!

Posted by: MJ | August 31, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Two things:
First, yesterday was my first monthly cleaning. I can't tell you how relieved I am! We used a locally owned service that's only $85 a month for our townhouse--totally worth it. (AshMaids, if anyone's interested.)
Second, it's amazing how much you can do during commercial time. My rule when watching tv is to use all the commercial time to get up and clean. It's amazing how much you can do in a 3 minute break, and after an hour everything's clean, and you still got to watch an hour of tv.

Posted by: worth the cost | August 31, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I am pretty neurotic about the kitchen and the bathroom, but otherwise let things go.

We've started getting a housekeeper every two weeks and DH gripes every time that we have to "clean for the housecleaner." That said, at least our general state of household affairs is now "sloppy" instead of "horribly filthy."

Posted by: Rock Creek | August 31, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Flylady contains a LOT and I mean a LOT of BS. Read it with an eye towards her own biases of what certain definitions mean.

Here's my problem, My wife wanted me to put some books, old records, and cds to sell at a garage sale. I posted a few that I knew were too valuable for garage sales on ebay and they sold for $20-80 each. So now I "have" to sell all the stuff for $5-10 each on ebay rather than a $1 box at a garage sale and my house isn't much cleaner than when I started. Though I made about $1000 in the last year.

what I can't stand now are all the free magazines. Somehow I got on some mailing list and I'm getting a dozen titles a month or more!

If you don't have a cleaning person come in every two weeks though, ask your friends for recommendations and hire one!

Posted by: Stateless | August 31, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

btpduc 748

"It's the American Way." It's the sloppy American way.

Posted by: J | August 31, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

So, Hillary, I'm curious: What was your childhood trauma that makes you troll message boards so deliberately and obviously trying to provoke a fight? Would you like the name of a good therapist?

Posted by: Dad with Kids from A-Z | August 31, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm a complete lazy slob. Don't know how that happened. When I got my first apartment I kept it spotless. When I moved out, it looked newer than we I had moved in. Fast forward several years later, my home looks like a storage garage. The first thing I do when I get home from work is take off my pants and plopped down in front of the tv with a scotch in my hand. Oh well! No wonder I can't get any tail.

Posted by: Fred | August 31, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Let's not let this blog go the way of that other one. I stopped surfing that blog because of the venom and bile being spewed daily over petty issues and differences of opinion. After all, opinions are like a**holes -- everybody has one. And some people are one.

Posted by: TGIF | August 31, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

CHAOS describes our house too. Great acronym.

Mostly it's DH. He's a total slob. It was true when I met him 23 years ago, and he hasn't changed.

I like neat and clean, but I'm not going to fight about it, and I'm not going to spend all my non-employment hours trying to catch up with and contain the spreading clutter.

Growing up, I shared a room with two sisters until I was 15. That room was pretty cluttered except right after our dad would have one of his screaming fits about the mess. Once I got my own room, I kept it up pretty easily.

As an adult the same has been true when I've lived alone vs. sharing living space with other people. If I'm only picking up after myself everything stays clean and organized. If other people are sharing the space, I can't/won't be the maid and the place is more or less messy according to the standards of the other folks.

Posted by: sue | August 31, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Holy Cow Hillary what is wrong with you today?

My husband is a neat freak and I am a recovering slob. I try hard, but sometimes I just dont care. He does most of the cleaning and I do most of the cooking, shopping, etc.

Posted by: Irishgirl | August 31, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Pls note that the Fred who posted at 1:44 is not the Fred who is married to Frieda. You know, from On Balance.

Posted by: Fred | August 31, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Holy Crap! What a bunch of pathetic whiners. I'm with Hillary. If you can't keep the house clean, get rid of all your crap. Trolling the $1 store? Good grief, get home and clean instead of bringing more clutter into your home. Why are the kids' toys on the living room floor in the first place? That's what the kids' bedrooms are for!!! This ain't rocket science. And anybody who's a SAHM and can't find an hour a day to keep the homestead in order needs to lay off the Starbucks, get her arse off the sofa, and get to work. How does DH put up with somebody who fritters away their days doing lord only knows what?

Posted by: Herndon | August 31, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I realized that as soon as I read the post, Fred! Have a great weekend!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 31, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Fred, I don't think anyone who has read your posts on On Balance would have had any question about that.

Posted by: laura33 | August 31, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

My dad was a military guy and didn't believe in having boys do any of that. At home, I never washed one dish because "washing dishes is for girls". So my chores included taking out the trash and garbage, mowing the lawn, cleaning and waxing all the floors in the house. Couldn't get out on the weekends without finishing these first. So I grew up waxing my mom's hardwood floors with Wood Preen and buffing them with my dad's old clothes - my feet on top of the old clothes, sliding across the room to the sounds of motown on the radio til the floors were perfectly polished.

Once the floors were done, I got my allowance and was off to the movies!

Posted by: BenThere | August 31, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

My wife is a neat freak. She works a tough job at least 5 days a week as a senior manager for a tech firm. But she keeps the cleanest house I've ever lived in - and I help! I'll have you know that I'm not an interior decorator and I'm straight. But I do enjoy living in a clean house. Got started at an early aging learning to keep the house clean and it just never stopped.

Posted by: BenThere | August 31, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

So what's wrong with us when we teach our kids that it's cool to not worry about it because the maid will get it cleaned up? Why can't we teach them to clean up behind their selves before they get swallowed up by a game boy or an ipod? Then we wonder what went wrong with them when they get older and don't know how to do anything for themselves - except pick up the phone and call someone else to fix it.

Posted by: BenThere | August 31, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

And yes, I am a parent of 4 girls and 1 son. Proud to say that they are not slobs. They know how to clean and take care of themselves. I hope they'll teach the same to their kids.

Posted by: BenThere | August 31, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

We've gone with controlled CHAOS (love the acronym). The kitchen stays organized as it's a primary work space. The living room in the middle of the day looks as if someone set a bomb off at a toy store.

The reason one lets "that crap" in one's house is to give the kids something to play with. We have twin toddlers and a no TV policy. It's fun seeing how they discover new ways to have fun with toys, books, etc. Time can be better spent with the little ones rather than cleaning up after and/or sucking all the joy out of their little lives. [No toys or constant yelling; your pick.]

It's a shame that such blogs attract trolls such as Hillary and Herndon. Do you behave so obnoxiously to friends and acquaintances in the real world? Perhaps it's saved up in a tiny little ball for blogs. Tick tick tick...

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | August 31, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"It's a shame that such blogs attract trolls such as Hillary and Herndon. Do you behave so obnoxiously to friends and acquaintances in the real world? "

You are not my friend nor my acquaintance in ANY world. Since when is the truth obnoxious? When you don't like it?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

you're all just jealous.

Posted by: hillary | August 31, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

And anybody who's a SAHM and can't find an hour a day to keep the homestead in order needs to lay off the Starbucks, get her arse off the sofa, and get to work. How does DH put up with somebody who fritters away their days doing lord only knows what?

Posted by: Herndon | August 31, 2007 02:39 PM

Okay, I'm breaking the don't-feed-the-troll rule, and I'll probably regret it later, but this really deserves some sort of response...

I'm the wage-earner in the family, and DH is the SAHP. Now check my earlier 1:59 post - CHAOS.

A) I knew what I was getting into before I married him. (starter-hubby was better at housekeeping than I was - that didn't make that marriage work, and keeper-hubby's lack of cleaning doesn't harm the marriage)

B) Older son is a high-functioning autistic, and DH has a pretty tough job. (I have a very clear idea of how he's spending his days. I couldn't do what he does all day as well as he does it, and it's a lot more important than housecleaning.)

C) Teaching kids, especially a disabled one, to clean takes more time, effort and energy than actually doing it yourself. (you should see the autistic kid - takes out the trash, feeds the cats, does the laundry, learning to do simple cooking.)

D) When we bought our home it was less than half the size of the rental we left. We'd shared the rental with nine other people during the previous five years, and all of them had left behind stuff we had to remove, because we were the last folks to leave. Since then we've been decluttering our lives as best we can, but we still just have too much *stuff* to sort through, make decisions about, and finally dispose of - or find some reasonable place to keep.

So, your condemnations are inappropriate - you have no idea of the challenges someone might be facing, but you think it's okay to judge.

I'll close with this blessing: May you walk in the shoes of those you've insulted, and may you learn from the experience.

Posted by: Sue | August 31, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

First I want to thank "hillary" for exercising his/her right to freedom of expression, whether it was serious or not. I think that criticizing him/her for exercising that right is far worse than any of the vitriol she/he spewed.

Second, I'm glad that there are other slobs out there. Now I don't feel as guilty when I open the door to my garage/storage rom/dumping ground, although it would be nice to able to park one of our cars in there someday. I do think, though, that most people are either organized or disorganized by nature and they will stay this way no matter how much free time they have.

Posted by: Psyduck | August 31, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and I forgot:

E) DH became a ward of the state at the tender age of 10. Nobody ever taught him anything about cleaning or housekeeping. He did become an amazing cook though.

Posted by: Sue | August 31, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

We are in Beijing. Sorry it took so long to reply, but I pretty much went to bed after I posted and just now got online again. Local rate for full time housekeeper/babysitter is about US$200 per month, although it can be a little less if they live in. It's apparently pretty hard to find somebody really good [although I had no problem either here or in Shanghai], and there are some odd ideas about cleanliness in Chinese society, which is why speaking Mandarin is quite helpful, as is figuring out which of these odd customs you can live with [for us that incudes airing out the house for at least an hour every day -- but now she turns the air-con off first, having the floors mopped and air dried every day and having laundry washed daily rather than weekly.] We end up paying our housekeeper a little more than an English speaking college grad would make in their first year working [bumped her up in several increments along the way], and ask for her input on any decision that we don't feel very strongly about, and even though she gets about an offer a week to work for another family she hasn't considered leaving us.

It's not all roses, of course: the pollution is unbearable, housing isn't cheap, the dollar keeps falling, and "international standard" healthcare is also quite expensive. But, our kid is growing up bilingual, and our diets have changed to be much more dependent on veg than meat, so for us it's definitely worth staying for a while longer.

Posted by: smug expat | August 31, 2007 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Have a professional housekeeping service come in every 2 weeks to deep between we manage to keep things picked up...although we occassionally descend into CHAOS (love it too BTW). I made this decision a long time costs me 2 hours gross salary for the housekeeping, and it would take me longer to do it than it takes I would resent the heck out of doing it. Life is too short, you make your compromises where it makes sense. Have a great weekend.

Posted by: A Hobbit Mom | August 31, 2007 9:29 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I both tend to be clutterers, but I am bothered by it and he is not. I have always liked cleaning/scrubbing, but it is difficult to keep up on that when there is so much stuff all over the place.

When our son was about 6 months old, we started having a cleaning service come in every week. I had been freaking out about putting him on the floor to play and learn to crawl. I think I was a little phobic about letting him get dirty in general, but I really couldn't keep our floor clean enough on my own.

The weekly cleaning service has been great. They sweep, mop, vacuum, dust, etc. They put clean sheets on the beds if I put them out. They still straighten things up a little but don't really deal with organizing much clutter. We still have to do laundry, dishes, general organization. But it is much more manageable now and while our house is still messy at times, it's definitely not dirty.

Our son is almost 3 now and is really good at picking up after himself. He puts his toys and puts his dirty clothes in the hamper. After meals he puts his dishes in the sink. He likes to "help" me with dishes and laundry. Of course he's not a lot of help now, but he is learning about these chores and will be able to do them when he is older.

Posted by: Wioleta | August 31, 2007 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Now I can't profess to being clean, but I am neat. A messy house makes me antsy.

I have two kids (5 and 2) and they do a great job at keeping their rooms clean (with my help). In fact, they'll say something if they see a toy left out in their room when it is time to go to bed.

This is a stark contrast to my childhood. My mother never made me clean up or put away anything when I was a kid. I can still remember vividly the embarrassment of being scolded by my best-friend when I couldn't find the pieces to any of the games we would try to play. So far, my kids seem to have better appreciation and take better care of their things than I did as a kid.

Now if I could just get out from under the mountain of laundry that never goes away.

Posted by: TheNewMe | August 31, 2007 10:58 PM | Report abuse


Well, there are a lot of luxuries that people will pay for in modern America- things that we could very well do ourselves and don't want to. Changing the oil in our cars, having a professional do the taxes, manicures, professional haircuts, dry cleaners, and housekeeping services. Getting takeout a few times a month to give the main cook a break falls into the same category, too.

You have to remember, also, that if you have someone come in to clean twice a month you are still doing a LOT of cleaning on your own. The service will not clean up your crap, put things away, or throw things out. They won't do your laundry or put it away, change your sheets, or do the dishes. I have the service basically so someone else has to do the dusting, the mopping of the hardwoods, and a very thorough deep-cleaning in the bathrooms. I would wager that I probably spend about an hour a day cleaning, and that's as much as I want to do. So I hire someone to do the rest.

(and fwiw, I use an individual not a service- that way I know the person I'm employing is getting a decent wage).

Posted by: reston, va | September 1, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I confess I did not read all of the posts, but I have to second the recommendation of flylady. That system literally changed my life. We have much less stress in our life, I never have to nag the kids to tidy up. In fact, my oldest child in middle school has the most organized room in the house! I just started back working full time after staying home for 12 years and working part-time for 10 of those, and it has been fairly seamless. No laundry back-ups. Dinner on the table in the evening. My best friends are astounded at how I have changed for the better. I have never had a cleaning service, but we have a lot of wood floors that I would love to farm out. Still, the thought of finding someone, paying them and then figuring out when they could come motives me to haul out the equipment! I truly do only spend about 15-20 minutes a day on cleaning. My house usually looks fine. I wouldn't be ashamed if someone dropped by. The flylady system lends itself to many other arenas. I have to add that being a SAHM and working part-time while my kids were in school sucked. There is a large part of me that wishes I had gone back to full time work much earlier -- I think I would have been healthier from a mental and emotional standpoint. Being a SAHM was the toughest job I've ever done. At least now when I get off work I have something different at home. When you are a sahp it can drain you, no matter how much you love your kids.

Posted by: jj | September 2, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Better late than never, eh?

I'd definitely have someone to do regular chores and cleaning, but it's not really financially possible right now.

I'm NOT a neat person- it's not that I don't see messes, I just don't see them as something that needs to be changed.

However, I do NOT like wasting time looking for stuff or losing things, and I put having visitors seeing things pristine as a priority. So I have found that maintaining regular light cleaning with occasional thorough cleanings makes for a good balance.

Posted by: Liz D | September 4, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

A friend in the military gave me one simple piece of advice when it came to cleaning--don't move things around too much and the drill Sargent will think you cleaned. I try to keep from moving things around in a rush out the door or clean as I go when making dinner at a nice even pace. With the kids I sing, dance, and clean before bath and bedtime to encourage clean habits. As for the backlog of clutter, I pick a task to do and every day whittle it down. Clean up old messes then keep new ones at bay. Time is on my side and I'll be clean before the holidays and everyday thereafter.

Posted by: Single Supermom | September 4, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

It's no wonder a majority of Americans are OVERWEIGHT. Cleaning is great excerise. It burns A LOT of calories.
So stop hiring cleaning services, put on some old sweats, and get ready to break sweat and torch some major calories for about an hour.
Loose all the damn weight you promised you would lose since New Year's Day.

Posted by: Soguns1 | September 7, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

"I have the service basically so someone else has to do the dusting, the mopping of the hardwoods, and a very thorough deep-cleaning in the bathrooms."
--Why can't you, your husband, or children do all of the deep cleaning? Lemme guess? Don't have the time, right? Don't feel like it?

Posted by: Soguns1 | September 7, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Hey! how liberating to hear from all you confrere slobs. I think my aversion to housework is partly stimulated by a mind that is inadequate to deal with minute detaiils--like organizing. Unfortunately I live next door to a native Japanese woman who is scrupulously clean--and so I know it can be done.... And here I sit blogging...

Posted by: amhcw | September 10, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

"you're all just jealous."

haha. :)

Posted by: xtine | September 10, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

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