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Housework hassles



Untidiness tolerance

Tidiness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Each of us is brought up with a different view of what's an acceptable mess.

If you grew up in a home where vacuuming and dusting was a daily duty, you're likely to have a very low tolerance to untidiness.

If you were brought up to believe that a bit of mess makes a home feel lived in, your tolerance levels will be much higher.

There are no golden rules, and no right and wrong - just matters of opinion. So why do we hold on to those opinions so zealously?

Fact file
  • Women in the UK spend more than twice as long as men dealing with household tasks, even though 12.9 million British women now have day jobs.
  • The amount of time women spend on housework is equivalent to a yearly salary of up to £7,500.
  • The number of women employing au pairs, window cleaners and gardeners has increased by only 7.9 per cent in the past five years.

Dirt, disgust and shame

As a child you may have been told 'Your room is filthy', 'How can you live in this pigsty', 'Your bedroom is disgusting' - possibly accompanied with a look of revulsion.

Shame is powerful weapon used by many parents to encourage their children to keep to the house-cleanliness rules. Tidiness can become a moral issue. Many people are brought up to think that the state of our home is a reflection on our character and we wouldn't want to be thought of as slovenly or lazy.

It's these feelings of disgust and shame that often fuel housework arguments.

Rotas, fairness and respect

We're generally taught that housework is a menial, even demeaning task. After all, people with money and status employ other people to clean up after them.

Many people find rotas a useful way of avoiding housework battles. When everyone can sit down together and share out the work fairly, problems can be resolved.

Too often, though, rotas are written by one person and then imposed on others. If you want your rota to work, you must make sure it's drawn up cooperatively.

Care and love

Housework is also often so emotive because we're taught that part of loving someone is looking after their physical needs.

Most people were fortunate enough to have been looked after as children - having their dinner cooked, lunchboxes prepared, washing and ironing done. Children know they're loved, not only through words and affection, but also because they're cared for in practical ways.

When couples fall out about housework, sometimes there's a much deeper fear that they're not loved or respected. Love and respect are essential ingredients in a relationship and sometimes housework becomes the battleground where you fight for these needs. Housework can become a distraction from the main issue.

Putting time aside to work through these problems in your relationship is difficult, but once those needs for love or respect are met, your housework hassles will almost certainly disappear.

Avoiding housework hassles
  • Take time to sit down and talk about how housework was handled when you were growing up. Talk about how this has affected your attitudes.
  • Do you share the same tolerance for untidiness? If not, sit down and negotiate a standard you can both live with.
  • Look at your current housework arrangements. Are they fair and equal? If not, agree on a workload you're both happy with.
  • Think about whether your arguments about housework aren't actually about something else.