Are clean houses becoming rare?

Look at tenement pictures of the early1900s, shorpy is a decent source. his is what happens when you have 9 people in a room that is the size of most people’s living room.

My stepmonster always derived her self-esteem and identity by how clean her house was. I have other things to prove my worth to myself, such as a nice little career. I have exactly zero flying fucks to give about a little dust. She would lose her mind at how dusty my house is. I only attack the dust when it attacks me (triggers my allergies).

Same woman insisted on moving every single piece of furniture every time she (made me – I never once saw her do it herself) vacuumed. She would work all day in a manual labor factory job and then come home and complain about all the house work, which, apparently, my father was not expected to help with.

I have a completely different outlook on life. I do not feel horrible about myself as a person if my house is a little dusty or because that pile of clutter and papers has been sitting in the same spot for over a month. I figured, I will never by laying on my deathbed wishing I’d cleaned some more. (Or wishing I’d worked more.) If anything, I may regret time wasted cleaning. I stay ahead of what I have to in order to keep my home sanitary, but beyond that, I just don’t think it’s as important as she does. Guests could walk in right now, and they’d get a little dog fur on their clothes (to go with the slobber from my dog’s greetings, LOL), but my house isn’t gross or nasty in anyway. Just a bit of dust and fur that won’t hurt anyone. My sister thinks I am a neat freak and my house is “spotless.” I think everyone has a very different idea of what “clean house” looks like. And I think women in general have other jobs to do from which to derive their sense of self-worth – keeping a clean house is no longer emphasized to girls as a future career goal.

Beds and laundry negotiable. Go play. :cool:

I think more than anything, it’s simply a representation of how much more casual culture has become these days. Back in the day, kids always called other adults Mr/Mrs; today, many schools encourage kids to use the teacher’s first name, and almost all kids are calling neighbors or family friends by first name. Back in the day, the ideal (realized or not) was for the man to come home to a wife in a cocktail dress with martini in hand, but today, we don’t even buy that on TV. Back in the day, you dressed up in your Sunday best; today, half the women in church are wearing some version of stretch/yoga/sweat pants.

Even people of today who have some kind of maid service are (in my experience) not using that maid to have spotless and organized houses. They’re just making sure that the basics like vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, etc. are getting done.

We can point to changes in socioeconomics that may have contributed to the change, but I think this is one of those areas where people find a way to make happen what they really value. In a culture that simply does not value formality the way it used it to, having an imperfect house is just not that important anymore.

(And for myself: my goal is to keep my house within four hours of being “presentable” to a guest. I can vacuum in an hour and dust in an hour, so I keep the number of dishes and amount of clutter to the amount I can clear away in another two hours. But, again, my definition of presentable is not the same as my grandmother’s. I put more importance, and effort, in the appearance of my lawn than the inside of my house.)

I discovered some time ago that Quentin Crisp was quite right about the dust–it doesn’t get any worse after 4 years. :slight_smile:

I have mixed feelings about the cleanliness of my apartment. I enjoy it when it’s tidy – vacuumed, dusted, piles of paper put away, bathrooms and kitchen freshly cleaned – but I have some PTSD about making it that way. For the 20 years of my last marriage, my ex, who is an OCD-level neat freak, insisted that the weekends be spent cleaning the house. That is, spent *by me *cleaning the house. Because I “wasn’t home” during the weekday (I worked full time and paid fully one-half of all our living expenses), in his mind that made me primarily responsible for cleaning (along with much of the gardening, grocery shopping, and cooking). Because he was retired and home during the week (and spent time outside on his brush clearing/tree planting hobby), his weekends were spent watching sports on tv.

So now, three years after the divorce, I find that my life is much fuller with time spent with the horses and my friends but my apartment is not nearly as clean as my former home was. Every time I think, “I really need to clean this place; [ex-husband] would have fit,” I revolt inside and go do something else. Eventually, I’ll get over it, I suppose, and find a more happy medium.

We can’t live in a messy house. Just can’t do it. Makes us insane to be surrounded by chaos. It’s not onerous if you don’t let it get out of control. Put shit away when you’re done with it to keep it from piling up. Clean kitchen after every meal. Vacuum, steam mop the floors, dust, clean bathrooms regularly. Cleaning has never been easier than in the modern era.

I had an overly meticulous housemate, and after him and my stepmonster, I found myself having the same visceral reaction to the prospect of blowing my precious two days off on mundane shit like cleaning. So I began the practice of what I call guerilla cleaning, reasoning that one person cannot do it all, all at once, by herself. It’s just an unrealistic expectation and for no good reason. (I’m talking “within clean hygiene” parameters.) So I set a certain amount of time aside each day – say, 30 minutes after the afternoon dog walk – and what I can get done in that 30 minutes is what gets done. By the time I get to Saturday morning, I’ve already put in 2.5 hours of cleaning, only spread out in bits and pieces, so that there really isn’t that much left to do on the weekend. Laundry barely counts as a chore because there’s so little effort involved in tossing clothing into a machine – you can do two or three things at once if laundry is one of them.

Still, it’s rare that my car is spotless and detailed inside and out, the grass is cut and landscaping pruned to perfection, and the house has both bathrooms scrubbed and all rooms dusted, swept, and mopped – all at the same time. Sometimes, the house gets clean. Sometimes, the yard is the only thing that looks awesome. Sometimes, the most pleasant clean space is my car. Sometimes, two of those things happen at the same time. Almost never all three. I’m fine with that.

Missed the edit window:

I have three rules of clutter I cannot abide:
• No dirty dishes anywhere except the kitchen sink. When the sink is full enough that the dog can grab something out of it, time to do the dishes. It’s easier to just do them every night after supper so it only takes a few. But no leaving dirty dishes in any other room, or even on the counter or the kitchen table. If there’s no room in the sink, do the damn dishes already.

• No piles of paper. Junk mail goes straight into the recycling bin. Newspapers and magazines do not come into my house and if they do, I have to sit down and read them within thirty days or else they go straight into recycling. Piles of papers – even neat piles – make a space look messy.

• No dirty laundry anywhere except in a hamper or in ONE designated spot in ONE bedroom. I cannot stand dirty clothes laying around in every room. I used to find my boyfriend by picking up the trail of discarded dirty laundry that ran from the front door to wherever he was. My dad also does this: starts disrobing as he enters the house and will be in his man-panties by the time he gets to “his” chair. Why do some men do this? Go to your room, take off your clothes, drop them all in the laundry bin, and then you’re free to wander about buck nekkid should you so choose. I forbid dirty laundry anywhere except where dirty laundry should be: in a hamper or in the laundry room.

A fascinating picture…but I don’t see anything there that makes the tenement look dirty. It looks sloppy to our eyes, because they don’t own modern stuff; They don’t have expensive suites of polished furniture , and the closet doesn’t have matching sliding doors with recessed handles.

But sloppy is not dirty.

Sloppy is good: comfortable, and informal.

Funny, I was thinking about this recently. I live alone, and my house is tidy. It’s vacuumed and dusted, but not deeply clean and polished like it was maybe 10 years ago. I realized I don’t set aside official time dedicated to cleaning my house any more. It’s much more hit or miss.

The main thing, at least for me, is that I don’t entertain like I used to. A large group of us took turns having the group over. We cooked dinner, rented a video or played cards or scrabble or something. Sometimes we all went to the movies or just sat and talked for hours.

We even made it through the child care years, when kids were part of the deal. Then, as we grew older, members of the group started asking for special meals due to allergy or affliction, and it got harder and harder to meet all of the food demands. We gradually started meeting at restaurants, where the vegans and the gluten free and the spice allergic could order what they needed.

The upshot? Few people come and spend an evening at my house any more. No cleaning frenzy is required to prepare for the big show. I clean just to please myself. I like it neat but I don’t drive myself crazy like I used to.

My wife prefers a very high level of clean and organized (except her closet). I certainly help, but she is the main force behind it. Our house is ready for guests 95% of the time and can be ready in about an hour the other 5% (although we rarely have guests). She was raised that way and isn’t comfortable unless things are pretty ship shape. It’s nice, but she puts a lot of stress on herself that is sometimes unnecessary.

My other point is that this thread has made me reaslize how rarely I am in other peoples’ houses these days. Other than occasional invites to a party or holiday meal, we are never in anyone’s home but our own. I don’t think it used to be that way.

I wonder if the more relaxed views towards non-tidiness is just a part of a bigger relaxation of “keeping up appearances” in general.

The era of the super clean house was also the era when you couldn’t show a pregnant woman or a married couple in bed on TV. No one talked about mental illness or marital problems. People didn’t curse as much, and they worried over their clothes more. Airing your dirty linen just wasn’t done.

Maybe people started to chill out once TV moved away from Ward and June and moved towards Dan and Roseanne.

I have friends with toddlers (and cats) on two ends of the cleanliness scale. One has an immaculate house no matter when you pop in, the other is just gross dirty. This kind of fits with their personalities and what goes on in their heads.

The other people I know with kids, their houses aren’t gross dirty but often untidy. Kids just explode everywhere. Parents would be a little insane to be able to keep it contained all the time (like one of my friends, above) especially if they hold jobs outside of child care. If it gets too dusty, they dust. If it gets crumby, they vacuum. If that can’t be achieved, they hire someone to come do it every 2 weeks.

As a single person with no kids, I keep it fairly tidy here. I don’t make much mess and I clean every weekend. If I miss a weekend you probably wouldn’t notice. I also have to take care of a half acre of yard by myself so really I need to dedicate about 3-5 hours a week to cleaning and yard work. My house is probably cleaner than most single people I know…but I don’t know too many of them!

My parents are retired and before they started watching my nieces so much, they were crazy clean over there. You couldn’t put something down for a minute before it got put away somewhere else. Now that they watch the kids, they do tidy up every day when the children leave but dusting and vacuuming get put off for weeks at a time because they’re so tired.

My apartment is just shy of “Hoarder”. I have a lot of stuff, and I’m not getting rid of it, I’m getting more. Things may be organized in piles (on tables, not the floor), but I know where everything is.

Every now and then I’ll clean something up, like last weekend when I went through a large bin and tossed about half of it, being old computer cables, power cords and the like.

My sister shudders every time she walks in, but where she spends hours and hours of her time keeping her house meticulously clean, I spend those hours doing things I enjoy. (I dunno, perhaps she enjoys all that cleaning.)

Back when I had a house and frequent guests, I would spend time keeping the ‘public’ areas in at least some semblance of respectable presentability. That isn’t the case in my small, one bedroom apartment. Should I be in a house again, I will return to the “These areas CLEAN” lifestyle.

This, and also the sheer number of items in my home is three or four times what my parents or grandparents had in theirs.

There’s clean versus tidy as mentioned. Except in designated areas (my big craft table, for example) everything is put in its place in my house. But there’s a layer of dust and I don’t vaccuum too often. I don’t have pets or kids so it never gets terrible, but eventually someone is coming to stay and I do a deepish clean, certainly of the bathrooms.

It’s all my recliner’s fault. Somehow it has managed to surround itself with my laptop, knitting, origami, journal and assorted colored pens, plus an assortment of shoes and dog beds. That’s the living room. The basement is the serious craft area in which things just materialize. I have surrendered.

:slight_smile: My subterranean lair is one big room with a TV/lounge area and craft area – every once in a while I have to return everything that mysteriously crept from the craft area over to my couch.

Thats a good point. TV did set an ideal people tried to keep.