The Hideously Pointless Nature of Housework (AKA, Why I Love 'Downton Abbey')

Rant 73

Last Sunday I spent my entire morning doing housework: vacuuming, wiping counters, picking up toys/clothes/random piles of crap, running load after load of laundry. By late afternoon, you couldn't tell I'd done a single thing. Toys were strewn everywhere, at least three different people of the male persuasion had tracked mud and pine needles all over the floor, there was a pile of dirty dishes sitting in the sink despite the invitingly-emptied dishwasher, and the kitchen table was blanketed in a thick layer of crumbs. Also, a pair of socks had been carelessly tossed onto a lamp. SOCKS. ON A LAMP.

"That's it," I said through gritted teeth while surveying the damage. "I am on STRIKE."

Here's what I didn't do for a full week: I didn't wipe the kitchen counters, I didn't vacuum the floors, I didn't put dirty clothes in the laundry, and I didn't take clean clothes out. I didn't fill the dishwasher or empty it, I didn't swab toothpaste off the mirror, and I didn't pick up a single, solitary toy.

By the end of the week, my husband and sons had painful dents in their feet from stepping on scattered LEGOs, their arms stuck unpleasantly to the table surface during meals, and they were forced to wear Ninjago pajamas to school and shorts to the office because they had no clean clothes. Finally, they understood all the work I typically did around the house, and they promised to help more if only I'd end my strike.

Later, I basked in the glow of their belated appreciation, while I leisurely ate a salted caramel chocolate truffle and directed my husband to the corner of the room where he'd missed a spot with the vacuum.

I am of course making ALL OF THAT UP, because do you know what would ACTUALLY happen if I went on strike? The house would instantly morph into a repulsively unlivable Hoarders-esque biohazard zone and NO ONE WOULD CARE BUT ME.

I don't think my husband really understands why I get so frustrated by the Sisyphean nature of housework. In his mind, we have a decent balance: he takes care of maintenance work and financial stuff, while I'm generally in charge of making sure the house doesn't collapse under the weight of its own filth. It's not that I don't appreciate what he does—after all, he's the obvious choice for it since I am exactly as terrified of ladders as I am of calculators—but his tasks are different. They have a conclusion. If you change a lightbulb, it stays changed ... sometimes for, like, years at a time. Even bill-paying is only done once a month, for god's sake.

In comparison, housework must be done over and over and over and over and over and over. It doesn't have a beginning or an ending: it just is. There is always laundry, there are always dirty dishes, there is never a square yard of carpet that does not have at least one non-carpet item on it.

Housework is maddening because it's unrewarding. It's hard work with no payoff. You can bask in the glow of a neatened, shining house—but you'd better do it fast, because if you live with three oblivious penis-bearing mammals like I do (not to mention one surly long-haired cat), that brief moment of cleanliness is going to disappear in the amount of time it takes you to blink.

And yet as frustrating as it is to DO it, it's even worse if you DON'T, because whatever shot you have at keeping the entropy at bay is entirely dependent on your constant vigilance. Stop vacuuming for three days and it's like a door opens to another dimension—a hellish existence where a bitter wind eternally whistles over a feculent and lifeless moor, and your very soul is befouled with unspeakable, verminous substances. O, there but for a Bissell go I!

So I've basically come to the depressing realization that it takes hours of dreary, unpleasant work each week just to keep things in my house looking generally sort of gross and untidy. My bar is dismally low, and still I must continually clamber over it or all is lost.

All of this is, I feel, one of the main reasons I've come to be so obsessed with Downton Abbey. Yes, the characters are fascinating and the storyline is gripping, but honestly, the biggest romance factor of the entire show isn't between Anna and Mr. Bates—it's the idea of having an entire STAFF to CLEAN MY FAMILY'S CRAP.

Do you ever get bogged down by the never-ending nature of housework? How do you deal?

Image via Linda Sharps

home life


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Mrs.C... Mrs.Crain

I could go for a whole staff to clean up after my family too!! Sure would be nice! I always say, "My husband and I need a house wife!" .

happy... happymama2D

Ha!  LOVE this!!  My favorite thing is when I am doing  the laundry ... after I went through the entire house and picked up every dirty article of clothing, towel, etc., I could find and proudly fold and put away the last item ..... only to see that the hampers in the boys rooms and our room somehow magically have dirty clothes in them already!!!  WTH???  It's been an hour!!!

tinyp... tinypossum

I deal by having cleaners come in twice a month. It makes managing the filth in between a lot easier. But, the mind boggles at the sheer, never-ending volume of it. 

Lindsey Stanisci

I gotta say this is so true. The cleanliness of the house was the one thing that my husband and I fought over constantly so... well, I might be spoiled, but we have cleaning ladies come in once a week now and clean the house. If you've ever been looking for something to spend extra money on, THIS IS IT. Forget vacation. Forget anything else. Cleaning ladies are the greatest invention ever. I think that soon because of their general weekly upkeep I'm going to cut down to every other week, but it's fantastic and you'll never realize just how much it helps. I always thought, "I could do that myself," but you know what? Nope. Nope, I'll never do anything with the diligence they do. I write them little notes with hearts and xoxo's because I love them. Ohh so much. They probably think I'm insane.

nonmember avatar Amanda

Reading this makes me very, very thankful to have a husband who splits the housework with me--actually he does more than me. I'd go completely insane if I had to do what you are describing.

Littl... LittleFrogsMA

Men who toss cleaning onto their wives and then fail to do basic things like put their underwear in the hamper are disrespectful.


Everyone in a family needs to clean up after themselves to some extent.  Dirty clothes need to be put in the hamper by the person who wore them.  Dirty dishes should be rinsed and put in the dishwasher.  Toys should be put up by the child who got them out.   


Granted, some of this is age depedent.  It is not reasonable to expect a 3 year old to rinse their dishes.  But there is no excuse for your husband not to pick up after himself.

angsh... angshewas

"NO ONE WOULD CARE BUT ME."  Yep, exaclty.  I'm stuck in the same trap, and I'm sure we're not alone.  *sigh*

the4m... the4mutts

LittleFrogs has the right idea. It is completely disrespectful of all family members of an aproperiate age to NOT be helping a reasonable amount.

Stay at home mother does not = maid. My job is to raise productive members of society. They will not learn this if they do not help. And they will not help if they don't have a proper example to follow.

nonmember avatar ruthless1

Early on in my marriage my husband and I actually had a cleaning stand off and I went on strike. It was so freaking miserable...and it ended when there were gnats flying around the mound of dirty dishes in the sink. Gnats. That my husband didnt even notice. That was when I realized that as unfair as it is, the burden falls on the neater person because the messy ones really dont care and you cant get them to care. either work as hard as it takes to make yourself comfortable or you live in filth. I would rather do the housework and be comfortable.

PonyC... PonyChaser

Agreed with the "kids need to be taught", but that can't happen if BOTH parents aren't setting the example. Anyone who has watched ten seconds of a Dr. Phil show on parenting will be able to parrot his favorite line: a child's strongest influence is the same-sex parent. I've seen it first-hand. A mother can set the best example in the world, pick up every ounce of flotsam that she uses, put away every scrap of paper and every pen that she ever takes out, but a son will not follow suit, because his father lives like Pig Pen (Peanuts). And suddenly Mom turns into a nagging harpy because SHE is the only one who 'cares'.

It takes two - and the one who sits down on the job is the one who sabotages it. Mom can't do it all on her own.

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