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The modern woman's dirty secret

Date

Bryony Gordon

Shameful ... many women are embarrassed to admit that they enjoy housework.

Shameful ... many women are embarrassed to admit that they enjoy housework.

My name is Bryony Gordon and I have a dirty secret. I love cleaning. I mean I really love it. If cleanliness is next to godliness, one day I shall be made a saint - a saint with an exceptionally well-polished halo and a nice line in rubber gloves.

As the sun streamed through the windows last weekend, highlighting every bit of dust and slight smear of dirt in my home, I did not think: ''Oh no, I am going to have to waste a glorious day up to my elbows in muck.'' Instead, I got up at 8am with joy in my heart and a bottle of bleach in my hand. Because I love the smell of bleach more than any perfume.

It came as no surprise to me, then, to read that one out of three women secretly loves cleaning. Researchers have discovered that many find the process ''relaxing'', ''satisfying'' and ''therapeutic'', though only four in 10 would admit this to a partner - possibly due to horrid sexual stereotypes. I have no such qualms. My boyfriend enjoys tidying almost as much as I do. We fight over who gets to wash up (''me!'' ''No, me!''). We quarrel over whose turn it is to do the vacuuming. And we often have arguments over the iron which will one day end in third-degree burns.

The study found vacuuming, tidying and wiping surfaces clean are the chores women most enjoy. Cleaning the toilet and the oven are not so popular. On average, more than four hours a week are spent cleaning - ''more'' being the key word here, given that on Sunday I spent six hours vacuuming, washing, dusting and raking the garden of old leaves and cigarette butts (so satisfying).

To me, the most shocking thing about this survey isn't that a third of women enjoy cleaning, it is that two-thirds of them don't. Perhaps that is simply because I have chronic obsessive compulsive disorder. Most likely it is because we have been brought up to see cleaning as a chore, as something put-upon women of the 1950s did while their husbands earned money and seduced their secretaries.

The idea of a woman tending to her house became dirty, filthy, shameful, each mop of the floor a violent blow to feminism. But now that having a cleaner is no longer a Downton Abbey-style luxury and more of a middle-class necessity, the humble art of tidying has practically become a lifestyle choice. A hobby, even, akin to those trendy fashionistas who claim to knit and crochet in their spare time.

There is nothing more delightful than the sound of debris being sucked up a vacuum cleaner. Who could fail to be aroused - yes, aroused - by mopping away spillages from the kitchen floor? There is simply no lovelier way to spend a Sunday evening than ironing in front of the television; the smell of fresh starch and orange-and-pomegranate ironing water filling the room and your bed linen.

As saintly as this all sounds, the truth is that my love of cleaning is entirely self-serving. It makes me feel smug and allows me to cleanse myself of all sorts of other sins, such as coming home drunk and forgetting to pay the bills. Nobody can get cross with you if you have spent two hours cleaning the oven.

Tidying is a good way to claim superiority and get what you want. Indeed, there's a new survival guide for frustrated wives by a woman named Kerri Sackville. It is called When My Husband Does the Dishes (He Usually Wants Sex!). But it can work the other way around, too.

The Telegraph, London

229 comments

  • Yes how shocking that two thirds of women don't enjoy brain dead unpaid labour. I can never understand (and I don't really like) those women who "love cleaning", I think they are tedious pedantic women who have nothing better to do. I can be certain that I will not get to the end of my life and think "gee I wish I had done more cleaning, those windows could have really used one last once-over". How bloody ridiculous, it's a stereotype that men love and some women love to perpetuate

    Commenter
    sam
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 2:21PM
    • Gold.

      Commenter
      J
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 6:05PM
    • I think women who love cleaning are either control freaks, or emotionally needy. Or both.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 7:55AM
    • A clean home is a sign of a wasted life

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 8:54AM
    • I'm a man and I enjoy cleaning quite a bit.

      I suppose that means I'm a terrible person just like any woman who admits enjoying cleaning apparently is?

      Commenter
      Christian
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 9:22AM
    • "A clean home is a sign of a wasted life"? Could only be sarcasm.

      Commenter
      afberendsen
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 9:46AM
    • You have obviously never experienced the joy of wiping down a benchtop with a brand new sponge - the freedom given to women these days to follow their own dreams and experience such things as education, travel, liberated social lives etc has only made us realise that vacuuming and a good wood finish were the greatest joys ever bestowed on us. I am as shocked as the author that 2/3 of women have not embraced their love of cleaning - I think they are in denial.

      I am really glad we have come so far in the world that the stigma of cleaning has been extinguished and I can dedicate the rest of my life to my one true passion without shame.

      [insert sarcasm throughout]

      Commenter
      Mynx
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 9:55AM
    • Ah...HELLO?...do we live in a third world country????
      Of course cleaning is important. It has nothing do to social status folks. Bl..dy hell.
      OOh...must not be known for the cleaning and cooking...ooh...we're too good for that. (sarcasm)

      Commenter
      Bella
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 11:33AM
    • A person who refuses to clean their house is not necessarily a feminist - but is certainly is a filthy grub.

      Lets not confuse social standards with basic health standards.

      Commenter
      AK
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 12:39PM
    • No sarcasm. Trust. Getting excited over wiping down a benchtop or cleaning behind furniture just shows that you don't know what true excitement is. What a waste of a life.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 1:51PM

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