The number one infinite project
In our daily lives, there are some projects that are never ending no matter how much time we spend on them. The number one infinite project is cleaning your home. You can spend enormous amounts of time on this. Or you can decide that there are more urgent things in your life and therefore you try to keep cleaning time in check.
Let’s face it, it’s mostly us women that do the cleaning. I know that men are taking on more responsibility regarding household matters. But when it comes to cleaning, this is still mainly female territory.
- When did cleaning become so important?
- Why are we so preoccupied with maintaining an impeccable home?
- Is a little dust in the corners dangerous to our health?
This cleanliness is a rather new trend that started during the industrial revolution and the urbanization that followed.
When household chores included a wider range of tasks
Prior to the industrialization, people were mostly living in the countryside. Indeed, women did most of the household chores. However, these duties contained so much more compared to today. Womens’ housework included things like milking the cows, tending to the kitchen garden, feeding the chickens, working in the fields etc. Women worked very hard, but cleaning was not the number one priority simply because they had so many other more important things to do.
When people moved into the city a lot of the tasks performed by women disappeared. While the men went to work in the factories, the women were left in the tiny apartments with nothing left to do but to cook, clean and look after the kids.
This is when the art of cleaning started to flourish. A spotless home became the symbol of good character. Only the feeble-minded or people with poor character had dirty homes.
Technical innovations doesn’t equal freedom
During the 20th century, technical innovations such as vacuum cleaner, laundry and dish washer, electrical ovens etc were invented. With the post world war boost in the economy, these items soon became the property of every household. Also, with better health care, the mortality rate for children dropped, leading to women giving birth to fewer babies. You would think that these innovations and fewer kids to take care of would free the women to do what they wanted to. On the contrary, maintaining a perfect home became even more important and now that we had started to learn more about germs we were determined to have them extinct from our homes using all kinds of chemicals.
Are the dust bunnies hazardous to your health?
But is there bacteria in the dust we clean away so vigorously? No, in fact, it is mostly abacterial. It doesn’t cause any diseases. Even holding onto the rail in the escalator on the subway will mostly likely not make you sick. Most diseases spread through aerosols that come through the air. Facial masks are the only thing that could stop them.
I bet you have seen a photograph of an agar plate with a handprint on it, revealing the huge amount of bacteria that reside there. I bet you also have heard how much germs there is on a cell phone. Indeed, there are a lot of bacteria on your hands and on your cell phone, but they are harmless skin bacteria. They will not make you sick. In fact, your skin is the first defense against enemies. You need to take care of it and not clean it too excessively.
Can too much cleaning cause allergies?
Lately, allergies have started to be a problem. Something almost unheard of just a few decades ago is now a common condition among children. What this increase in allergies depends upon is not entirely scientifically proven, but it has been shown that kids who grow up on farms or with animals in the household have a lower risk of developing allergies. Also, younger siblings compared to first born children have a lower risk. This implies that a little dirt in the corners could actually be good for you.
Women stop cleaning!
When women started to work outside the household, the perception of having to maintain a spotless home remained. Leaving women with two full time jobs.
In today’s world, cleaning is still a woman’s job. It’s expected of her. When a man is alone with the kids for a few days he is excused for not keeping the house in perfect shape. A woman, however, is sentenced to being a bad wife and mother. Letting her kids play among the dust bunnies. This verdict usually comes from other women, the men couldn’t care less.
It’s up to us women to stop this cleaning frenzy and focus on what is important in life. Throw out your cleaning schedule and instead clean only when you really feel that you can’t stand it anymore. Resist the urge to have the house in perfect shape when guests come over. This reduces stress on your part and sets the tone for your guests so that when they invite you to their home, they don’t feel the pressure of perfection.
So put away the vacuum cleaner and do something that you’ve been longing to do instead. Tidying up can always wait until tomorrow!
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