Who Cares About A Clean House?

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this post is written and sponsored by Maid Brigade. i worked closely with them to deliver content around sharing information about household chores and getting the whole family involved. after all, it is everyone’s responsibility especially if both spouses work outside of the home!


Marie Stegner is a wife, mother, RN and Consumer Health Advocate and blogger for Maid Brigade, a house cleaning service whose mission is to improve the quality of life of everyone touched with the brand.marie  Stegner fields a lot of questions about the health aspect of the company’s green cleaning program but she wishes she had a quarter for every time someone asked her whether hiring Maid Brigade can save their marriage!

her answer? maybe – but for sure Maid Brigade can put an end to conflict about who’s doing the housecleaning. realizing how universal this issue is for couples and families, she wrote this blog for us. enjoy!


Who cares about a clean house?

At the start of my marriage 17 years ago, I spent much of my time decorating and keeping my home spotless. My husband used to say, “Why are you cleaning so much when it’s only going to get messed up anyway?” I used to get so upset with him because he didn’t care as much about cleaning nor did he clean as well as I did. I would be the one to take care of all the cleaning before my in-laws came to visit. And because I was doing it alone, I would end up staying up very late to get everything done. So the holidays became a stress, but only for me. Soon, our differences in cleaning and taking responsibility of the chores became a real friction point in our relationship. I was not alone, but I didn’t know it.

More females than males think others in the household care less than they do about having a clean home (48% vs 30%), according to a survey conducted by Maid Brigade this past spring. That’s not really a surprise, but more of a validation. But here’s the thing: Women are equally split between feeling that others care less than or the same as they do (47.1% vs 47.7%) AND only 30% of men say others care less than they do! I’m not alone – we have a problem!

Add the emotional and financial stress of the holidays, visiting relatives and flu season to the everyday stresses we all experience and we find ourselves – and our nerves – stretched tighter and tighter. We do not need arguments or ill-will over who’s doing the cleaning chores to create a flashpoint between spouses and families. For a healthy relationship and a functional household when both parents work, it is so important that everyone chip in. That is what commitment and partnership is all about.

I work three part-time jobs during the day, and my teenagers are also frantically busy trying to balance work, school, jobs, sports, and friends….which requires my support (well – really, transport!). The busier I got, the harder it became to clean. And find the motivation to clean.

But I really think the tipping point came when my husband started working nights as general manager of a busy restaurant chain. With all of us coming and going at different times, I found myself more isolated than ever. I felt alone in doing the household chores, but also felt alone because we hardly ever got to enjoy each other’s company. And we are living under the same roof!

Re-shaping the problem

That’s when I decided to start looking at the problem differently. I recast my view of chores as an opportunity for together time. At the same time, I knew I needed to find a way to get my husband and kids to take that same view. Sounds impossible, right? I was successful and you can be too. What worked for us may not work for you, but at least it will open up your mind to a new way of looking at the problem – which is the beginning of any successful change.

Absent volunteers: Is it a lack of willingness? Or direction?

So instead of allowing myself continued feelings of resentment, I finally gave my husband the benefit of the doubt and opened up to the possibility that maybe he was willing to help, but just didn’t know how.


My husband is a certified “list maker.” I have come to realize that if I tap into this natural inclination, by leaving him small lists of things that have to get done, he does them – no questions asked. It takes a few seconds to make a small but meaningful list for him each day. All I have to do is place it on the counter near the sports page and believe it or not, things get done! This has been working tremendously well for us! When he is home, he cooks. He usually cooks breakfast and I cook dinner. If he cooks, I clean up. If I cook, he cleans up.

The secret of “the list” is that it changes every day. It is not a long list, but it does work. I find that if you tell a man what you want, 9 times out of 10, you may just get it!

Choose participation over perfection

I will always yearn for that impeccably clean home that only I know how to achieve, but I realized that having extra help with the chores, decorating, cooking and errands means a lot more. I’ve had to adjust my expectations of what makes a home “clean” and lower my standards a bit, but I love myself too much to go overboard on chores. And, I love having the quality time the chores bring our family. It’s more rewarding than a perfectly clean home.

Yes, I said it. Together, cleaning is quality time. We actually have fun with chores and you can too. There are different ways to do that, probably very specific to every family’s unique personalities and dynamics. But there’s one essential element to making household chores a source of quality family time – fostering a sense of group ownership.

It’s not “your room” and it’s not “your turn”

Cultivate in your spouse and kids the sense that it’s our home, therefore we take care of it. If you say to a kid, this is your room, clean it you’re giving her permission to say, this is my room; I can do whatever I want with it. No! The house belongs to everyone.

I never really assigned specific chores to my kids. Because of this, when I need help with something, I expect my children to help, no matter what. If you assign chores, you’re sort of giving them permission to not pitch in if it’s not their assigned day or chore. And I want to raise kids who are eager to pitch in, whenever.

The same thing applies to grown-ups. In the stereotypical house, Mom is in charge of what happens inside: cleaning, washing and feeding, while Dad is mostly in charge of what happens outside: swimming pool, fixing and mowing. This separation of responsibilities is a source of the conflict when instead, shared responsibility can have the opposite effect.


In the beginning of my transformation I tried a little experiment: “Let’s take ALL the household chores and do them together. Worst case, it will take us the same time. But at least we’ll have more fun.” So for one week we did ALL the chores together. And it actually was faster than usual. Everything was much easier and together, we did have fun.

So we’ve kept it up. And I have to say, when I ask them for help the response has changed from that you’re kidding me face to one that says ok, I guess. I’ll take that.

Family Traditions

Since my daughter was born on Thanksgiving 13 years ago, I have had Thanksgiving and a birthday celebration in my home every year. Not only are we celebrating two holidays in one gathering, we go a step further and make sure the house looks beautifully decorated with all the Christmas trimmings, including four small trees that we put up. Talk about added stress! I can look forward to this every year, because I have help. And good company.

This holiday season, start a new tradition in your family of sharing in the work – one that can last year-round. Here are some ideas on how to motivate your spouse and kids to pitch in, create a cleaner more organized home and have fun spending time together:

  1. Set the table together. As long as everyone is around to help set the table, it is a family activity. Even the youngest kids can bring plates or forks to the table.
  2. Same with clearing the table. We have a rule in our house that clearing the table is done all the way to the kitchen. The rule is simple: as long as there is someone standing in the kitchen and doing something, everyone stays and finds something useful to do. You can still take turns washing the dishes, but if everyone else around is doing something to help (clearing the dishes, cleaning the table, cleaning the bench, throwing the rubbish out, wiping the counters) everyone is happy. Instead of hard work, it is easier, faster and much more fun, because you do it together.
  3. Fold the laundry together. If it takes one person an hour to fold, iron and hang the laundry in the cupboards, it takes four people 15 minutes and during that time, they can sing and tell jokes or just watch TV together. Little ones can fold underwear and match socks.
  4. Clear the garage together one weekend. At the beginning of the work, make sure you tell everyone what you expect them to do, what they can and cannot throw away and how long you are going to dedicate to it. Make it fun. Crank up the boom box. Create little contests. Plan a reward at the end that everyone can enjoy.
  5. Games and competition make people “want” to do chores instead of “have” to. When we come home from a picnic or a trip, we have a competition with ourselves. In the car, just before we get home, we talk about breaking our own record of putting everything back in its place. If one person does it, it takes forever, but if all five of us do it, we can clear a week’s camping trip in 20 minutes.
  6. Just like the house, the car belongs to everyone so everyone can take care of it. Well, drivers at least – which means me. By participating in one of the outside (Dad) activities, we can motivate our husbands to reciprocate by helping with an inside (Mom) chore.
  7. For really big cleanings like pre-holidays, spring cleaning, and back-to-school, consider hiring a professional cleaning service like Maid Brigade to lighten the load, so you can focus more on de-cluttering, home organization, closets, etc.

Remember, you shouldn’t be the only one stressed out about whether the house is clean, during the holidays or any time! Taking care of the house is everyone’s responsibility. So be sure to ASK for help. Leave notes. And create family time for cleaning, not cleaning time for family. In this way you can work together to make a beautiful home and make beautiful memories. Enjoy!

© Maid Brigade Inc., 2015

Have you run into issues with division of chores in your home?


  1. Kate

    December 2, 2015 at 9:43 am

    A few months after we first moved into our new house, my husband said “what are wed doing this weekend?” To which I tersely replied, “cleaning all the bathrooms! After that experience, we hired local cleaners to come bi-weekly and it made a huge difference. We still have chores to do, and we try to do those together. It definitely goes faster, and makes me feel less resentful–like you, I was mad that I was the only one who seemed to care about cleaning! I’ve realized that my husband does care, he just needs to know. If I see dirty dishes or laundry, I know to put them away or clean them. My husband, on the other hand, needs an actual list or to be told what to do–he just doesn’t notice those things, and that’s okay!
    Kate recently posted…Thoroughly Modern Traditions: Christmas Ornaments

    • chelsea

      December 7, 2015 at 10:33 am

      love that you have bi-weekly cleaners coming – that is something we hope to have someday soon too. glad you are figuring out what your husband needs (like a tangible list) in order to know what to do. glad you are working on it kate!

  2. Audrey

    December 3, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Cleaning is definitely a point of contention in our home =/
    I tend to take on all the chores, sometimes because I prefer perfection and sometimes because my husband just doesn’t want to do them. I’ve come at him saying I feel under-appreciated and overworked in our own house. It’s definitely something we work on daily. I think he’s willing to help, he just needs direction. What a great post!
    Audrey recently posted…Negative Nancy & #Hashtags

    • chelsea

      December 7, 2015 at 10:32 am

      i’ve been there too audrey but i am really happy to hear you are able to come to him and let him know you are feeling under-appreciated and overworked. it’s something we work on too. hopefully the post gave you some ideas on how he can get that direction so you aren’t left feeling like you have to do it all.

      sometimes we play backgammon or cards for the gross chores (like a deep bathroom clean) so that might be an idea too!

  3. Pingback: Who Cares About A Clean House? | Maid Brigade of Raleigh

  4. Michelle

    February 26, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Well, sometimes hiring a cleaner is the best option. I don’t have the time and when I have free time I want to rest. My boyfriend refuses to help 🙁 So I told him to hire someone. He did!