I’ve got a secret. My house is a mess. And it’s not just a mess because I hate housework. (I do!) But, there’s a story I learned that taught me, it’s not the dust bunny’s fault.
My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you? – Erma Bombeck
Unfortunately, I have found very little that doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator, or some other important access point. No matter what you call it: household duties, home economics, domestic engineering, or home management; Women still spend more time doing it than men. According to the American Time Use Survey, women spend 2.6 hours per day on household activities, compared to 2.1 hours for men. To add insult to injury, Forbes.com reported on a Norwegian study that revealed the divorce rate was higher in couples who shared homemaking duties equally.
Shocking how much time women spend doing housework in this modern age of multiple electronic conveniences, isn’t it? True housework in the nineteenth century was difficult, full-time work. And modern conveniences relieved many back-breaking chores. Yet by the mid-twentieth century, women spent more time cleaning than their predecessors. By 2012 more women work outside of the home than ever, and still, women spent more time performing household duties than in 2011. How can this be?
The Mysteries of Housework
I first suspected a something was amiss when, as a young woman, I lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment. I was proud of that abode and cleaned it till its shine forced any who entered to wear sunglasses. But there were problems. A single girl does not create much mess. Picking up, putting things away, a wipe here and there and it should be good, right? But, nnnoooo. Dust bunnies plagued me. Socks disappeared overnight. And woe betides the barefooted sleepwalker expecting to step onto a warm carpet in the bathroom, for mystery of mysteries, the carpet moved to a different corner of the bathroom EVERY night.
Later, as a married woman, my chores didn’t just double, they quadrupled! Wishing to work smarter, not harder, and determined to uncover these mysteries, I set up housework cams (long before someone stole my idea and called it a nanny cam). I viewed hours and hours of video and could see the dusty, soap scum aftermath and clutter appear mere hours after I’d cleaned, but I could not spy the culprit. At least, not until I slowed the camera speed way down.
Armies of dust bunnies and legions of dust mites whirled around the room, leaving eddies of filth behind them. I was certain I could beat them. I cleaned and dusted and vacuumed around the clock. Alas, I soon collapsed with housemaid fever, a rare and serious malady that starts with a stuffy head and quickly progresses to debilitating joint pain and oh-my-aching-back-itis.
Dust Bunny Trap
By the time I recovered, filth and grime covered my home. It was time to get serious. I laid a dust bunny trap and caught one that very night!
I interrogated the culprit. It took hours. But eventually, the poor dust bunny confessed that he was nothing but a minion of the soap scum bubblers.
More determined than ever to rid my home of this plague, I devised a trap for the scum. Catching the darn things was trickier than the dust bunnies, but I prevailed. Lest you follow my lead, heed my warning, interrogating a soap scum bubbler is not for the faint of heart. And after many days of devious interrogation efforts, I learned that even the scum were mere minions. He sent me in search of the notorious web-makers.
Oh, the horror! I dread spiders more than rodents or snakes. Still, I needed to find the answers, not just for me, but for all womankind! I’ll never know where I found the courage, but one dark and stormy night I succeeded! I trapped a spider. A big one! I shudder to remember the torments I heaped upon the many-legged one. Finally, deprived of yet another web and the food it would bring, she collapsed and told me the secret.
Not the Dust Bunny’s Fault
It began, she whispered, in the Garden of Good and Evil. The garden was not only peaceful and beautiful but scrupulously clean. Each creature took pride in picking up after himself, even Adam. And then Eve came along. Adam and all of earth’s creatures adored Eve and she, them. So when Eve dropped the first apple core, the creatures figured she wasn’t feeling well and picked it up for her. Their love for her was so great that when she and Adam moved from the Garden to a one-level, one room condo-by-the-sea, all the creatures went too.
Soon it wasn’t just Eve dropping a few crumbs. Adam began dropping things, too. From a few leftovers, it quickly grew to carelessly tossed togas, waste parchment, and stinky abandoned sandals.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Adam and Eve did the same thing outside. Soon the creatures had to organize three shifts, working 24 a day to maintain the same garden-like quality to their home. Finally, the creatures grew tired and resentful of the humans’ thoughtlessness. So the creatures got together and went on strike.
During the strike, things grew grimy. The filth and clutter piled up. Adam and Eve were oblivious. So the creatures encouraged the soap scum bubblers and the dust bunnies to double their efforts. Soon, there were knee-high piles of dust bunnies and the soap scum so thick that Adam could only get one foot in the tub. Eve screeched at the sight of so many dust bunnies. Adam thundered at the soap scum. And the two of them dove into a mighty cleaning effort. They picked up and scrubbed and swept in a mad flurry. Unfortunately, in their madness, they didn’t see that they were throwing their friends, the creatures, out of the house.
From that day forward, the soap scum bubblers and the dust bunnies had a new purpose in life–to make themselves visible to the humans so that housecleaning would happen at least once a week.
The spider breathed the last of her story, laid a bellyful of eggs, and died. In honor of their mother’s sacrifice, I released them.
And to tell you the truth, I haven’t had the heart to move a single dust bunny nor scour away a single ring of scum bubblers ever since. In fact, after a great deal of thought, I’ve realized there’s no excuse for allowing one creature to be a minion of another. Don’t you agree?
You do? Then join me. Put down your brooms, your dust mops, and scrubbers! Free the dust bunnies, scum bubblers, and spiders! Let’s end this housework conspiracy once and forever!