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Housework

  • Of all hateful occupations, housekeeping is to my mind the most hateful.

  • When all else fails, cleaning house is the perfect antidote to most of life's ills.

  • It is never the other woman's dust that annoys, just our own.

  • To some women, housekeeping is like being caught in a revolving door.

  • A sparkling house is a fine thing if the children aren't robbed of their luster in keeping it that way.

  • Housework's the hardest work in the world. That's why men won't do it.

  • My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk until I faint.

  • The day I worry about cleaning my house is the day Sears comes out with a riding vacuum cleaner.

    • Roseanne Barr,
    • in Geraldine Barr with Ted Schwarz, My Sister Roseanne ()
  • Cleaning your house / While your kids are still growing / Is like shoveling the walk / Before it stops snowing.

  • If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door, greet him with, 'Who could have done this? We have no enemies.'


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  • To get a roaster clean, send something like baked apples in it to a neighbor. Neighbors always return pans spotless, and you won't have to use a blow torch on it like you usually do.


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  • Our house has gone past the 'lived in' look. It has more a 'no survivors' look.

  • I'm eighteen years behind on my ironing. There's no use doing it now, it doesn't fit anybody I know!

  • I buried a lot of my ironing in the back yard.

    • Phyllis Diller,
    • in Barbara McDowell and Hana Umlauf, Woman's Almanac ()
  • Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?

  • There is a woman who swam around Manhattan, and I asked her, why? She said, it hadn't ever been done before. Well, she didn't have to do that. If she wanted to something no one had ever done before, all she had to do was vacuum my apartment.

    • Rita Rudner,
    • in Susan Wittig Albert, Writing From Life ()
  • Recall that not long ago, in our mothers' day, the standards were cruel but clear: every room should look like a motel room, only cleaner under the bed.

  • It's even occurred to me, as a teeny little subversive whisper of a thought, that if we stop mowing the lawn right now, it will probably be a long, long time before the yard gets overrun by lions and snakes.

  • ... in a Home it must be order or ruin. Order is to the house as morality to the human being — a sheet-anchor.

  • As millions of women have done before me, I pulled domesticity over my head like a blanket and found I was still cold.

  • 'I hate discussions of feminism that end up with who does the dishes,' she said. So do I. But at the end, there are always the damned dishes.

  • At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.

    • Rose Macaulay,
    • "Problems of a Woman's Life," A Casual Commentary ()
  • Sweep the floor, and sweep it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that and every day of your life; — if not that floor, why then — some other floor.

  • I have a friend who loves housework. Honest, she loves all housework. All day long she moves from one chore to the next, smiling the whole time. I went over there one day and begged her to tell me her secret. It's simple, she said, right after breakfast you light up a joint.

    • Gabrielle Burton,
    • "No One Has a Corner on Depression But Housewives Are Working on It" (1976), in Gloria Kaufman and Mary Kay Blakely, eds., Pulling Our Own Strings ()
  • No one has a corner on depression, but housewives are working on it.

  • After living with Richard, I discovered that men are only good at cleaning stuff they can hose down.

  • There are two kinds of people in the world — those who have a horror of a vacuum and those with a horror of the things that fill it. Translated into domestic interiors, this means people who live with, and without, clutter.

  • Really living without clutter takes an iron will ... This involves eternal watchfulness and that oldest and most relentless of the housewife's occupations, picking up. I have a feeling that picking up will go on long after ways have been found to circumvent death and taxes.

  • My husband and I have figured out a really good system about housework: neither one of us does it.

    • Dottie Archibald,
    • in Gloria Kaufman and Mary Kay Blakely, eds., Pulling Our Own Strings ()
  • Every generation reinvents the wheel — and in the process it often adds to rather than subtracts from a woman's burdens.

  • It's the perpetually unfinished quality of housework that makes it oppressive — it never ends, like bad psychoanalysis, or a dream interrupted. It is paradoxically true that it is exactly this daily re-creation of the world that lends housekeeping its nobility and romance.

  • It took an alert person to find anything in that house; the demands of life were not watered down by deciding once and for all where everything was to be kept. 'A place for everything and everything in its place' is a help to the tired and slow-witted. None of the Raunces were. They lived like hunters in a forest, never sure of what they would find behind the next tree.

  • ... I feel domesticity just slipping off me. It is a choice. Either one can let it go or one can intensify it. The people who intensify it seem to get quite a lot of interest out of that, too, and are as preoccupied as pirates.

  • The only coherent fashion statement I can recall from the entire [feminist] movement was the suggestion that Mrs. Cleaver, Beaver's mom, would on the whole have been a happier woman had she not persisted in vacuuming while wearing high heels. This, I still believe.

  • ... you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excellent in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it — in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. ... And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page ... Had I not killed her she would have killed me.

  • Tools have their own integrity ...

  • All tools inevitably planned, / Stout friends, with pledge / Of service; with their crotchets too / That masters understand ...

  • ... domestic work is the most elementary form of labor. It is suitable for those with the intelligence of rabbits. All it requires is cleanlines, tidiness and quickness — not moral or intellectual qualities at all, but merely the outward and visible signs of health.

  • Hatred of domestic work is a natural and admirable result of civilization. ... The first thing a woman does when she gets a little money into her hands is to hire some other poor wretch to do her housework.

  • Domesticity is essentially drama, for drama is conflict, and the home compels conflict by its concentration of active personalities in a small area. The real objection to domesticity is that it is too exciting.

    • Rebecca West,
    • c. 1912, in Jane Marcus, ed., The Young Rebecca ()
  • To the woman with the least intelligence, there must come, at some time or other, the realization that housework is animal work and that there are other occupations in the world a thousand times more refined, more enriching, for which she is also suited and to which she has a right.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1924, Linotte, the Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 3 ()
  • There is satisfaction in seeing one's household prosper; in being both bountiful and provident.

  • ... the labor of keeping house is labor in its most naked state, for labor is toil that never finishes, toil that has to be begun again the moment it is completed, toil that is destroyed and consumed by the life process.

  • Ironing is very bad for you.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter to John Quincy Adams (1786), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • I was born imagining myself with an apron on, with pies cooling on the window sill and babies crying upstairs. I thought that all that stuff would somehow anchor me to the planet, that it was the weight I needed to keep from just flying off into space.

  • Invisible, repetitive, exhausting, unproductive, uncreative — these are the adjectives which most perfectly capture the nature of housework.

  • Every time I try to talk to the cook, she scuttles down the cellar stairs and adds a hundred francs to the bill.

  • When men do the dishes it's called helping. When women do dishes, it's called life.

  • And just as a little thread of gold, running through a fabric, brightens the whole garment, so women's work at home, while only the doing of little things, like the golden gleam of sunlight runs through and brightens all the fabric of civilization.

  • When it comes to housework the one thing no book of household management can ever tell you is how to begin.

  • Have you ever taken anything out of the clothes basket because it had become, relatively, the cleaner thing?

  • The liberation of women from exclusive domesticity did not originate in feminist books, or a war, or a big inflation, although they contributed to its progress. The rising enrollment of women in the paid labor force is a straightforward consequence of the industrial revolution of two hundred years ago.

  • To be a housewife is to be a member of a very peculiar occupation, one with characteristics like no other. The nature of the duties to be performed, the method of payment, the form of supervision, the tenure system, the 'market' in which the 'workers' find 'jobs,' and the physical hazards are all very different from the way things are in other occupations.

  • The homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them.

  • Housekeeping ain't no joke.

  • I like the dry-cleaners. I like the sense of refreshment and renewal. I like the way dirty old torn clothes are dumped, to be returned clean and wholesome in their slippery transparent cases. Better than confesssion any day. Here there is a true sense of rebirth, redemption, salvation.

  • She reckoned as every new-fangled thing they got were somethin' more to take care of; just pilin' up worriments, she called it.

  • She had learnt the fundamental art of domestic happiness: that of creating appetites which she was able to satisfy.

  • [To her frequently needed plumber:] How would you like to be adopted? I'm sure it would be cheaper.

  • Everything truly important is washable.

  • I personally am inclined to approach [housework] the way governments treat dissent: ignore it until it revolts.

  • The products of domestic work, then, must necessarily be consumed; a continual renunciation is required of the woman whose operations are completed only in their destruction.

  • The worst of it all is that this labor [housework] does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable. Woman is tempted — and the more so the greater pains she takes — to regard her work as an end in itself. She sighs as she contemplates the perfect cake just out of the oven: 'it's a shame to eat it!' It is really too bad to have husband and children tramping with their muddy feet all over her waxed hardwood floors! When things are used they are soiled or destroyed — we have seen how she is tempted to save them from being used; she keeps preserves until they get moldy; she locks up the parlor.

  • Dwelling-place and food are useful for life but give it no significance: the immediate goals of the housekeeper are only means, not true ends.

  • ... there is a poetry in making preserves; the housewife has caught duration in the snare of sugar, she has enclosed life in jars.

  • ... it is a sad fate to be required without respite to repel an enemy instead of working toward positive ends, and very often the housekeeper submits to it in a kind of madness that may verge on perversion, a kind of sado-masochism. The maniac housekeeper wages her furious war against dirt, blaming life itself for the rubbish all living growth entails. When any living being enters her house, her eye gleams with a wicked light: 'Wipe your feet, don't tear the place apart, leave that alone!' She wishes those of her household would hardly breathe; everything means more thankless work for her. Severe, preoccupied, always on the watch, she loses joie de vivre, she becomes overprudent and avaricious, she shuts out the sunlight, for along with that come insects, germs, and dust, and besides, the sun ruins silk hangings and fades upholstery ... She becomes bitter and disagreeable and hostile to all that lives ...

  • Eating, sleeping, cleaning — the years no longer rise up toward heaven, they lie spread out ahead, gray and identical. The battle against dust and dirt is never won. Washing, ironing, sweeping, ferreting out rolls of lint from under wardrobes — all this halting of decay is also the denial of life; for time simultaneously creates and destroys, and only its negative aspect concerns the housekeeper.

  • Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.

  • ... I felt ridiculous and almost guilty about having someone in to clean my tiny flat ... [but] Z'mira was a 'find.' She only takes when you have two of something ...

  • No laborer in the world is expected to work for room, board, and love — except the housewife.

  • Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffered Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — 'Is this all?'

  • For a woman to get a rewarding sense of total creation by way of the multiple monotonous chores that are her daily lot would be as irrational as for an assembly line worker to rejoice that he had created an automobile because he tightened a bolt.

  • We have not outgrown a servant society; we've just rebaptized 'cook,' 'governess,' 'maid' and called her 'mother.' That technology has made these duties easier to perform doesn't affect the location of responsibility. Dependence on an unacknowledged and essentially unrewarded servant is not conducive to democratic respect for others.

    • Amélie Rorty,
    • in Sara Ruddick and Pamela Daniels, Working It Out ()
  • A woman needs only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn't, use the tape.

    • Phyllis Winter,
    • in Adair Lara, "Weigh the Cat -- and Other Life Lessons," San Francisco Chronicle ()
  • No two people have the same ideas about how often to take out the trash, how often to dry-clean the slipcovers, how many fingerprints on a windowpane definitely constitute 'filth.'

  • Domestic work, is, after all, both tedious and repetitive, and it is not surprising that most women and all men avoid as much of it as possible.

  • My remoteness from women's affairs could be seen from my surprise when I heard that needles had holes in them.

    • Chao Buwei Yang,
    • in Yuenren Chao, trans., Autobiography of a Chinese Woman ()
  • 'Well, Sarah, how do you like your work?' her former mistress asked in calling on her one day. 'I never thought of it before, but now that you speak,' she replied, 'I think the reason I like it so well is because everybody calls me Miss Clark.'

    • Sarah Clark,
    • in Lucy Maynard Salmon, Domestic Service ()
  • [On women's role in the home:] Every wife, mother and housekeeper feels at present that there is some screw loose in the household situation.

    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
    • in Annie Laurie Gaylor, ed., Women Without Superstition "No Gods--No Masters": The Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries ()
  • Spring is the usual period for house-cleaning and removing the dust and dirt which, notwithstanding all precautions, will accumulate during the winter months from dust, smoke, gas, etc.

  • ... there should be a place for everything, and everything in its place.

  • Early on my children thought a balanced meal was holding a hamburger with both hands. I learned not to ask Jim to take me someplace on vacation I hadn't been, for he'd suggest the kitchen.

  • Nothing a housewife does is of value in capitalist terms because it does not take place on the market and therefore does not contribute to the Gross National Product.

  • The three words every woman really longs to hear: I'll clean up.

  • The graveyards are full of women whose houses were so spotless you could eat off the floor. Remember the second wife always has a maid.

  • ... I make desperate attempts to turn 7G into House Beautiful in time for the home visit. I take more Clorox and wipe at the fingerprints that surround every light switch. Why, I wonder as I wipe, were we clawing at these light switches? It looks as if coal miners were trying to escape.

  • If woman's sole responsibility is of the domestic type, one class will be crushed by it, and the other throw it off as a badge of poverty. The poor man's motto, 'Woman's work is never done,' leads inevitably to its antithesis — ladies' work is never begun.

  • Housework hassles go on, are never resolved, and will probably extend into the afterlife ('Why am I the one who takes the clouds to the dry cleaners?').

  • I was not too stupid to learn, but too smart. Some instinct must have warned me that a woman accomplished in the domestic arts is frequently enslaved by them.

  • The worst thing about work in the house or home is that whatever you do it is destroyed, laid waste or eaten within twenty-four hours.

    • Lady Hasluck,
    • in Michèle Brown and Ann O'Connor, Woman Talk, vol. 1 ()
  • ... home life ... has been robbed by the removal of creative work. You cannot make women contented with cooking and cleaning and you need not try. The care of children occupies only five or ten years of the seventy. What are women to do with the rest? ... The time was when there was always something to do in the house. Now there is only something to be done.

  • The most conventional customs cling to the table. Farmers who wouldn't drive a horse too hard expect pie three times a day.

    • Ellen H. Richards,
    • in Helen Dodd and Ellen Henrietta Richards, The Healthful Farmhouse ()
  • Conran's Law of Housework — it expands to fill the time available plus half an hour.

  • ... I would rather lie on a sofa than sweep beneath it ...

  • ... when one married a man, it was clear to me, one married also the sink and the stove ...

  • The graveyards are full of women whose houses were so spotless you could eat off the floor. Remember the second wife always has a maid.

    • Heloise,
    • in The Saturday Evening Post ()
  • ... housework and childcare are exploitive when unshared ...

  • Damn all kitchens. May they burn to cinders, / the kitchens that steal our dreams, drain / our lives, eat our days ... / For our children's sakes, / Let us destroy these lonely kitchens.

    • Vimala,
    • "The Kitchen," in Susie Tharu and K. Lalita, eds., Women Writing in India ()
  • [On her lack of housekeeping skills:] People come over and go, 'Oh! Did you just move in?'

  • ... half-a-day's sewing would give me such a fit of depression and ennui as a week's idleness would not repair. ... I had rather wear a hair shirt than make a linen one, or alter a 'winter shawl.'

    • Geraldine Jewsbury,
    • 1841, in Mrs. Alexander Ireland, ed., Selections From the Letters of Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury to Jane Welsh Carlyle ()
  • Most women work one shift at the office or factory and a 'second shift' at home.

  • 'I don't mind sharing the work, but you'll have to show me how to do it.' Meaning: I ask a lot of questions and you'll have to show me everything every time I do it because I don't remember so good. Also, don't try to sit down and read while I'm doing my jobs because I'm going to annoy the hell out of you until it's easier to do them yourself.

  • People can say what they like about the eternal verities, love and truth and so on, but nothing's as eternal as the dishes.

  • ... this was one of the penalties of being a 'good' wife and mother. Her life was a mass of details, endless and entangled, all together, all unsorted: trivial things and important things wound into and against one another, all warring for her attention. Changing the goldfish water wasn't vital, but it couldn't wait; teaching the children their Bible was vital, but it could wait. Listening to them, growing with them, that was vital; but the bills had to be paid now, the dinner was burning right now ...

  • ... the unwaged condition of housework has been the most powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that housework is not work, thus preventing women from struggling against it, except in the privatized kitchen-bedroom quarrel that all society agrees to ridicule, thereby further reducing the protagonist of a struggle. We are seen as nagging bitches, not workers in struggle.

    • Silvia Federici,
    • "Wages Against Housework," Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle ()
  • [Housework] starve[s] the mind and soul. [It is a] slow, miserable death-in-life ...

  • More than thrift spurred me some summers to fill jars with pickles, fruit, and relishes. I was not the only one. You could walk down our alley and through open windows see bare-armed women sweating in kitchens, muscles popping up as they lifted hot jars out of the canning kettle, and you could smell the sharp vinegar and sweet fruit. ... You wanted to make something beautiful that would last. To retrieve something enduring from a hot day otherwise lost to children's ravenous need and many small failures. You wanted to save something. ... My jars of pickled beets had about them such a stained-glass-window ecclesiastic radiance that I used to say I wouldn't be surprised to find creatures from a crèche scene rise up, gather bundles, and walk out of the jar. ... You were not just making pickles or jam, you were making a memory. You were canning days that otherwise got lost. When winter's blossom-sized flakes drifted down on bare trees and you put pickles out onto the table or spread peach jam across a muffin, you were opening a photograph album. You were eating memory.

  • Remember that nothing will ever get done by anyone else if you do it. If you are the only person who worries about it, perhaps it isn't worth worrying about. If it is very important to you that you not live in a sty, then you must persuade everyone else that what is important to you counts.

    • Jane O'Reilly,
    • "Click! The Housewife's Moment of Truth," Ms. ()
  • Well, I thought, as I tidied up the kitchen, there's no question that a man who works all week needs to relax on the weekend. There's no question about that. There's only a question about this: What about a woman who works all week?

  • A man's home is his castle, and his wife is the janitor.

  • Nature abhors a vacuum. And so do I.

  • As a group, housewives to-day suffer more from social isolation and loss of purpose than any other social group, except, perhaps, the old.

    • Alva Myrdal,
    • in Alva Myrdal and Viola Klein, Women's Two Roles: Home and Work ()
  • Housework isn't bad in itself — the trouble with it is that it's inhumanely lonely.

    • Pat Loud,
    • in Pat Loud and Nora Johnson, Pat Loud: A Woman's Story ()
  • ... our souls are so crusted with housewifely moss, / That Fancy's bright furnace yields nothing but dross ...

    • Anne Grant,
    • "A Familiar Epistle to a Friend," The Highlanders and Other Poems ()
  • The average man has a carefully cultivated ignorance about household matters — from what to do with the crumbs to the grocer's telephone number — a sort of cheerful inefficiency which protects him ...

    • Cyrstal Eastman,
    • 1920, in Blanche Wiesen Cook, Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution ()
  • To sew is to pray. Men don't understand this. They see the whole but they don't see the stitches. They don't see the speech of the creator in the work of the needle. We mend. We women turn things inside out and set things right. We salvage what we can of human garments and piece the rest into blankets. Sometimes our stitches stutter and slow. Only a woman's eyes can tell. Other times, the tension in the stitches might be too tight because of tears, but only we know what emotion went into the making. Only women can hear the prayer.

  • ... domestic life, everyday life, exhausts even the deepest love.

  • I think housework is far more tiring and frightening than hunting is, no comparison, and yet after hunting we had eggs for tea and were made to rest for hours, but after housework people expect one to go on just as if nothing special had happened.

  • My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

  • The average male thinks that housework consists solely of two things: dishes and beds.

  • Mum kept the rest of the house so nice that it was in a perpetual state of suspended animation — there was no sign that anyone ever read, sewed, talked, left things about, or even dropped or broke them — whatever they did, she cleared it up almost before they had finished doing it. Even meals were cleared off the table the moment their mouths — or possibly only plates — were empty. ... Largely on the strength of these things, Mrs. Lamb had the reputation for being a wonderful wife and mother.

  • There are two types of dirt: the dark kind, which is attracted to light objects, and the light kind, which is attracted to dark objects.

  • You say being a housewife is the noblest call in the world ... You remind me of those company executives who ... praise the 'little guys' of their organization in their speeches.

  • There is a fifth child who lives at our house called 'Nobody.' ... 'Nobody' breaks windows, eats the frosting off cakes before company comes, leaves gallon boxes of ice cream on the kitchen counter before we leave the house for three hours, and delights in parking bicycles behind the car. 'Nobody' puts crayons in the clothes dryer and is not even tax-deductible!

  • [On her sculptor's studio in Austin, TX:] I sleep in a hammock, which requires no making up; I break an egg for my breakfast and sip it raw from the shell; I make lemonade in a glass and then rinse the glass — and my housework is done for the day.

    • Elizabet Ney,
    • c. 1905, in Louise Bernikow, The American Women's Almanac ()
  • ... laundry is akin to an eighth-grader's homework assignments: seldom, if ever, completely finished.

  • Domesticity was meat and drink to Mouse, and she liked taking care of people. She had done it for so long that it had become a habit with her.

  • Look you, I keep his house, and I wash, wring, brew, bake, scour, dress meat and drink, make the beds, and do all myself. 'Tis a great charge to come under one body's hand.

  • Housework is a never-ending road to an extremely temporary destination.

  • The American home is getting dirtier. People have better things to do with their time than clean.

  • The scorn men express for a male who does housework is exceeded only by their aversion to a woman who doesn't.

    • Penny Kome,
    • Somebody Has to Do It: Whose Work Is Housework?
    • ()
  • [On children:] Being built closer to the floor, they can dust the baseboards in half the time.

  • At home they shared the chores of living as some couples do — she did most of the work and he appreciated it.

  • Sweater made of wool / Does not go in the laundry / Oh well, too late now.

  • Is today the day / Garbage truck driving away / Try again next week.

  • Anyone who has time to clean isn't reading enough.