Clean Sweep


I’d like to take this opportunity to explain to the ladies why it is that “men don’t clean”.

You see, this is a lie. A calumny. A slander of the highest proportion. We clean. We just don’t clean the way you clean. There is a difference.

You’re probably thinking right about now that I am simply making things up in an attempt to defend my gender, but the truth is I’m not. In fact, I’m going to paint a situation, walk you through it, and show you how every time you have been making false assumptions about men not cleaning.

Picture this: you ask your boyfriend/husband/son to clean a room. You leave for a half-hour, come back, and it looks no different to you, or at best only slightly tidied up. You say something to the effect of “I thought I asked you to clean in here,” and he maddeningly responds with “I did.” You can either exhort him to actually clean it or just give up in frustration now and do it yourself, because you know you’re going to have to do it anyway.

Sound familiar?

Now, let me explain what has happened.

You walked in to what, to a man’s eyes, appeared to be a clean-ish room. There might be a few things out of place, but overall it’s in decent shape. When you walked in and said “Could you please clean this room up?” the panic set in. He knows you think the room is filthy, but he has no idea why. He tries his best to guess what it is you want done, but he knows he is destined to fail. The only question is how much time does he intend to waste on this doomed effort. Some younger or over-eager fools will even spend more time and effort, thinking this will somehow earn them mercy. When you return and crush his spirit with an offhanded “I thought I asked you to clean in here”, her replies with the only defense he has, feeble though it may be: the truth. “I did.” He then watches you bustle around the room in a bad mood, engaged in arcane rituals that, when you are done, have made no discernible difference whatsoever.

Now, I know that sounds crazy, and that’s because it is. Men and women do not perceive the world in the same way. This is insane, but it is something that we simply have to accept. Ladies, what you need to understand is that, when you start going on about “cleaning”, we don’t share your vision. I don’t mean that in the sense of “I just don’t share your artistic vision”, I mean that in the sense of “I’m pretty sure you’re an insane cultist worshipping dark beings from beyond this reality and trying to summon them forth to devour our world”. But we love you anyway.

Because we love you, we want to make you happy. This is why we get scared and frustrated every time you say things like “please clean this room”. It’s like you’ve been watching the Saw franchise again, and you’ve decided that a combination of test and torture is just the thing to brighten an otherwise boring day. We both know there’s no way we’re going to win this one, but you ask anyway. Unless your purpose is to look for an excuse to get frustrated with us, perhaps the following advice will be useful to you.

First, keep in mind that we have different standards of “clean”. Remember the old saying about “if you want something done right”? Well, it applies doubly here. I’m not saying we’re going out of our way to shirk, but when you ask someone else to do something, you really can’t expect them to do it the way you would do it unless you’ve spent a few decades mercilessly drilling them on perfect technique.

Second, consider spending a few decades mercilessly drilling us on perfect technique. If you don’t have that much time to spare, some straightforward directions on what you’d like to see would be better upfront than a disappointed sigh on the back end. Keep in mind that if you do this you don’t get to say “well that was just for starters!” after the fact. Make the list comprehensive or don’t bother.

Third, are you familiar with the concept of “comparative advantage”? If you want the room cleaned just so, perhaps while you’re doing that he can be mowing the lawn. If you also want the lawn mowed just so, perhaps he can pay the bills. If you want that done just so, perhaps you would be more comfortable living alone.

Which brings me to my final piece of advice. Nobody is perfect, and we all find ways to annoy the crap out of each other on a daily basis. Learning to accept these foibles and follies is a big part of what makes relationships work, maybe the only part. After all, the rest is fun, not work. Focus more on the good times getting the rooms dirty than the confusion about trying to get them clean again.

For the rebuttal from My Not So Humble Wife, be sure to read “Dirty, Dirty Men“.
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9 Comments on “Clean Sweep”

  1. I say that is what a maid service is for. 🙂

    • Bob Bonsall says:

      I’m with you there, except that more than one family I have known (including my parents) have insisted on cleaning the house before the maids arrived, which made no sense to me…

  2. Red Moon says:

    Nice!!! One of the best little things a man can do for himself and of course his woman and the relationship is to spring for a maid service….. and observe. Most likely you will get back 10 times your investment to the 10th power. Anxiety levels will diminish, it will be the best $40-$300 you’ll ever spend. There is nothing like an organized environment. The productivity that will come from this is remarkable. ~Cheers!~

    • Bob Bonsall says:

      I’m all about the maid service, if you can afford it. Even once a month, it just helps to have even that little bit of burden taken off. As far as observing what they do, for me it’s kind of like watching my wife clean. I see that she’s doing things, but I really don’t see what difference it makes. Or rather I should say, I can see the “before” and “after”, I can recognize they are different, and yet even though I watched her the whole time, even if I think I have duplicated her efforts the next time I try to clean, it doesn’t do much good. There’s still something I’m missing. I just don’t know what I’m missing, and she can’t seem to teach it. It’s like trying to explain jazz to the tone-deaf.

  3. Jeff says:

    That was great. I think you nailed it. My wife and I have a running joke about “dust.” I claim to not even know what the word means. It’s understood that I just don’t see the stuff.

  4. theladysews says:

    Hmm, doesn’t always work though. I specifically say “while you’re home, the vacuuming needs doing”, but have yet to come home to clean floors. I live in hope though, so keep asking.

    • Bob Bonsall says:

      I’ve actually gone through this with both my mom and my wife, so you’re not alone. The problem is one of perception. I will swear to you now, I have run the vacuum over the entire floor, over each section more than once, and both my mom and my wife have come in just minutes later and said (in almost these exact words) “I thought I asked you to vacuum”. My sister has even backed my mom up on this one, although she’s a questionable witness at best since we were kids at the time. I think this may be a matter of perception.

  5. […] special request (and to maintain tranquility in my home), I bring you this rebuttal post from My Not So Humble […]


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