Saturday 18 November 2017

No more chore wars: Would you hire a cleaner?

Irish men only do 49 minutes of housework a day with working women picking up the slack. But hiring a cleaner could stop all the rows, writes Vicki Notaro

Coming clean: Vicki and her pooch Jacko at home in Stoneybatter
Coming clean: Vicki and her pooch Jacko at home in Stoneybatter
Lisa Scanlon at home in Rialto
Vicki Notaro

Vicki Notaro

Hands up - I hate cleaning. I am someone for whom doing housework is more than a chore, it's a penance, and I have no time for it whatsoever. I was raised by an incredibly house-proud family who value cleanliness as an attribute and absolutely despair of my nonchalance (read: hatred) towards domestic chores. But for me, housework isn't my job - I'm busy enough out in the world, and the few hours I spend at home each day are for relaxing and winding down, not scrubbing and polishing.

However, cleaning can be a murky business in the household, especially when one person feels like they have more dirty domestic duties than the other.

A survey by website Quartz has revealed that 47pc of Irish couples argue over the chores. This was lower than other countries - 90pc of Finnish couples surveyed admitting to fighting over housework - but come on, Irish people are too chilled out by nature for that kind of carry-on.

However, new research this week reveals that Irish women are justified in their despair over menfolk and chores - our blokes only manage 49 minutes of household-related work a day, according to the OECD, with guys in Slovenia managing 114 minutes, and American men averaging 82 minutes.

Alongside a recent Radio 4 Woman's Hour special on familial chore wars, the BBC created a handy online calculator to find out the true division of labour in homes across the UK. Surveying both men and women, the results indicated that it was the female of the species who did considerably more housework, double that of her partner, and that men were more likely to do traditional masculine tasks such as DIY and taking out the bins.

So all the evidence points to women doing the lion's share in this country. I used the calculator, and it seemed like my partner and I are fairly even - hand on heart, he may do more on me, but in concentrated bursts rather than on a daily basis. We both go on a blitz every now and then, and generally pick up after ourseleves, and we both do the bins and the cooking, so there's no gender bias either. I do the shopping and walk the dogs, so it balances out.

However, we appear to be in the minority. Chore wars can cause real problems in a household. To me, the simple solution to disputes over cleaning is this: hire a professional. That might sound terribly middle-class, and I know not every family can afford a weekly cleaner, but nowadays when we're time-poor and working hard, we are realising the value of having someone come in once in a while to give everything a good going over.

Years ago, many women would have been mortified to have another person do their chores, but not anymore. You can get someone to do housework for two hours for €20-25 in Dublin, perhaps less around the country.

Not a princely sum, and something we'd spend on a dress in Penneys or a round down the local without blinking.

The problem a lot of people seem to have with using a cleaner is that they feel housework is their duty - you make the mess, you clean it.

But recent research conducted by, a site that connects punters with cleaning professionals in their area, revealed that 54pc of Dubliners surveyed said they had hired a cleaner so they could have more "me time", which to me makes perfect sense.

We are by no means made of money, but we have a cleaner. He comes around once a fortnight and does all the nitty-gritty stuff, which means I just have to stay on top of everyday chores. I remember other women's reactions when they heard not only that I had a cleaner, but that he was male.

"Are you not embarrassed? Having a man do your dirty work?" Not at all. What difference does gender make? It's his job, and nobody is forcing him to do it. Plus, he's far more diligent than I am. Don't tell him but I'd pay twice what he charges, it's such a weight off.

For 32-year-old Dubliner Tasha, it's not about gender roles but the fact that she feels like housework is part of her role as a new mother. "My father offered to hire a cleaner for me, because I'm so busy with my new baby," says Tasha. "But I'm on maternity leave at the moment, so it would feel too odd to have someone else do it - I feel like it's my job, because my partner is at work all day."

"I do most of the work around the house because I'm better at it," says Deirdre (55) in Galway. "My husband helps out at the weekend, but because I only work part-time, it seems fair. Plus he's a terrible cook, so if I want to eat, I'm better off doing it myself."

Natalie (40) from Louth says while she does use a cleaner, she tidies the house before she arrives.

"I would be absolutley mortified if the cleaner thought I was a slob," she explains. "I don't do everything, but I do wipe down the surfaces and have a quick hoover."

I will admit that even if I didn't have such a busy life, cleaning would still be at the bottom of my list of priorities.

If you were to enter my kitchen right now, you would be greeted with strewn dog toys, dirty dishes and a less-than-shiny sink. But I don't mind. I have far better things to do and bigger things to worry about than the state of my stained stainless steel.

Still, there are women out there for whom cleaning is both therapeutic and (gasp) enjoyable.

Deirdre Twomey is 38 and lives alone. "Cleaning makes me happy. I feel more in control and organised in life when my house is tidy. If I was at work and I knew my house was untidy, I just wouldn't rest easy."

It's all well and good thinking of your home as your palace and having a useful hobby, but Deirdre's love of cleaning extends to those around her.

"I recently did all my boyfriend's washing when he was in college, and then spent hours cleaning his room and ensuite. I did it not just to help him out, but because I genuinely enjoy cleaning. He said; 'Please, you are my girlfriend not my cleaner'. But he really appreciates it."

Deirdre is keen to stress that she's a very normal, happy person - cleaning just ticks her boxes.

"I was particularly looking forward to last Saturday as my main priority was cleaning windows. I work Monday to Friday and in this dark weather I feel I don't get to see areas that need cleaning at home so hence Saturdays, when I can let all the light in. I love looking at new cleaning products and trying them out."

For Deirdre, it's about planning and preparing.

"When it comes to going on holidays I have a 'thing' where I have to change my bed sheets before I go and have my house in order. I put bleach down all toilets and sinks.

"At the moment I am concentrating on several cupboards at a time in my kitchen, cleaning them out and organising. I can feel spring is coming and it is like I'm preparing for it."

Deirdre admits she doesn't really love hoovering because the machine is heavy, and she's not mad on ironing, but everything else just makes her feel good.

"I am extremely house proud, I love my home; it's gorgeous and I worked hard for it. In my world I cannot understand people who do not make their beds. But I'm more like Hyacinth Bucket than Monica Gellar."

‘I’d never hire a cleaner. I love cleaning my home’

Lisa Scanlon, 25, lives in a shared apartment in Dublin 8 with a friend

"My love of cleaning can be summed up in one word: therapeutic. It can be a perfect opportunity to completely switch off. I enjoy the stillness in the repetitive things, whether it's hoovering, laundry or dishes. Tidying and organising will always satisfy my inclinations, and create what, to me, is a relaxing home. And truthfully, it does make me feel a bit smug when the place is shining.

"I couldn't be 100pc relaxed if my surroundings were untidy. If I was working on something, I would stop mid-sentence and fix whatever is bothering me. Some might call it procrastination but visible clutter makes my head feel cluttered.

"A routine I'm over-fond of is cleaning the day before a potential hangover. If there's a chance I might be feeling a bit edgy the next day, I'll clean the place extensively beforehand. Nothing will make me feel worse than what I perceive to be a mess. 

I would never dream of hiring a cleaner. Whatever about personally enjoying the cleaning, the thought comes with a certain level of paranoia I wouldn't entertain! I've always been taught the importance of cleanliness and organisation. How you keep your personal space can more often than not be a reflection of how you feel. I like to keep track of what's around me all the time and I'm happier for it."

Irish Independent

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