Messy Tuesdays

// 22 April 2008

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Lara at KnitWit, has developed a concept which I think is rather fab.

Lara’s into crafts, knitting most particularly, and craft blogging. Part of the joy of craft blogging is proudly displaying photos of your finished items, but the super-swish, hyper-tidy visions of domestic bliss showcased in these pictures sometimes started to get Lara down:

by only focusing on the beautiful corners of your home you are tipping over into hyper-reality and showcasing an aspirational lifestyle […] the fact that we know glossy lifestyle/fashion magazines aren’t real doesn’t make them any less damaging in my view, it still portrays an unattainable lifestyle and something for women to put pressure on themselves to aspire towards.

And so the concept of Messy Tuesdays was born – Lara and her friend Felix posted photos of their unfinished washing up, car boots stuffed with crap, untidy bookcases, and stacks of unrinsed milk bottles. Other bloggers have followed suit, and I want to join in. So here are photos of my spectacularly untidy desk and the patch of disgustingly dirty carpet uncovered under our laundry bin (well who honestly hoovers under their furniture?)

messy desk

Why is this important? It’s important because, as Lara says:

For someone who spent her teenager years wrapped in teenage angst about not being clever enough, pretty enough or thin enough, the idea that my home won’t be beautiful enough, my craft not so well executed or my knitting up to speed has been at times quite tough.

I think this resonates in a lot of areas in our lives, particularly for women. An example. My boyfriend and I have a reasonably equitable division of household labour, although we are both, frankly, presidposed towards the slovenly. Still, we divide some tasks between us (I do laundry, he cleans the kitchen and bathroom), take it roughly in turns to do others (tidying the bedroom, cooking, washing up). The rest of the chores we kind of pretend don’t exist (Ironing. Seriously. Who has time in their life for ironing?)

So far so good; nobody’s angsting about the housework in terms of who does it. But in terms of who worries about it – well I totally have the upper hand. If we have people round for dinner, he’ll usually tidy up whilst I’m at work, but I’m the one obsessively apologising to people for the (sometimes non-existent) mess. You know, like its my fault – more accurately, my responsibility. Cause although he may ‘help out’ (and get the praise for doing so) I will be the one who is on the receiving end of any disapproval which may be flying around.

I’ve been away a lot for work recently, and later this week I have an approximately ten hour turnaround between getting back from a week long trip, and going off on another week-long trip to visit the in-laws. I did as much laundry as I could last weekend, but inevitably we’ll be short on socks and underwear and stuff by Friday. No problem, says he, we’ll just wash it when we get to my mum’s. The housewife-throwback inside of me instinctively shudders – what would his mum think of me if we turned up with a pile of dirty laundry? She’d think I wasn’t looking after her boy properly. No matter that my brain knows this to be nonsense. No matter that if she ever said as much to me (which of course she wouldn’t) I’d certainly manage to muster a pretty strong counter-attack. That’s still my first reaction.

I read the recent Feministe thread on ‘Being a Feminist Boyfriend‘ with some interest, and a few comments struck a chord with me.

Hugo Schwyzer:

We must be willing to do more than “help out”; around the house (the language of a child doing chores). We must proactively assert ourselves in domestic decisions, lifting a culturally-imposed burden off the shoulders of our spouses.


That home is yours, so do not help with housework, DO housework.

and Anne Onne:

She, on the other hand, has probably been brought up to help around the house, that it must be done, and to a certain standard, and that people will judge her on it. And it’s not a lie, they will. Your partner feels uncomfortable because she knows that any blame for the house not being spotless will fall on her, even if it’s not her fault. She will probably do much more of the housework than you, because of this.

So, on reflection, perhaps we should take our dirty underwear to his mother’s after all…! Strike a blow for the sisterhood? In the meantime, I’d like to see some more Messy Tuesdays.

messy carpet

Comments From You

Samara // Posted 22 April 2008 at 2:49 pm

Great post Lynne, but my desk can trounce yours any day. As can my room. I am frankly incapable of occupying any space for longer than five minutes without it looking as if a tornado has just hit it. I used to have a desk right next to a male colleague who was every bit as untidy as me, but I was the only one who ever got criticised for it. I am flat hunting at the moment, and am quite horrified by the number of ads specifying that they want a female flatmate without specifying exactly why, and then going on to say that they particularly want someone clean and tidy. People just expect women to be tidy and men to be slobs…

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 22 April 2008 at 3:28 pm

well who honestly hoovers under their furniture?

I put my hand under my sofa the other day to fetch a fork that got knocked underneath – and that has pretty much inspired me to hoover under there at least every 3 months or so!

On the topic of sharing domestic chores, I have had 2 very different experiences. I used to have a boyfriend I lived with who basically needed to be asked to do anything around the house. Which, of course, led to him labelling me a nag. But if I hadn’t “nagged”, then it would have been me doing all the housework alone, which I suspect he would have thought to be the proper order of things. (it should be noted that there were many, many other problems in this relationship and I am well shot of him! He really had no respect for me at all).

The wonderful man I live with now never needs to be asked at all. In fact, the housework we do is about equal and he has never once treated chores as woman’s work. We don’t even need to discuss it – I tend to do the laundry and clean the bathroom, but he does the dishes and keeps the kitchen clean. I will admit that he can create quite a mess when he cooks – but hey, there is another household task we share – we take turns to cook!

So, I have been at both ends of the spectrum. I think I would have terrible trouble now with a man who didn’t help out with the day-to-day running of a household because from my experiences it seems to me to be symptomatic of a disrespect for the female partner in a relationship.

Charlotte // Posted 22 April 2008 at 3:49 pm

Fab concept! I love the idea of owning and owning up to my less-than-perfect living space. And I think you would be striking a blow for the sisterhood if you took your laundry to your in-laws. I urge you to do it!

Cara // Posted 22 April 2008 at 6:06 pm


Oooh can I post a photo of my pile of undone washing-up…not to mention I moved into my flat 2 weeks ago, but still have boxes everywhere and random stuff piled wherever I could find a surface! Ah! In my defence, I also started a new job…!

Boyfriends – yes. I have not yet done the living together thing…lived in a houseshare and one of the guys drove me mad, leaving not only unwashed pans lying around for days, but *with leftover food still in them, not bits of food, but as in another portion*. And he then ate it. I am amazed he is still alive. Oh and he stank the fridge out with out-of-date yoghurt that was growing god knows what!

I mean…how hopeless. I am not particularly a clean freak, but basic hygiene is good! Any boyfriend who didn’t do housework would be out on his ass, I can tell you.

Anji // Posted 22 April 2008 at 6:34 pm

Aw yeah! Messy I can do! I live with a two and a half year old child – the mess we create between us is unbeatable!

Alex T // Posted 22 April 2008 at 6:34 pm

Jennifer-Ruth: absolutely. I always feel that if you are a woman who would like the place to be clean and tidy but who lives with a messy and dirty man , you have three choices:

1. Do it yourself.

2. Ask/tell him to do it and be told that you are nagging.

3. Put up with the mess.

None of which are in the slightest bit appealing. However, I’m writing this having come home from a day’s work while my husband (at home all day) has just shown me the newly-organised airing cuboard and is now hoovering, hooray!

He says: ‘I am also incredibly handsome’.

Sarah // Posted 23 April 2008 at 10:09 am

I’m somewhat messy myself, certainly have never had any interest in my house being a perfect showroom rather than a comfortable, lived-in home. However I have no patience with the boyfriends/male housemates with really disgusting habits as described above. Messy is some thing. but cleaning up after yourself and maintaining a basic level of hygiene is just part of being an adult, and having some respect for your partner or housemates. It shouldn’t be a gender issue, though I think it’s easier for men to be like this in the knowledge that a woman will eventually clean up for them (whether it’s mother, girlfriend, wife, housemate, friend) and also the knowledge that they will not be judged as harshly for it as a woman would be.

Having said that I’ve lived with some female housemates with disgusting habits and selfish behaviour, so women are certainly not exempt from this. It’s just that when you have men and women living together, especially in a romantic relationship, it’s easy to fall into the established pattern of the man behaving like a slob or a helpless child, and the woman having to be the responsible adult.

Ellie // Posted 23 April 2008 at 12:46 pm

I must say I’ve never felt any pressure to have a tidy home from anyone, i’m not quite sure who exactly it is that is supposed to judge women on their homes but i definitely think women are raised to internalise the praise they receive from others for being tidy (also being quiet, polite, well groomed..) so they end up caring more about tidiness in the home than men.

Also, in my experience of male housemates, the ones who have been coddled by their mothers seem to be the worse offenders, either that or the ones without mothers.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds