When I approach our shelf of candy-coloured cleaning chemicals, or take the vacuum in my hand, something happens to my attention span. It collapses in on itself like an anemone.

A typical morning in the Crutchfield kitchen. Pic: AP

As a cleaner, I exhibit all the worst characteristics in any worker – I’m inefficient, tardy, lacking in initiative and I can’t concentrate on one thing long enough to get it done properly.

So that’s me. As to the other cleaner within the family, I will table the last census as Exhibit A. The census landed like an incendiary device in our household. All thanks to that one little question, which asked Person 1 (me) to calculate the average weekly hours Person 2 (him) spent on domestic work.

The first option you could select was along the lines of “less than, or equal to, 2 hrs”. It wouldn’t be true to say I ticked it without a moment’s hesitation - I spent about five seconds adding things up in my head first.

At this point, it’s only fair to note that, upon hearing of my response to the census, Person 2 labelled my calculation as wildly, if not unconscionably, inaccurate. Whatever. The way I look at is that even if I am 200 per cent wrong - which is a big concession and a lot of wrong - we are still only looking at six hrs a week from Person 2.

Some people get a little help on the domestic front from the wider family. I have friends with relatives who do remarkable things like walk in and start doing some dishes, or independently decide to pop on a load of washing, or even pump out a bit of ironing while they are voluntarily babysitting for you. Relatives like this constitute a strong argument for genetic engineering.

When I started having kids a decade or so ago, I tapped my mum on the shoulder, and I know she’ll be round to help out just as soon as she works out whether to enter the appointment under “home”, “family” or “work” on her BlackBerry.

Since my mother is an ironed table cloth kind of lady though, I know there are days when simply entering my house would offend her sensibilities, and that’s before any of the kids open their mouth. My mother’s coup de grace though was the day she did actually come over to lend a hand, and then did not stop walking.  She came in the door, did a long loop through the battlefield, and then walked right back out.

By my reckoning, if a person who is a cleaning dud pairs up with a cleaning star, its going to end up in one of two ways – martyrdom or simmering resentment. So in this respect, at least, I am glad that both adults in our house are cleaning duds. This can only end up in one way – dirty. Unless, that is, you call in the big guns.

When I was a young, single, corporate pawn, a guy I was seeing was the first to suggest it. One day when he was over at my place he said, “You know you really should think about getting a cleaner”.

He said it in the way a close friend might say, “You know you really should think about getting braces,” or, “You really should get someone to look at that rash”. So although it was, I now see, a pretty damning comment to make, I took it as friendly advice, and I did as he suggested.

A cleaner is, of course, a luxury, and just as habit-forming as any other luxury. But then red meat and professional haircuts are luxuries too. And I will be getting a basin cut in the kitchen and dragging home sacks of bulk legumes before I relinquish Ana.

Ana is universally great. And I don’t actually call her a cleaner. I call her a housekeeper. Not only because I have fantasies about living in a Bronte novel, or any novel with Mr Darcy in it actually. I call her a housekeeper because she keeps our house from descending into chaos. Like a Marlboro-smoking, female Atlas she holds us aloft.

Ana has only one major catch. She has more relatives in Europe than Queen Elizabeth. And they all want her to visit. This involves regular epic European vacations. These protracted trips are always grave news for us. But when a six foot tall, Slavic woman with steely blue eyes and cheekbones that enter the room a few seconds before the rest of her tells you she’s going to Europe on a six week vacation, she’s going to Europe on a six week vacation.

So I’m standing on my own two feet, or kneeling on my own two knees, as the case requires, this summer. This morning I’ve been removing what has to be concentrated pineapple juice (because otherwise it must be urine) off my son’s skirting boards. Then I will deal with the living room where someone has filled a toy aeroplane with rice bubbles. The plane has now discharged its crispy cargo all over the carpet.

A subsequent person has seen fit to walk over most of this breakfast goodness, crushing the bubbles into a fine white powder, and making it look like someone is dealing from our couch. Looking in the laundry I also note that the dog needs to take a right at the coloureds, a left at the whites and execute a small jump over the delicates, in order to find his bed, but he likes the challenge.

After a morning at it, my pansy hands are stinging from the chemicals, because who knows where Persons 2-8 have put the rubber gloves, and my brain is numb. And then the bottle of vodka left on the bench starts whispering to me - every time I pass it on my way from one chore to another.

Finally, I talk back. I tell that loose-living son of a bottle that, “It’s only 2 o’clock, and no, I’m not ready to party.” Then I assure the kids they didn’t hear me talking to anyone and I grab the Preen, by the neck.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEDST

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    • Fiddler says:

      06:25am | 06/02/13

      I know exactly how you feel. PS, you aren’t able to give out Ana’s number are you?

    • Kerryn says:

      07:28am | 06/02/13

      Ooooh, I HATE cleaning!  Still, living with Mumsie and Dadsie (again…I hate relationship break ups sometimes) I manage to clean two bathrooms (one of whch I never use), help with the laundry and do the dishes on occasion. More than my siblings do anyway.  My 16-year-old sister baulks at cleaning, and then has the hide to complain about the job I do with the bathroom - go figure.

      Of course, when I was living with my ex it was fun.  He would NEVER help with the cleaning (which I usually allotted to Saturday morning) so when his mother came over (grrr) it was always my fault we were living in “squallor” and that she should be allowed to come over and clean the house (nope, sorry, not having her going through my home!).  If her son would’ve pulled his weight, the house would’ve looked pretty good, and maybe (read: not likely) we would still be together….

      Anyway, Jiff, Ajax and the orange kitchen/bathroom wipes from the IGA are AWESOME.

    • Ozymandius says:

      12:02pm | 06/02/13

      When someone complains about your work, cleaning or otherwise, I have often found that the best way to shut them up is to say ‘So you want to do this yourself then? Excellent!’ Mr Burns finger motions are entirely optional, but the immediate sound of silence which descends is always hilarious.

    • PJ says:

      07:34am | 06/02/13

      What was it Julia Gillard was reputed to have said about House wives?

    • Modern Primitive says:

      08:59am | 06/02/13

      And I thought only single males had issues with keeping things clean.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      09:04am | 06/02/13

      I quite like cleaning…it doesn’t take long as long as you do it each day and it means you start the day with a tidy, organised house each morning.  That, and it means I can always find what I’m looking for.

    • Colin says:

      10:48am | 06/02/13

      @ Tim the Tool, Man

      “I quite like cleaning…”

      ICB on you being a male. No man would ever admit to that. I can’t believe that you could possibly say that and call yourself a man…etc, ad infinitum, ad nauseam…

      It just doesn’t get old, does it? I mean, if everyone else thinks that this is an appropriate response to even HINTING at some supposedly feminine trait, then we all may as well use it..!

    • Tim says:

      11:12am | 06/02/13

      cleaning or anything else is not necessarily a male or female trait.

      Claiming that men are subjugating women through some sort of mystery force is however, not a normal thing for a man to say.

      Mainly because nearly every single male knows it to be bullshit.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      11:35am | 06/02/13

      We’d be betraying the patriarchy if we admitted it, Colin.

    • Sam says:

      11:37am | 06/02/13

      Tim - “cleaning or anything else is not necessarily a male or female trait.”

      Cleaning itself is not a male or female thing, but what you clean is. Females tend to clean inside where no heavy or excessive amount of dirt and grime is involved, while males will do the stuff you consider buying a sandblaster for.

      The small hands of females are also better at getting into those hard to get to places or where you need the delicate touch.

    • Colin says:

      11:41am | 06/02/13

      @ TIm

      “Claiming that men are subjugating women through some sort of mystery force is however, not a normal thing for a man to say.”

      Do you read what you write? Do you - in all honesty, hand-on-heart - believe that ‘Men’ are not able to identify and call out injustices that other ‘Men’ mete out on women..? How can you unashamedly declare that you believe that it is ‘Not normal’ for a man to have an opinion that is not toeing the line of the Male status quo. Are you THAT inculcated with patriarchal power that you can see no other way..?

      Oh, and as for:

      “...cleaning or anything else is not necessarily a male or female trait…”

      Yes, I know that. I was being ironic.

    • LJ Dots says:

      12:06pm | 06/02/13

      Damnit Tim the T & Modern Primitive, we told you the rules at initiation.  How many time must it be said?

      No one talks about Cleaning Club.

    • Modern primitive says:

      12:35pm | 06/02/13

      Oops, sorry, LJ.

      By the by, you guys know that next month’s Patriarchy meeting has been moved right? We’re having it at that mexican place instead of the regular pub, thought I’d give you all the heads up.

    • Colin says:

      01:45pm | 06/02/13

      @ Modern primitive

      “By the by, you guys know that next month’s Patriarchy meeting has been moved right?”

      Start Irony > Yes, that’s right, MP; ‘Patriarchy’ is a conspiracy-theory, non-existent ‘Organisation’ that supposedly exists to bring about the downfall of women < End irony

      Frankly, MP, just because a System of Power and Control exists endemically within a culture, and you cannot “Touch and feel it”, it is because you are so enmeshed in the behaviour, the ritual, and the ingrained and inculcated belief, that you are completely blinkered by your own worldview. As delusional as that may be.

      But, hey, you go on banging those rocks together, guys. ‘Cos that’s all it is; a hollow noise and gesture.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      02:00pm | 06/02/13

      “Frankly, MP, just because I don’t have any proof doesn’t mean I’m wrong. You should listen to me because women had it really hard in the past, and we have to make up for it now by being hard on men.”

      There you go Colin.

    • Colin says:

      02:32pm | 06/02/13

      @  Modern Primitive

        “There you go Colin.”

      OMFG. I point out the parts that are irony; I lead you by the hand; I paint a picture for you, and what do you do? You totally and utterly ignore it (not perceive it) and simply make a puerile comment…

      Totally and utterly delusional does not even hint at beginning to describe the chapter headings of the first volume of the one-hundred and twenty-seven volume “Encyclopaedia of Denial” of the “Men” on here…

    • Tubesteak says:

      02:34pm | 06/02/13

      Sounds like you’d be happy on Jezebel with all the rest of the socialist feminists who can’t seem to figure out that it is everyone’s personal responsibility to pay thei way in life and be responsible for their choices. Socialist feminists seem to think that it is “society’s” responsibility to pay for everyone yet can never seem to name where the money is meant to come from but we’re all victims of money and the need to pay our own way and victims of our own choices.

      Taken to its logical conclusion socialist feminism…...has no logic.

      Sort of like Arec Barldwin seems to think it’s the corporations in their corporation buildings who are all so corporationy.

      But, Colin, you keep banging on about some nebulous undefinable “system”, “sista”.

    • AJ in Perth says:

      02:35pm | 06/02/13

      sorry to interrupt here Modern Primitive and Colin, but you guys actually agree!!! 

      Colin’s outrage clearly indicates that he (also) believes women are weak and not capable to stand up for themselves and need big strong men to help them out to fight for their rights, so Colin is on board!

      and frankly Modern Primitive, you have no excuse, this was discussed in depth during the last meeting to be the latest strategy to further the cause ... your poor attendance of late has been noticed, and I would suggest you seriously consider your priorities when you get home today

    • Tim says:

      03:02pm | 06/02/13

      “Do you - in all honesty, hand-on-heart - believe that ‘Men’ are not able to identify and call out injustices that other ‘Men’ mete out on women..? “

      Yes of course they can. The problem is the injustices you talk about and want remedied happened before I was born and no longer exist. Somehow you think it’s legitimate for me and other males to suffer because of things men did in the past.

      It’s nearly an exclusive trait of feminist women to make those kind of illogical claims and is usually based on their own inability to be objective about their own failings rolled in with some massive confirmation bias.

      The fact that you make those kind of claims as a man can often seem strange to others particularly behind the anonymity of the internet.

      Women of my age have had full equality of opportunity and are free to make any decision on the way they want to live their lives even if it goes against feminist dogma on what choices they “should” be making. The fact that women often make choices which don’t fit in with your world view is not evidence of the Patriarchy systematically controlling them.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      03:15pm | 06/02/13

      I know I’ve been a bit slack lately AJ, it’s just that my girlfriend suddenly has all these wild ideas about equality and I’ve had to do all my own housework recently. Do you have any idea how long that takes or how hard it is?

    • AdamC says:

      03:43pm | 06/02/13

      Tim, Colin is a troll. Why bother engaging?

      In my view, there do remain barriers to women’s full participation in some areas of life. The difficulty is, the biggest of those barriers is many women’s desire to assume a primary caregiving role in respect of children. (Which typically includes stuff like cooking, cleaning and other housework.) Feminists (let alone supertroll ‘Colin’) have no real solutions to this barrier to complete ‘equality’.

      Hence the nonsense about patriarchy and feverish, trivial grievance-mongering in an attempt to stay relevant. Just go to the Daily Life website to get a masterclass!

    • LJ Dots says:

      03:57pm | 06/02/13

      @Colin, I get your sarcasm, I get your hypotheticals and rhetoricals, your intended irony, your barbed questions, your idea of an enmeshed culture that’s affects everyone else (except you). And that’s just in one post.

      But, once we get past that, what are you really trying to say?

      As I have said before, I think you have some interesting points to make - it’s just a shame that you cannot clearly articulate what you think without wrapping it up in a dogs breakfast of random thoughts and abuse.

    • Mum not slave says:

      04:07pm | 06/02/13

      Tubesteak, if everyone has to ‘pay their way’, why am I the only adult member of our traditional two-person family that has ever picked up a vacuum cleaner, made a bed, pegged out laundry, folded linen or cleaned the bathroom and toilet, since this household was formed?

      Oh, and it’s not for lack of asking nicely, either.

      Stacking a dishwasher or taking the kids to the footy, no problem, as long as each stint is accompanied by strenuous thanks and appreciation.

    • Colin says:

      04:22pm | 06/02/13

      @  LJ Dots s

      “...it’s just a shame that you cannot clearly articulate what you think without wrapping it up in a dogs breakfast of random thoughts and abuse…”

      Hang on - there’s ANOTHER way…?!?

    • AJ in Perth says:

      04:23pm | 06/02/13

      Modern Primitive

      *looks around, lowers voice to a mere wisper*
      I do know how hard it is, but no one is supposed to talk about Cleaning Club!!!!

      *loud voice*
      time for a new girlfriend, mate, and putting the Primitive back in Modern Primitive!

    • Borderer says:

      09:15am | 06/02/13

      Wow… so you hate cleaning… who knew
      I hate having to go to work, cleaning, cooking, exercise, mowing the yard etc. Yet I do all these things because I have to or end up a broke tub of lard living in my own filth and surrounded by a yard that looks like the jungles of Borneo…. Doing all this is not heroic, it’s obvious…

    • DexteR says:

      09:28am | 06/02/13

      As a single hard working bloke, the last thing I want to do on the weekend is clean my place, I hired a cleaner.  It was the best move I ever made, my place is clean and I am relaxed:) well worth the $60 they charge me.

    • Mrs P says:

      09:43am | 06/02/13

      My husband tells me he could never stay home with the kids and take care of them full time. He loves them, but doesn’t have the patience to take care of them 24/7. So, when a bit of cleaning needs to be done, he gets a choice - kid wrangling or cleaning. He mixes it up and does a bit of both. Except the mopping. That’s all his job (after I vacuum).

      He knows I do a lot more cleaning than him but because he helps out, I don’t complain - we both like a clean home.

      Every relationship needs to find a balance that BOTH parties are happy with. And if you can afford it, get a cleaner! We paid for a cleaner for 6 months after each child was born to make our lives a little easier while we adjusted to life with an extra family member - best money ever spent!

    • Brian.N says:

      09:51am | 06/02/13

      There is no woman more sexy, attractive and sweet than who cleans the home, cooks and looks after her husband… These type of women are pure gold… Alas you can’t see many of them around nowadays…

    • Fiddler says:

      10:02am | 06/02/13

      sure you can, just go to Mascot and catch a plane anywhere but Australia

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:06am | 06/02/13

      Agreed, where does one find a 50’s housewife equivalent these days?

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:43am | 06/02/13

      I don’t think the US or UK will do you much good. Best to stick to SE Asia, South America and Eastern Europe. Women born and raised there still know how to make themselves useful

    • Ridge says:

      12:18pm | 06/02/13

      Brian, I’m sorry but you’re wrong.  You didn’t listen to what feminists tell you to want in a woman:


      You’re clearly not progressive enough, so please report to your nearest media outlet for PC re-education.

    • Fiddler says:

      12:38pm | 06/02/13

      Ridge - by independant you mean, buys her own shoes, clothes and handbags (except when you have to spoil her at her birthday, christmas, valentines day, anniversary, hannukah and every third sunday) while you pay the mortgage?

    • marley says:

      12:47pm | 06/02/13

      Umm, don’t know about Asian women, but based on my experience with Eastern Europeans, I’d say you’d better either be prepared to keep her in absolute luxury, or have a very big bodyguard for when here mafiya boss comes around to sort you out.

    • Tubesteak says:

      12:55pm | 06/02/13

      Don’t forget “earns about 25% what you do but still makes an equal contribution because an hour of useful internal housework every week is equality but don’t mention you doing all the work outside the house”

      Also there’s “modern woman but not assertive enough to approach a man or ask him out or plan for dates or pay for dates because she likes to be treated like a lady”

    • Ridge says:

      12:58pm | 06/02/13

      Fiddler - Independent means telling everyone “I DON’T NEED NO MAN” (then shaming them into ‘manning up’ when I do need one).

      Interpret as you may.

    • Modern primtive says:

      01:00pm | 06/02/13

      Well, you shouldn’t date gangster’s daughters then should you marley?

    • Ridge says:

      01:09pm | 06/02/13

      Sorry Fiddler, I misread - I agree with your comment, lol.

    • Tubesteak says:

      02:18pm | 06/02/13

      Level of “luxury” depends on what she’s bringing to the table. everything is on a commensurate basis.
      I’d pay half a mil for a brand new 458 Spyder but I wouldn’t pay any more than $10k for a second-hand Camry. On the same token I’d only pay about $300k for a second-hand 458 Spyder.
      Everything is a sliding scale to be re-assessed every year.

    • marley says:

      02:24pm | 06/02/13

      @Modern Primitive - no, you shouldn’t get yourself an Eastern Europe internet bride.  The mafiya runs them all. And Russian goons are much scarier than Filipino ones.

    • Modern Primtive says:

      03:31pm | 06/02/13

      Who said anything about internet brides? I’ve been to the former eastern bloc, it’s awesome.

    • Ridge says:

      04:04pm | 06/02/13

      MP - Agreed.  And if a guy has no game, just pick up a Roosh guide and head on over.  Beautiful and feminine girls abound, I hear.

    • marley says:

      06:53pm | 06/02/13

      @Modern Primitive - and I’ve lived in the former Eastern Bloc.  Ukraine, actually.  There are things that are awesome, and things that ought to scare the wits out of you.  Before you marry a gorgeous young Ukrainian woman, have a look at her mother.

    • jaki says:

      10:01am | 06/02/13

      So, you’re lucky enough to have a home, unlike many people in the world. But you complain about having to clean up any mess you make in it. Gee, what a tough life. How about swapping places with a homeless person ?
      Personally, I love housework. It’s not a chore, it’s taking care of and appreciating something that I’m very lucky to have - a home. How some people can turn their home into a filthy sh*thole is beyond me.

    • AJ in Perth says:

      05:08pm | 06/02/13


      sorry, I’ve missed the part where she said that the homeless is sooooo lucky because they don’t have homes to clean ...

    • Mr.Tiny says:

      11:16am | 06/02/13

      Ive been a stay at home dad before, I found the cleaning was the hardest thing to do. Me and my then 2 year old son use make deals with ourselves to get things done. One room a day then its off to the park!! Our house was never the cleanest house, but their was always one room that was OK.

    • che says:

      12:17pm | 06/02/13

      You’re not alone, my mum loves cleaning and I think she wonders where I came from.

      When I ask my other half to clean the toilet (once in a blue moon), he looks at me all confused and says ‘but I don’t LIKE cleaning the toilet’. Obviously he knows just how much pleasure it gives me and doesn’t want to deprive me of the joy. What a guy!

    • che says:

      01:40pm | 06/02/13

      Yes he does think that when he looks at my mum, but not because of the cleaning! lol

    • Modern Primitive says:

      01:40pm | 06/02/13

      Hey ridge, are those from Heartiste by any chance? I was thinking about posting them earlier myself/

    • Ridge says:

      02:03pm | 06/02/13

      MP - They certainly are!  I must give credit where it’s due.

      I’m glad there’s other CH readers here to share their wisdom.

    • michellemac says:

      02:55pm | 06/02/13

      I honestly don’t think ANYONE likes cleaning.  Even - most likely ESPECIALLY-  people with really clean houses. Like everything people are prepared to make sacrifices for what is important to them. Most people like having a really clean house, some people like having everything ironed, including fitted sheets, jeans and underwear (my mother-in-law is one such person) but I don’t think ANYONE sits down and thinks “Wow I can’t wait to get out the vacuum ooh, how I love vacuuming” ...they can’t wait for the clean carpet…they might find it ‘satisfying’ or good exercise or whatever…but the vacuuming itself I bet they hate just like every other mind-numbing domestic duty.

      I have a cleaner because I REALLY like having a clean house and I REALLY REALLY hate cleaning.

    • jaki says:

      04:24pm | 06/02/13

      “I don’t think ANYONE sits down and thinks “Wow I can’t wait to get out the vacuum ooh, how I love vacuuming”

      I do, ever since I got a Dyson.wink

    • stephen says:

      05:44pm | 06/02/13

      I read about that Dyson bloke.
      And how many prototypes did he do ... maybe 500 ?

      Yer gotta wonder about a bloke though who won’t invent a robot cleaner, or a bicycle that goes up hill without pedalling or a car that cleans itself - something easy for us fellas.
      But that he has the gall to give a reason for a gal to whistle and wonder about love while she’s a’doin’ the housework ... why, I hope he comes back in his next life as Malcolm Turnbull’s hankie !

    • TheHuntress says:

      05:51pm | 06/02/13

      I passionately, intensely, unarguably LOATHE housework. I hate it passionately. I am love to cook, am very happy in the kitchen and will happily keep my kitchen clean, otherwise forget it. I love my cleaners, they told me straight up if I hired them for x amount of hours a week I would never have to clean anything in my house again. I keep stumbling across clean things around the place and they even offered to clear out the cupboards (I did decline that one ‘cause I thought it was mean). It has brought me so much happiness. I work hard, my husband works hard, why shouldn’t we have a cleaner? Everyone should try it!


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