Forget what you may have heard or read. Men are not doing more housework than they used to do, says Don Aslett, self-appointed spokesman for a cleaner way of life.
Aslett says "90 percent of household dirt is still caused by men and children and 90 percent of the cleaning is done by women." Even though women are working outside the home, most are still doing the lion's share of the housework after they get home.As an author of a number of books on how to clean and straighten out the mess that most of us call home and owner of a professional cleaning service in Pocatello, Idaho, Aslett has been collecting statistics on his favorite subject. He says that despite what other surveys have concluded, he has found a surprisingly common pattern all over the world: namely that "the average woman does 26 hours a week of housework and chores. The average man spends 56 minutes a week."
He disputes the idea that people care less about their home than they used to or that they clean less. However, the character of cleaning has changed. He says "most of the time today is spent getting rid of junk, litter and clutter. And the main solution is don't love anything that can't love you back."
A serious message behind his mile-a-min-ute tipsterism is that a clean, uncluttered home leads to a better attitude and outlook. "Carelessness carries over. Throw junk out and you may find you've cleaned up your life."
For serious cases of clutter, Aslett's prescription is to "get up at 5 a.m. when you are most objective and reasonable. Don't wear any clothes with pockets. Put on lively music and sort possessions into four boxes that you've labeled junk, sort, charity and emotional withdrawal." The last is for things you really don't have a use for but can't bear to throw away.
Then go through the stuff in the sort box, throw out the junk box without looking at it again, give the charity box away and put the emotional withdrawal box away for six months. Then throw it away. "You won't even remember what is in it," he assures.
Although cleaning is an old, old occupation, new ideas are always coming along and people can learn to do a better job in less time, said Aslett, who recently went on national television with five new products and/
or ideas to speed things up.
The new ideas: cordless vacuums, highly concentrated one-use cleaning supplies, an electrostatic dust cloth, a newish type of sponge and a squeejee with an angled handle. According to Aslett, who is a national spokesman for the Eureka Co., cordless vacs offer convenience and are easier to use, so people will use them more often.
Though cordless vacuums run for only a short time before needing a recharge (Eureka claims 30 minutes), most vacuuming sessions last only about 10 minutes.
A tip that works, no matter what type of vacuum you use, is to go slowly and methodically just once instead of giving an area a fast pass several times. It takes less time altogether and uses less energy. Another tip: hold the cleaner loosely so the brush barely touches the nap of the carpet. A light touch is more efficient since it sets up a good air flow or suction action.
Although the per-use cost of high concentrate, one-use cleaning supplies may be higher, Aslett says they are more convenient and can save money since you use the right amount instead of too much. The best selection of pre-measured, single-use supplies is found in janitor supply outlets, but they are gradually coming into supermarkets, too.
Save space and money by eliminating unneeded cleaning supplies, suggests Aslett. The three most useful cleaners (all available in measured single-use packages) are: a window cleaner that is mainly isopropyl alcohol with a little blue coloring for glass and spot-cleaning; an all-purpose cleaner for washing walls, floors and cupboards; and a liquid-disinfectant cleaner to eliminate bacteria that cause odors and to kill mildew.
New gadgets he likes include an electrostatic dust cloth that attracts dust and holds it like a magnet, and a combination sponge-abrasive pad for cleaning counters, sinks and dishes with hardened food deposits.
He says one of the most underrated cleaning tools is a good squeejee. He uses one to clean windows, showers and bathtub walls, to strip water-softened wax off floors and an inch or so of snow off driveways.
Employ a squeejee more efficiently on windows with a damp cloth as an accessory. Wipe the blade frequently with the cloth to keep it clean and drip-free. A few drops of dishwashing liquid in the pail of water break the surface tension of the water on glass and help it soak in instead of running off.
Simplify tasks by choosing easy-to-care-for surfaces and objects when replacing things around the home. For example, good doormats prevent dirt from getting in; low-sheen eggshell enamel paint is the easiest to keep clean; single-handle faucets last longer and don't drip.
And remember: "If you have a black Labrador, don't get white chairs."