Our homes are our havens. It’s where we let loose, unwind and spend quality time with those closest to us. How does the old saying go again? Oh, yeah — ‘The Home Is Where the Heart Is’.
But let’s not sugar-coat it too much; the home is also where a lot of unpaid work is. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the average man and woman spent a combined total of 42 hours per week on home services in 2015.
Fast-forward to the first national lockdown, and this figure sat at approximately 39 hours per week. So, whether it’s cooking, cleaning or trying your hand at DIY, most adults are well acquainted with unpaid domestic work and the common conflicts that come with them.
But if these statistics shock you, then you’re not alone. For jobs and chores that are so routine, it’s not very often that we sit down and assess how much time we’re freely giving to do unpaid home services — until now.
So, let’s ask the question again: how much time are we really spending on home services, and should we be rethinking our daily routines so that we can focus on what’s most important to us?
Let’s Look at The Data
For obvious reasons, there’s no clear-cut answer to precisely how much time we spend on household chores. There are just so many variables; the size of the property, how many people occupy it and how often it’s cleaned.
Age, gender and location also play a crucial role, as well as our societal contexts. But what we can take is a simple average, so let’s look at some of the proposed data:
Statista, the internet’s leading statistics database, released three reports that detailed the average time spent on household cleaning in the UK in 2019, by region, age and gender.
They based the results on responses in a study, where they asked dozens to thousands of participants to reflect on their cleaning habits during a typical week. So, let’s break it down:
In the regional study, the North-East lead the way with 295.93 minutes (4.9 hours) per week. The East-Midlands spent 88.22 minutes (1hr 47 mins), and London sat somewhere in the middle, with an average of 140.03 minutes (2hrs and 33 mins) spent on cleaning per week.
But in the age study, things get slightly more interesting. Statista found that Gen Z’s spent 135.21 minutes (2hrs 25 mins) on cleaning per week, and Boomers spent an average of 256.68 minutes (4hrs 27 mins).
Now, this could be expected. As most older Gen Z’s either live with their families or in house-shares, chores are more likely to be delegated. They could also live in university halls, where a professional cleaner takes on the bulk of the cleaning each week.
On the other hand, Boomers are more likely to suffer from mobility issues, which could slow down their cleaning process. They could also have more time on their hands to dedicate to weekly cleaning.
But what’s surprising is that young Millennials (25-34yrs) spent more time cleaning their houses than other older demographics.
Coming in second to Boomers, Millennials took an average of 158.31 minutes (2.6 hours) per week, compared to 1.9 hours for 35-44-year-olds and 2 hours for 45-54-year-olds.
(So much for the ‘laziest’ generation, eh?)
MultiTasking or Escapism?
In a separate study, Statista also found that Millennials are the highest age demographic to watch TV while completing household chores.
From January 2019 to June 2020, around 35% of 25-34-year-olds said they ‘sometimes’ watch TV while cleaning, whereas 27% opted for ‘often’.
In addition, 15% of Millennials stated they ‘always’ watch TV while doing housework, compared to only 4% of Boomers.
The data is significant as it suggests that Millennials are seeking some form of escapism while working on home services. Now, switching on Netflix while you do your chores could just be to catch up on your favourite show or to create a little background noise.
But getting lost in someone else’s story while you wash up indicates the desire for distraction. Maybe it’s simply to make the task at hand seem less tedious? Or, it could be an attempt to silence your inner dialogue from things you’d rather ignore, such as relationship or career concerns.
Whether it’s multitasking or escapism, this type of behaviour shows that occupying our minds from household chores is not only common, but it also highlights an important issue surrounding home services.
The Ripple Effects
Some real, harmful consequences arise from excessively spending hours of your free time to complete home services. After finishing work, tackling a mountain of chores can be exhausting, frustrating, and a catalyst for plenty of household arguments — especially when substantial gender imbalances are involved.
In another Statista study, 74% of women clean by themselves and 26% receive help. For men, 64% stated they clean on their own, but 36% said they’re supported.
Separate studies also find these inequities, as the ONS reported that women spent 1 hour and 10 minutes more on unpaid domestic work each day than men over the lockdown period.
So, the gender imbalances within domestic work are still rife, leading many researchers to warn of the ripple effects the extra labour can have on relationships and careers.
It’s no surprise that women who shoulder the responsibility of home services feel resentful towards partners who don’t. In heterosexual couples, the extra hours spent on domestic labour, primarily when related to childcare, is a universal leading cause for wage gaps and overlooked promotions.
Even when a woman is promoted to CEO level, the chances of divorce are doubled — with limited leisure time and division of household tasks being primary causes.
So, SHould We Re-tHINK OUR rOUTINES?
That is the question.
The research shows that the time we spend on home services can have astronomical consequences. From this perspective, there’s a real sense of urgency to make better use of our time and truly value it.
Our heteronormative society has deeply ingrained unpaid home services in us, to the point where it feels odd to rethink our routines radically.
But in the time it takes to hoover your apartment, you could be FaceTiming family and friends. Instead of washing and drying the dishes, you could be reading a book. When you iron your clothes, you could be meditating or asking your partner how their day was.
The truth is, there are plenty of more beneficial activities that could easily replace the hours we give to home services. With more Millennials in London hiring cleaners than ever before, and calls to address the gender inequities in homes becoming widespread, the world seems to be waking up to the potential that’s out there.
And while these measures may seem ‘drastic’, they both work towards the same goal; to find the time for the things that are most important to us.
So, go ahead. Rethink your routine. There’s no harm in it.
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