ATLANTA — The arrival of spring marks an annual tradition for more than three-quarters of Americans, according to a new survey: cleaning out the house! Spring cleaning, of course, is a necessary evil (or blessing, depending how much you enjoy it). For many of us, that annual collection of “stuff” piling up around the house is driving us crazy, literally, according to recent research. The survey of about 1,000 people shows that two-thirds of adults say a dirty home makes them anxious.
According to the survey, conducted by ApartmentGuide.com, 76% of Americans make it a tradition to do spring cleaning each year. Most respondents (63%) say they wind up performing the majority of the cleaning inside their home. About 1 in 8 people (12%) admit they try to get their significant other to do the cleaning, while another 12% hire maid or cleaning services to handle their household messes.
Clutter — not dirt — was cited as the most maddening mess to have in a home, with 27% of participants ranking it the highest in annoyance. Behind clutter, animal or human hair (18%), and dirt or sand (15%) were the next-most annoying messes.
Decluttering household areas can positively impact mood and self-esteem. Research has shown that being in a cluttered space constricts creativity and productivity, diverts focus from other tasks, and makes it difficult to relax. Letting guests see a disorganized, cluttered space can also be a major source of embarrassment and guilt.
The emotional effect of cluttered spaces makes de-cluttering an important household chore, often at the expense of other necessary and beneficial cleaning tasks. Reducing clutter is never a bad thing, but deep cleaning also needs to happen more often to live in a healthy space. Food left out, even crumbs, can attract house bugs carrying diseases, for example. Bacteria growing in your kitchen sink can sometimes cause illnesses, too.
Researchers also say that more men are taking an active role in keeping the house clean than in the past, but women still lead the field in cleaning tasks. A 2018 survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 49% of women did housework on an average day, compared to only 20% of men.
When it came to the current survey, 72% of women perform most of the housecleaning, while only 53% of men made the same claim. Perhaps not surprisingly on that note, 76% of women reported they feel more anxious or nervous when they see a dirty or cluttered home, compared to 55% of men.
Another good example of the gender divide when it comes to common household chores is the sink. A third of women in the survey said they deep-clean their sink every few days, versus just a quarter of men. Moreover, 31% of men said they have never thoroughly cleaned their sink, compared to 21% of women.
One reason for the added pressure on women could be because women are more likely to be judged by guests for a messy house than men. The survey measured this by asking participants to judge the male or female owner of a clean or dirty room. When participants were told a woman had a clean room, the room was judged more harshly and perceived as less clean than if they were told a man lived in a clean room.
Above all, the survey indicated that Americans need to clean their homes more often, and not just attack the clutter. One previous study showed that coliform bacteria can be found in 81% of American households. Yeast and mold growths were found in 31% of homes, and the potentially deadly Staphylococcus aureus in 5% of households.
The researchers recommend examining these areas of your home to keep it clean and safe: