chores · cleaning · clutter · homemaking

What if You and Your Spouse Have Different Cleaning Styles?

What if you and your spouse have different cleaning styles?

If you are smirking, then you already know exactly what I mean.  But, just in case you are not sure, let’s talk about cleaning styles.

The wife, let’s call her “Susan” likes quantity over quality.  She wants every room picked up by the time she is done, but, isn’t looking for every single thing to be 100 percent perfect.

Her husband, let’s call him “Bill,” is the opposite. He prefers to hunker down in one room and spend three hours there, getting it clean from top to bottom.

Alright, you guessed it.  My husband and I are Susan and Bill. 


I tend to treat the house like a three layer cake.

First I go all over the house on the top layer, picking up clutter, putting things away, wiping off counters, etc. Then, and only then, do I go on to the next layer and so forth.

Pros: This type of cleaning gives the cleaner immediate satisfaction.  It’s more bang for the buck.

Cons: Susan NEVER gets to the bottom of the pile.  She will be lucky if she can ever get to the nitty-gritty of a room.

Bill’s style (my husband) is good too, although different.  Instead of starting on the top layer of the cake, he chooses a place to start and dives into all three layers at once, slowly making his way through.

Pros: It is extremely thorough! (And looks so good in the end!)

Cons: It takes a LONG TIME and if he is pressed for time, he cannot finish and it causes frustration.

There are other styles of cleaning too:

The follow-the-list cleaner. This person has a list. She follows her list and then she is done.  No more, no less.  She can wait to do the other things tomorrow.

The anxiety cleaner. This person sees something that needs to be cleaned and starts to clean it, but then sees something else that needs to be cleaned and gets distracted by it.

The let-it-pile-up cleaner.  This person has things organized, sort of.  Piles are everywhere and when, and only when, the pile becomes a problem, they address it.

The cleaning as therapy/exercise person.  This person cleans to keep themselves sane (or fit). They throw the vacuum around like it’s a rag, they haul the soapy water through the house with ease, they move boxes with all their strength…just don’t get in their way, because you will be trampled or conscripted into working.

Which one are you? Which one is your spouse? 


So, what is the result of different cleaning styles coming together?  After being married for more than twenty years, I can tell you: arguments.

I confess to looking at my husband 45 minutes after we started cleaning one Saturday (or several) and allowing my impatience to come flying out of my mouth.  Quantity-wise, I had accomplished MORE in that 45 minutes. But quality-wise he had accomplished more.

When we plan a cleaning time (or home repair, because it come up then as well), I have to consciously choose to not critique him and not compare.

I didn’t know this when we first got married.  We got into some serious bumps on cleaning  days during the first years (ten?) of our marriage because I would say: “What have you been DOING??” The unhappy result of that was that he felt bossed around and criticized.

And even worse, the cleaning stopped! (kidding..sorta)

As the years have gone, I have learned to seen the value in his style of cleaning.  And most likely if you and your spouse do it differently too, there is some good to his way of doing things. 

But, I have had to CHOOSE to not push my style of cleaning on him. 
I have had to learn to see the value in his style. 
I have had to accept that maybe not all the things will get done in the time I thought they would.

And that’s o.k.

I see now that when he leaves a room, it looks stunning. Shiny, organized and peaceful, just the way I want it to.  So, really, why am I complaining?

I’ll be honest, probably because I am impatient!
I am quick, he is methodical. It comes down to that.

If you and your partner have different cleaning styles, I would encourage you NOT to allow it to come between you and for you to attempt to see the value in the other persons’ style.

Rather, choose to focus on the fact that you are lucky he is willing to help, as not all husbands are.

And always, remember:

“Cleaning with kids in the house,
is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.”


26 thoughts on “What if You and Your Spouse Have Different Cleaning Styles?

  1. My Hubs, Lord love him, is a follow the list cleaner. I’m more free in cleaning. Sometimes I start something and don’t finish it until later… this drives him crazy! 🙂 We let this get to us at first. I would just do it all, and he let me. We know see how well we work together, and enjoy our differences, even while cleaning the house. I’ve also learned to not tell him how to do something. He does things his own way, and enjoys not being dictated! ❤ This is an encouraging post! ❤ Thank you for sharing!


  2. My husband and I have very different cleaning styles, which explains how my wedding ring accidentally got thrown away! I can laugh about it now but I took a metal detector to the yard when it happened.


  3. Reading through this article and the comments it seems there are so many different ways that our home function. What seems important to “make the trains run on time” is setting boundaries within your home to reduce arguments that may come up over keeping the house clean. Assign duties and hold people accountable but allow them to do it how they do it. Honestly, if I don’t have time to do it myself I don’t have time to complain about it. Thank you for sharing this =)


  4. For the most part we are the same except when it comes to the kitchen. I’m a detail cleaner in there and he is the “I loaded the dishwasher, but didn’t even see the spill down the cabinet” kind-of-guy. But overall we are “hot mess with dreams of clean and organized.”


  5. I loved reading this! My hubby and I have a different style. He defers to me most of the time (I do most of the cleaning and organizing) but when he is doing a task – he does it his way.


  6. Thanks for the chuckle! Yes, my husband and I have different cleaning style. I like it nice and tidy and he likes to have piles. I then have to nag him to clean it up, although this morning he cleaned up a pile of his without any words from me:)
    I think it’s a great reminder that we’re both on the same team and there are many ways to get the end result!


  7. I think I’m all types lol! I do clean from anxiety, have a few piles, and throw around the vacuum when I’m rushed. And I also have days where I take my time and really clean, while other days I get easily distracted and cannot finish tasks. I guess I’m an unusual cleaner, but it’s so true that I have to choose to enjoy how my spouse cleans and contributes! Great advice, especially about the kids and Oreos:)


  8. Ha! I’m not sure this is possible, but I am ALL of the cleaning styles except the one you described your husband to be. And that is exactly the same one my husband is!


  9. Husband isn’t home much so it’s mom vs kids cleaning styles, lol. When he is here and actually starts cleaning, it’s amazing and ten times better than mine. I get annoyed with the kiddos, but I keep reminding myself that one day I won’t have little people to clean up after and should enjoy their little messes.


  10. My husband and I are also opposites in our cleaning styles. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s impossible to run a home, run a business, homeschool, and minister to people at church if you have to spend 3 hours cleaning one room. It’s just not possible.


  11. I can so relate to this. My husband and I clean differently, too. And throwing kids in the mix… (deep breath). I’ve decided my house will be clean in 10 years when they all move out. Until then, visit at your own risk.


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