About this project

This is a place for people to share stories, memories, and images of cleaning house. Please follow us, participate and connect:

Share a cleaning story

Pick one or more of the prompts below. Submit text or photos in response.

Click on a prompt to see responses posted by others.

1. What’s your favorite cleaning task? Why?

2. What's your least favorite cleaning task? Why?

3. When you think of your mother (or grandmother) cleaning, what do you see her doing?

4. When you think of your father (or grandfather) cleaning, what do you see him doing?

5. When you think of cleaning, what image comes to mind? Take a photograph that approximates this mental image.

6. Pull out the cleaning supplies, tools, and products under your sink (or wherever you keep them). Take a group portrait of them.

7. Do you have any unique or unusual cleaning tools? Take a photograph and write a short caption describing what it is.

8. Think of the last time you cleaned house. Take a moment to remember the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations associated with that experience. Describe what you did and how you felt.

9. Take “before” and “after” photographs of a room, or part of a room, that you clean.

10. What does cleaning represent in your life?

11. How would/do you feel about hiring someone to clean your house?

12. How would/do you feel about being employed to clean other people’s houses?

13. Take a photograph of what’s in your kitchen sink right now.

14. Is there something culturally specific about the way you clean or your relationship to cleaning? Explain.

15. Do you have any recurring arguments with family members or housemates about cleaning? Describe.

16. Describe a memory about cleaning when you were a child.

17. Take a series of photographs of an area in your house, such as a table, your dish rack, your bed or bedroom floor, one a day, for nine days. Take the photographs from the same angle, so that the space doesn’t change, just the objects in it. You don’t have to do it on consecutive days, just whenever you think of it.


7. Do you have any unique or unusual cleaning tools? Take a photograph and write a short caption describing what it is.

Every Friday after school Mom and I would clean up the house. We lived in a large wooden home in Mill Valley that originally served as the lodge for hikers that climbed the mountain. Our father made smaller rooms in the back of the house for bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. The living room with the large fireplace was in its original condition except that Mom told us she had cleaned the redwood walls and ceiling that had blackened with soot from the fireplace. At some point our father had brought home a crane and we dug out the basement, which he turned into rooms for the boys. There were seven of us kids so a lot accumulated by each Friday for our cleaning session.

We picked up and put things away, washed windows, vacuumed, did dishes, did laundry and made beds. We mopped floors, and cleaned counters. Occasionally we swept the outdoors and picked up the droppings from the redwood trees. The living room was the last room. We dusted the furniture till it shone, and put all the pictures and knick-knacks in their right place. We mopped the floor and vacuumed. When all the cleaning was done we picked flowers from the garden; daisies, pansies, forget me nots, impatiens, primroses and always fuchsias and put them in a silver antique server that had glass vials for oil and vinegar. At that moment there was such a feeling of peace and order in the world.

I'm 57 now and still like cleaning my Mom's house with my sisters and brothers. To this day I love cleaning my own apartment by myself. I send Bobby on errands, put the music on, have a glass of wine and go at it. When finished I sit and smile, feeling such a sense of accomplishment and peace.

Susana Hennessey Lavery
San Francisco, CA, USA