UPDATED: The Directly Proportional Law of Housekeeping

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m making important contributions to science. Discoveries as profound as Newton’s Law of Gravity, really. A couple of years ago, for example, my work focused on  the Transitive Property of Parenting. This year, I discovered the Directly Proportional Law of Housekeeping.

The Directly Proportional Law of Housekeeping
The clean areas of one’s house are directly proportional to the dirty areas, such that cleaning anywhere is futile because of the immediate, opposite effect somewhere nearby.

I’d like to point out that I take the scientific process very seriously and I do not use the word law lightly.

“A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspect of the world. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements.”  Wikipedia (Wikipedia said it. I believe it. That settles it.)

In fact, I consider my ongoing efforts in this specific area of science to be my life’s work. I conduct experiments daily. Or hourly. Sometimes every minute, so dedicated am I. And guess what? I can repeat exactly the same results every single time. Every. Single. Time.

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For example, last weekend I did all of the laundry. All of it. Except for the entire load of miscellaneous stuff we found around the house and scattered around the backyard in the 15 minutes after all the laundry was finished. To be clear, before all the laundry was finished, those stained shirts and muddy towels and mismatched socks and haphazardly discarded undies were not there, and then, when the laundry was finished, they materialized. Had I not finished the laundry, they would never have appeared, is what I’m saying. CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP, folks, and ongoing proof of the Directly Proportional Law of Housekeeping.

Because good scientific process is transparent scientific process, I’m happy to duplicate the results in your laboratory. Especially if your laboratory is in the Bahamas. Or the Cook Islands. Or the Galapagos. Or on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

I’m also seeking additional researchers to conduct like experiments worldwide before I publish these results to the broader scientific community. If you’ve performed a similar experiment – if you are performing a similar experiment right now, even – please share your results!

P.S. Although I’ve observed the Law of Directly Proportional Housekeeping in action many times, I’m at a loss to explain how it happens. Do you have any hypotheses? I’m thinking it must have some basis in the Laws of the Conservation of Mass and Energy.



It turns out Greg and I have been conducting parallel research. His studies resulted in the Law of the Conservation of Housework.

Law of the Conservation of Housework
Within a problem house, the amount of housework remains constant and is neither created nor destroyed.  Housework can be converted from one form to another (potential laundry can be converted to dirty laundry) but the total housework within the domicile remains fixed.

In conclusion, Greg and I are to the Laws of Housework as Newton and Liebniz were to Calculus.

Also, if you get that Newton/Liebniz connection, congratulations. You’re a true geek.

Also-also, if you get that Newton/Liebniz connection, you understand I’m doing some hot and heavy flirting with my mathematician of a husband. Sorry you had to see that.



After showing you that I’ve learned how to flirt with my Math and Science husband, I thought I’d also show you that he’s learned how to flirt with me.

Yesterday, after taking kids to and from organized activities all day (summer’s gonna kill me, y’all), I was sitting at swim lessons for 4. Swim lessons scheduled during dinner time, of course. So Greg texted to ask if he should boil some pasta for dinner. Total flirting in my book. And then I abdicated all parental responsibility. And then he flirted even harder.

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It is good to be known.


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28 responses to “UPDATED: The Directly Proportional Law of Housekeeping”

  1. You would think that for a family who is out of the house each day before 8 am and returning around 5 pm wouldn’t have much of a mess. Still, daily, once the kids are in bed, my living room looks like a bomb went off and the kitchen counters are covered with dishes and congealing food.
    Every evening, I clean the kitchen, then tidy the living room, and whatever kid stuff I find goes into a laundry basket which I then carry to my bedroom to put it away the next day before they go to bed.

    So guess what? My bedroom? My safe haven away from the chaos? My comfy place and quietest room in the house? FILLED WITH TUTUS AND TIARAS! Because of course, I only go in my bedroom at the end of the day when I’m going to bed.

    Don’t even get me started on laundry….

  2. I totally agree with the directly proportional law of housework and was about to note that an important caveat is that the opposite is NOT true – i.e. messing up one part of my house will not make another be clean. To your point in this law, it only reduces the total cleanliness potential of my house for all future time… So the fact that our house is a complete disaster due to to recent renovations means that if we’d like to ever be even vaguely clean again, we just have to move.

    So I actually I’m going to have to disagree with the law of conservation of housework. Housework can TOTALLY be created! It just can’t be destroyed…

    Wow… that’s depressing.

  3. I’m a single mom to a 4 year old and am moving in one week. Not a huge move to most, in the same zipcode, and I am starting to wonder if I will ever actually get anything into a box and have it stay there. As I pack a box my daughter was literally right behind me putting stuff back. I tried packing when she was out of the house but dared to make her a snack out of her eyesight and when I came back she very proudly showed me all of the stuff she had unpacked, it took her less than 10 minutes. I agree wth your theory 100%.

  4. My best known, tried and true law is the one where I say F it and go read a book. The house is trashed and I quit. That is the day that my neat-freak, out-of-state relatives show up for a surprise visit.
    Yeah. Impressive.

    • Fantastic! Sounds like the perfect time for a ‘nervous breakdown’ hotel retreat. Let them stay and clean up the house! (I wish my inlaws & relatives were neat freaks) They’d probably never do it again!

  5. I think the law also involves some sort of inverse time quotient. As in – the amount of time you have for housekeeping is reduced proportionally by the magnitude of the visitor. My household appliances also operate within this Law, a phone call from MIL saying “I’m on the way over” means that my dishwasher will instantly run out of salt, the Hoover will somehow be full (I think it must absorb the dirt – it certainly isn’t full from being used) and the dryer will shout that the infamous lint trap needs emptying.

  6. I have realized that the only way to find my favourite coffee mug or the blue plastic cup which is the only cup my five year old will drink from is to load the dishwasher and turn it on. The monet after i close the door and turn it on, at least five cups/ mugs and a couple of plates and bowls miraculously appear.

  7. I also believe in the “inverse law of directions.” there are certain words parents use that are actually heard by children as the INVERSE of the word. For example, a parent may say, “stop!” this actually means, keep doing it and in fact do it faster and harder, to a child. “come here” means run away, “give me that” means throw it in the opposite direction, and “sit down” clearly means run around the table to poke your brother one more time.

  8. In regards to laundry and dirty dishes, I have come to the conclusion that it has, over time, developed the ability to reproduce. There also seems to be a direct correlation between its gestational period and the number of children living in the home: the more children, the shorter the gestation. This seems to me, the only plausible explanation. Unfortunately, dishes and laundry have not yet evolved the ability to clean themselves, or put themselves neatly away. I am holding on to hope for future generations.

    Can someone please contact the Myth Busters about this? I think they could do this subject justice.

  9. I find that the moment I (or someone else delegated to by me thereby giving me credit for having done said work through nagging, threatening, pleading, cajoling, haranguing, pestering, vexing, annoying, begging, enticing, bribing, entreating, and so on) have finally cleaned a room to my currently lowered standards of satisfaction, upon leaving said satisfactory room, can return in ANY amount of time to find it has been utterly undone. The Smalls will fall upon recently cleared floor space (yes that is all it takes for a room to be ‘clean’ in our household at this time) to spread out their numerous toys and occupy the previously cleaned space. How all of the dirt, trash and laundry factors into their playing with the numerous toys involved in their complex games and thereby gets spread everywhere with them is beyond my small comprehension.
    I just wish they would stop hiding half of the shoes.

  10. OMG I officially love your husband, for the beer remark, the math hurt my head a little. I’ve been conducting experiments in construction chaos that parallel LCH (oooooh, every good law needs an acronym). You can move construction tools and other crap out of a room that is supposedly finished but somehow it will return there from another room that was thought to be finished but wasn’t. In the mix of the shuffle, stuff will get lost thus rendering the work unfinished for even longer.
    In other news that I know you’ll appreciate – I got build in cubbies for all our crap to have a home. I can’t wait to organize!!!!

  11. When I went back to work full time, we got a cleaning service twice a month. I can tell you that this law holds, even when someone else does a portion of the work…they make the beds, but leave the dirty sheets for me.
    PS. The beds are made exactly twice a month for four hours. The rest of the times the sheets are crumpled, the blankets are on the floor, and there are pajamas and stuffed toys strewn about.

  12. I’ve done a different study and have come up with my own theory:

    For every lesson attempted by a parent, there is a disproportionately opposite lesson earned by the child.

    For example, awhile back I tried to teach my then 4 year old that his actions affect others. I would point out how his leaving a toy out might make me trip and fall. The lesson he learned? There’s always someone to blame and it’s always someone else.

    Oh and remember that cleaning a house with kids is like trying to brush your teeth while eating oreos.

  13. All this math and science is making my brain hurt, but I divide my house into 4 areas:
    2-living room
    3-bedroom and nursery

    I’ve noticed that if I do the kitchen the living room becomes a disaster and vice versa. I never touch the bathroom except to put away large items such as my husband’s razor or my curling iron. But, it does seem if I ever go near my bedroom or the nursery (which really is more of a storage closet, nobody sleeps or goes in there) then the rest of the house blows up as if a tornado, or burglar, ransacks it. One day…(sigh)

    • Yes! I spent the whole morning cleaning my kitchen. It looks spotless now (unless you look down at the floor, but one should never do that) but my living room looks like a bomb exploded in there.

  14. I’ll see your Newton/Leibniz reference and toss in some notation…
    f(x), f'(x)
    f(x), d[f(x)]

    Also a football cheer:
    e^x dydx, e^dx
    sec tan cos sin
    Square roots, cube roots, Poisson brackets
    Disintegrate them, Yellow Jackets!

  15. Hilarious. My husband is a scientist–I get it. What I can never figure out is how I can basically spend the day cleaning the kitchen, yet it never looks clean. Why in the world should it take all day? And laundry–there are only three of us, and one is small. How in heaven can we have such a ridiculous amount of laundry? We don’t dress that nicely, to tell the truth, so we must have a ton of very ordinary clothes which I spend way too much time looking at in piles around the house.

    • the more kids you add, the worse the laundry gets…since we added a 4th person to the family, so weeks, I am doing 10+ loads of laundry. And whenever I think it is done, there is always another load…So, I make sure to leave a pile on the laundry room floor, so I don’t have to do yet another load!!

  16. I just THOUGHT about cleaning the bathroom today, and boom! the 4-year-old peed on the floor. I’m speculating that I shouldn’t think about cleaning the bathroom anymore.

    *Note: When I first typed this, I wrote “3-year-old”. He’s been 4 since January. I must be a terrible mother.

  17. Similar to this is the Directly Proportional Law of Cooking and Eating. The night everyone has a meeting, is running late and you haven’t had time to go shopping, so dinner consists of eggs and toast, EVERYONE is starving. The next day, you spend hours preparing an elaborate meal, perhaps out of guilt. Homemade rolls, beautiful salad with rose radishes, piped potatoes, beef wellington, asparagus with hollandaise, Baked Alaska. and no one feels like eating!

  18. If I do the dishes in the middle of the day, you would think that the evening dishes would be less, so much less that it wouldn’t fill another dishwasher load, right? Nope. It always seems that if I do the dishes in the afternoon, that by the time dinner rolls around, I barley have any room in the kitchen sink to use for dinner making!

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