I’ve lived in the same flat, with the same flatmate, for a little over 6 years now. We moved in at the tail end of September in 2011, as we were both starting undergraduate degrees. From that point, we grew and developed and carved out a little home in the flat as the years progressed. Permeating that homeliness feeling for me, though, is the knowledge that my flatmate’s father is our landlord. At first this didn’t matter too much, as we paid our rent the same and chipped in with chores.
As with any living situation, we were a tad more vigilant than usual with our cleaning at first. Gradually, we grew a bit more lax as students do and our cleaning fell out of routine and into the situation where it would be one of us who breaks. Fun fact, the person who broke was always me. As I’ve gotten older and matured a little, my tolerance for living in filth has deteriorated and I’ve begun cleaning regularly as part of a weekly routine.
The result has universally been that my flatmate has either not noticed my efforts, or has actively revelled in not having to do cleaning. Now, I know he’s not malicious so I doubt he’s revelling. Every week my cleaning routine extends to include another item as I gradually break and despise the state that it’s in. To clarify, I had cleaned the toilet and the bath prior to a conversation about cleaning duties – and a significant number of weeks later, I was again forced to clean them due to their state.
Now, I’m unaware of a lot of things due to my inherent privilege. I’m aware that housework has historically been imposed upon women as unwaged work, and here I am as a man complaining as soon as I’m forced to do it. I fully support the wages for housework movements, and what they represent for women and the working classes across the globe. I get that doesn’t automatically give me a right to complain, and certainly doesn’t give me a right to latch onto Federici’s amazing work to claim wages for housework myself. That said, I spent in excess of 2 hours a week cleaning up after my flatmate, with absolutely no acknowledgement or recompense and that is definitely a theft of labour. Even a surface level analysis would reveal this: the job cleaner exists, ergo housework is work that deserves wages. As such I’ve decided to trial out reducing my bill payments to my flatmate to reflect the efforts I put into cleaning our communal space. It’ll be based on an hourly wage of about £10 an hour. I’m not sure what will happen, but considering how often my flatmate complains about money – my bet is that he’ll sharply develop a cleaning habit.