We know that tasks such as getting rid of cobwebs, dusting, setting the table, watering houseplants, scrubbing the tub and cleaning mirrors haven’t changed much since people started doing them centuries ago. Given this fact, it’s somewhat surprising that the development of home-maintenance robot slaves has been so slow. The Jetsons had a house-servant almost fifty years ago, and all we get is this garrulous whirring little disc used mainly to transport cats back and forth across your living room? Come on, science, get a move on!

As annoying as chores are now, and as much as we can’t wait to hasten the downfall of western civilization into sloth and decadence, some tasks really were much worse.


Cleaning the toilet


Explain to me again how exactly a toilet works?

Why it’s annoying now: There are some persistent souls who develop habits so that they rarely have to see filth on the inside of the toilet. But for the rest of us, this portal tends to develop a life of its own within mere weeks of the last cleaning. It’s fascinating just how many life forms can be spawned in a little puddle of luke-warm water. Just thinking about it is enough to make people want to vomit.

Why it used to be much worse: If you think that’s bad, think about how it used to be before running water.

Couldn’t have been that bad, could it? People just used outhouses or went in the woods, right? Well, unless they lived in the cities and didn’t have access to outhouses and the woods. In that case, the fine citizens would do their business in containers (called chamber pots) and then they’d dump the raw sewage into the streets. Having to dump your toilet out the window ever day is bad enough, but just think about the poor souls who had to walk along those narrow streets during the dumpings. Who wouldn’t mind the old-fashioned way:

FECES (Facebook Environmental Compost Enthusiasts Society). They probably wouldn’t mind going back to the good ‘ol days.


Making the bed


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Why it’s annoying now: Sleeping is one of the most pleasant experiences in most people’s lives, full of blissful ignorance punctuated with dreams about naked and interested members of the opposite sex. However, the act is marred by the fact that the mere performance of it involves making a mess. Even if you don’t participate in more vigorous bedtime activities (such as midnight karate or fighting with your dog for pillow space), your room ends up looking worse than before. It’s like if every time you sat down on your couch your living room exploded into a disaster zone.

Why it used to be much worse: Ever heard the term “sleep tight?” The cute little phrase hearkens back to the days during which your “mattress” was actually a bunch of ropes tied across a frame¬† that would slowly untighten over time.

That’s right, not only would your bed get messy at night, it would also slowly get less functional. And if you didn’t take care of it, you’d end up tied up in the twisted remnants of your mattress. Bummer.

Who wouldn’t mind the old-fashioned way: Shakers, who continue to flout high-tech modern technology (i.e., the box spring) to bring us the “simplicity” of rope beds.


Washing dishes


Why wash? Just buy more plates!

Why it’s annoying now: Cleaning dishes is one of those maddening chores that is never quite done. As soon as you finish, someone puts a cup or a spoon or a science project from the back of the fridge back into the sink. Don’t even get us started on the communal roommate sink. It’s very easy to literally do dishes all day long.

Why it used to be much worse: Well, at least you don’t have to eat off of dishes that were cleaned with dirt or sand. Imagine what a nightmare that would be for your teeth (and what a boon it would be for your dentist!) Oh, of course, if you didn’t have any sand on hand, you could always use bits of broken glass.

Who wouldn’t mind the old-fashioned way: Wilderness types, who enjoy playing the role of old-fashioned frontier housewife with their water and dirt.