Making a House a Home

Which of these two statements sounds more accurate: “Wow, I got a lot done today,” or “Wow, where did all the time go?”
Americans are more stressed today than they’ve been in years, and experts have figured out the three major issues bringing us down: money, work and the economy. You might think the answer is to build a better budget for your finances, but what about a budget for your time instead?
If you’ve never thought about the amount of time you spend taking care of everyday tasks around your home, you could be biting off more than you can chew. To find out how much time Americans are spending on chores and housework, we used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey from 2012 to 2016 to track down who was more invested in the home, what was eating most of their time, and how that might impact their stress levels. A list of activities we studied is provided below.
Household Activities

  • Housework (e.g., Interior Cleaning, Laundry, etc.)
  • Food and Drink Preparation, Presentation and Clean-Up
  • Interior Maintenance, Repair and Decoration
  • Exterior Maintenance, Repair and Decoration
  • Lawn, Garden and Houseplants
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Appliances, Tools and Toys
  • Household Management (e.g., Financial Management, Home Security, etc.)

Key Findings

  • Men spend 14 more minutes relaxing during the day than women.
  • The average American spends 44 minutes a day on household activities.
  • Vehicle maintenance is the household activity people spend the most time on, averaging over 1.5 hours of Americans’ time.
  • Alaska residents spend the most time on household chores: 58 minutes a day, followed by Louisiana (52 minutes), Montana (52 minutes), and Georgia residents(48 minutes).
  • Vermont and D.C.residents spend the least amount of time on household chores: 38 minutes a day, followed by Missouri (40 minutes), Maine (40 minutes), and Delaware residents (40 minutes).
  • Southern states spend the most time relaxing at home, with Mississippians averaging nearly two hours of leisure time in their homes each day.

An overview of time spent on household activities

The busiest American homes


When it comes to responsibilities, we may never escape that list of household chores. Including the amount of time Americans spend preparing meals, maintaining their cars or working in the yard, the average person spends 44 minutes a day working around their home.
Some of these chores (like cleaning the bathtub or getting rid of grout buildup between tiles) can be far more taxing than other tasks, inspiring people to come up with shortcuts to cut down on the workload or even hiring outside help.
So who’s putting in extra hours, and who might be taking it easy? We found people living in Alaska may have more work on their hands than the rest of us. Known as the Last Frontier, Alaska comes with its own set of perks like breathtaking wildlife and the occasional glimpse of the northern lights. However, it could also mean the work you do around the house or in the yard could be more difficult to accomplish. With a near hour, on average, spent on household chores, the cold climate and naturally low lighting could make getting routine housework done even more stressful.
Places where Americans spend the least amount of time focused on chores? Northeastern states including Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts had some of the lowest averages reported across the country.

Time is money

When it comes to the things that need maintenance in our life, the things eating up most of our time are probably our cars.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend an average of 99 minutes focused on cleaning, repairing and maintaining their vehicles. More than just costing you time, there are a lot of hidden ways your vehicle could be costing you money as well. New cars typically depreciate by roughly 21 percent in the first year alone, making late-model used vehicles with less mileage a more practical purchase for some Americans. It’s important to consider your car’s age and recognize that keeping an older car on the road longer could be costing you more than it’s worth in the end – both time and money.
Beyond maintaining his or her car, the average American spends 98 minutes focused on interior home maintenance, repairs and decorating, and another 96 minutes on the home’s exterior.
With all of these obligations, you may be difficult at the end of the day to put a home-cooked meal on the table. While general interest has played a role in the decline of cooking dinner, time is also a factor. While Americans spend an average of 30 minutes preparing, plating and cleaning up from their daily meals, most also spend roughly $3,000 on restaurants and takeout each year.

Striking the right balance

Where paid work is concerned, men and women are nearly equal participants. In 2016, more than 45 percent of the U.S. labor force was comprised of women, including 70 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest workloads around the house may not be as equally distributed, however.
While men ultimately dominated the average amount of time spent repairing or maintaining their vehicles (107 minutes compared to 55 for women), women still spent more time than men on food and drink preparation and housework. Research has shown men are less inclined to do tasks seen as feminine and that most Americans still think women should the the bulk of the housework. Experts suggest this imbalance could lead to both mental and physical health concerns in women and that if the workload seems unfair to either party, their relationship could also suffer.
According to our research, men and women invested almost the same amount of time on household management, as well as cooking and preparing meals. However, men spent more time than women on lawn and garden or exterior maintenance.

Priorities around the house

Here we can see which parts of the country invest the most time in household tasks ranging from lawn care to interior and exterior maintenance.
The average U.S. yard size is shrinking, but Americans are still spending more than two hours a day on caring for and maintaining the perfect curb appeal. In Louisiana, Georgia and New Hampshire, Americans spent an average of 130 minutes or more working on their lawn, while in Delaware residents spent the most time working on their lawns – over 2.5 hours. Georgia residents have some the biggest yards anywhere in the U.S., with lot sizes in some parts of the state averaging over 14,000 square feet. Other Southern states like Louisiana also enjoy more rainfall than anywhere else in the country, making it one of the best places for growing vegetables and food in America.
In 2016, Arizona had some of the lowest levels of outmigration (people picking up and moving to other states) in the U.S. Arizonans spent the most amount of time doing chores around the house, including cleaning and laundry at 76 minutes each day, on average. Nevada and Montana had seen similar trends in their migration rates and spent 70 minutes each day keeping their homes in tip-top shape. People who are less likely to move may be more inclined to invest time into turning their houses into places they’re proud to call home.

Regional responsibilities

Even though more people are buying new cars than ever before, the average age of vehicles across the country is going up. For some, that could mean less money spent on a monthly car payment and more time maintaining a car to keep it on the road. The average amount of time spent each day on vehicle repairs and maintenance was highest in states like West Virginia, Michigan and South Dakota. In West Virginia, the average vehicle age was slightly higher than the national average – nearly 12 years old. Meanwhile, in South Dakota, the average vehicle age was even older at just over 13 years.
Time spent on lawn and gardening was highest in the South and Northeast, and rarely a time constraint for Americans living on the West Coast. In 2015, NASA scientists predicted the coming years would be worse than ever for droughts experienced by Western states like California, Oregon and Utah. Water conservation laws are already in effect in many of these states, reducing both the opportunity and viability of gardening and lawn maintenance.

Owning vs renting

Fewer people own their homes now than at any point over the last 50 years – but that isn’t necessarily by choice. While fewer millennials are in the market to buy today, a vast majority (around 90 percent) want to be. So what are the pros and cons of homeownership? It turns out the amount of time you spend each day on various tasks around the house could change depending on whether you rent or buy.
If you own your own home, you don’t just get the perks of building equity – you also get the opportunity to build a house that’s truly yours. Choosing which home improvement projects and renovations to tackle gives you the opportunity to personalize the space you’ll live in for years to come. Sill, in some parts of the country where homeownership is less common, Americans may be spending more time focused on the interiors than the exteriors of their homes, even if they won’t be living there forever.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates Americans living in the Northeast spend significantly more time working on the outside of their homes than on the inside. Some of the oldest houses in the country are in places like Washington D.C., Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut and can require more routine maintenance than newer homes. Both renters and buyers spent between 93 and 103 minutes daily making sure their houses were in top-shape, from the chimney to the driveway. Americans who rented their homes in the South and Midwest spent more time on interior maintenance and decorating than they did on the outside of their homes. States in these regions, including Texas, Florida and North Dakota, tend to have fewer homeowners and spend less time focused on appliances and tools than Americans who own their homes.

Time to unwind

If you’re feeling overloaded because there’s too much on your to-do list around the house, you could be feeling the effects of stress in more ways than one. Beyond the mental symptoms of stress like anxiety, irritability or depression, stress can manifest into physical symptoms as well. You may be more likely to get headaches, feel fatigued or even have trouble sleeping as a result of an unbalanced daily schedule, or when household chores are taking up more of your time than you realize.
When it came to finding time to unwind and relax, men spent an average of 14 more minutes than women putting up their feet and resting each day. Unemployed men especially tend to spend more of their free time watching TV and movies, while women invest in housework and caring for others.
Residents of Southern states like Alabama and Mississippi may have perfected the art of finding the right amount of time to themselves – they found nearly two hours a day for relaxing and reconnecting with themselves. Of course, their passion for leisure and recreation could be owed to traditionally warmer climates, which research has shown make people less productive.

Investing in yourself

Regardless of where in the U.S. you live, the odds are you’re probably feeling stressed out about something. While the traditional suspects are related to money and work, there are more reasons why feeling crunched for time could be bringing you down.
Not budgeting your time appropriately or spending too much time thinking about the things you have to get done in a day could make you feel like there’s more on your plate than you can handle. Forgetting to pencil in the time you spend cleaning around the house, keeping up with yardwork or even routine maintenance on your car could create big gaps in your daily schedule and cause unnecessary stress. Some tasks are more likely to take up more time depending on where you live and whether you own or rent your home, and recognizing how much time you spend on them could be the first step to building a better budget for the hours in your day.

Methodology

To determine the average time spent on household activities, we used the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey from 2012 to 2016. The household activities were grouped according to their major subcategory and filtered by location to activities that were conducted in each respondent’s home or yard. A table listing the individual activities in each grouping is included at the top. Results were weighted using weights provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the American Time Use Survey. A table with the individual activities these categories consist of is below.

Sources

Sandra L. Hofferth, Sarah M. Flood, and Matthew Sobek. American Time Use Survey Data Extract Builder: Version 2.6 [dataset]. College Park, MD: University of Maryland and Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 2017. https://doi.org/10.18128/D060.V2.6.

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