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Men Can't Keep House

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When the wife's away, the house decays.
"Does he wash up, never wash up
Does he clean up, no he never cleans up
Does he brush up, he never brushed up
He does nothing, the boy does nothing."
Alesha Dixon, "The Boy Does Nothing"note 

It doesn't matter if a male character is a globe-trotting super-spy, a hyperintelligent genius, or a Millionaire Playboy — according to this trope, any male who's responsible for maintaining a home, apartment, or regeneration pod will inevitably fail in the most spectacular way possible.

When the domicile is actually shown, expect to see unwashed laundry stuck to the ceiling, mold-covered unspeakables in the near-empty refrigerator, pornographic magazines under the mattress (or out in the open), and empty beer cans and pizza boxes everywhere. If and when a person he is looking to impress (usually his mother, boss, or love interest) comes by, there will be a sudden flurry of activity as the hopeless male shoves everything into a closet in an attempt to instantly clean the place. A variation of this trope appears if the male character is living at home with his parents; in this case, expect his room to be an island of grunge while the rest of the house is immaculately well-kept. Trash of the Titans may be invoked if the mess is of epic proportions.


A supertrope to A Day in Her Apron, but while that trope contrasts the skills of a couple, this one focuses solely on the inability of men (married or single) to keep house. Might be subverted with a case of Just Fine Without You. The reason why Mess of Woe is chiefly a Male trope.

It's not inaccurate. Young single men living alone or with other male roommates may not have the time nor the inclination to keep house well, especially when their abode is mostly used for sleeping. The same could be said for young single women, but they're more likely to have grown up learning the ins and outs of housekeeping than men are. Men in many cultures are still socialized to expect women to take up these tasks. On the other hand, it stretches credibility when a married man or a father plays this straight and the men mentioned earlier put less emphasis on housework rather than its absence.


This trope is older than you might think. In fact, Betty Friedan pointed out the Unfortunate Implications for women as well as men in The Feminine Mystique in 1963: not only is it rather insulting toward men, but if men simply can't be expected to keep house decently, it follows that housekeeping must be the woman's responsibility, even if she'd rather pursue a career and split the domestic duties. Indeed, a common subversion of this trope is for the husband to merely be feigning incompetence around the house so he can get away with doing less of it. Today this is almost, but not quite, a Dead Horse Trope, especially in Comedies. In many works, Neat Freak excessive cleanliness and thoughtful decoration in a man's home is sometimes seen as a sign of homosexuality (feeding an equally-pervasive stereotype that all gay men are awesome housekeepers) or neuroticism; a slovenly bachelor is therefore a shorthand for heterosexuality. In other works, however, it is a shorthand for bratty, self-obsessed immaturity, and so a bad bet that way.

Contrast House Husband, Real Men Wear Pink and Neat Freak; compare and contrast with Feminine Women Can Cook. Also see Dads Can't Cook, Guys Are Slobs, Lazy Husband, Lonely Bachelor Pad, and The Pig-Pen.


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  • Pretty common in advertisements for cleaning products: pretty much all the time it's the woman who is doing the cleaning, and it's also pretty common for the husband to be the one who made the mess in the first place.
  • Carl's Jr. Without us, some guys would starve.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted by Minamoto from Psychic Squad, who's basically a gender-flipped Action Mom. Skilled shooter, genius scientist, tactical mastermind, all-round badass — and on top of that, he keeps the house spic-and-span, cooks, does the laundry, and make sure the kids get their baths. It's such an in-grown part of his character that even when he's kidnapped by a hostile esper, he instantly takes over the housekeeping, does her laundry, and reminds her to eat her vegetables!
  • Also subverted in Sailor Moon, Mamoru's (Tuxedo Mask) apartment is spotless and it's implied that he's a bit of neat freak.
    • Played straight with his best friend Motoki (Andrew in the dub), who admits to never cleaning his place. Luckily, Makoto is highly skilled at speed-cleaning.
  • Hiko and Kenshin in Rurouni Kenshin both avert this. Hiko's hut was really organized until Kenshin went rifling through it for some medicine he was given once upon a time. Kenshin voluntarily does the laundry.
  • Revy from Black Lagoon, a girl manlier than most men, gets occasional shots of her messy, badly kept room.
  • Surprisingly averted in Chobits, Hideki keeps his apartment remarkably clean for a bachelor. Except at first; for the first few chapters there were porn magazines everywhere, and when his teacher came to stay with him briefly he was scrambling to put them away.
  • Discussed in ...Junai no Seinen as the reason why Kaoru and Daigo always meet at the hotel rather than their apartments.
  • While most of Shigure's house is fairly neat in Fruits Basket, Tohru describes the kitchen as 'The Sea of Corruption' when she first sees it.
    • In the manga, the entire house, and especially the kitchen, is described as a "sea of decay" until Tohru comes and cleans it; even once the rest of it is cleaned, Shigure's room remains a mess.
    • Kyo is actually shown as being more competent with the housework (or at least knows how to cook, putting him above Yuki in that regard). He just never shows any inclination to help out, since he doesn't even want to live there. Funnily enough, he learned what he did about housekeeping because his own adopted dad had his own issues with keeping house (again, primarily cooking).
  • Averted by Syaoran in the manga version Cardcaptor Sakura: he lives alone, but his apartment is absolutely immaculate. Even when a chapter becomes a Sick Episode for him. (In the anime, he has The Jeeves to take care of him and his apartment, though Syaoran is shown to be good at domestic work such as cooking and sewing.)
    • Goes double for Sakura's dad, a widower who nevertheless takes excellent care of his house and children while working as a university professor.
    • Same for Sakura's brother, Touya. The Kinomotos have a dry erase board in the kitchen that keeps track of their schedules and chores, and the three of them seem to share cooking and cleaning fairly equally. The closest Touya gets to this trope is when he trades chores to Sakura in exchange for chaperoning her or mending her clothes, but in those cases he's taking advantage of the fact that he's doing her a favor and those favors tend to be female-coded housekeeping skills anyway.
  • Satou of Welcome to the N.H.K.. Justified, as he is a Hikikomori and a Straw Loser.
  • In Happy Yarou Wedding, when Yuuhi first starts working as a housekeeper for Akira he describes the state of his home as "the tragedy of a single man". Subverted by Yuuhi himself, however.
  • Sha Gojyo in Saiyuki is the poster boy for this trope: until Hakkai moves in with him, his place features random dirty socks, scattered porn mags, and beer cans - lots of beer cans - crammed with cigarette butts. And even after Hakkai's civilizing influence takes effect he never can remember when trash day is.
  • Tiger & Bunny's Kotetsu has evidently never heard of a trash can, given the state of his house. Barnaby seems to have gone to the other extreme; not only does he have absolutely no litter in his apartment — he barely even has any furniture.
  • Inverted in Toradora!; there it's Ryuuji who ends up doing all the housework for Taiga, who is incapable of cooking and too lazy to clean up after herself.
  • Ranma ½: Averted with Ranma Saotome's manga incarnation. Ranma's a great martial artist, capable of exploiting small weaknesses and a quick learner of anything martial arts. He's also a good cook and can sew. And when he sneaks into Hinako's home, he's appalled by how messy it is and starts cleaning it up without even thinking about it.
  • In Kamen no Maid Guy, it's the two siblings who cannot keep house — the house is literally overflowing with garbage, they can't use their own beds, and they have an infestation of rats, crows and snakes.
  • In CLANNAD, Mei visits Sunohara's dorm room to find it's like this. Nagisa notes that it's 'a very boyish room'.
  • Hokuto's house in Happy Marriage?! is terribly dirty. His room, per example, is so horribly dirty it can't even be drawn.
  • Matt's apartment in Death Note is littered with snack-food wrappers and cereal boxes. This is because Matt cares far more about playing video games than he does about cleaning. His roommate, Mello, doesn't seem to mind too much.
    • Defied by Light Yagami. He keeps his room immaculately clean, and has been doing so since junior high. In the live-action adaptation, he also does the cooking, though that seems to be because his mom is dead, his dad is away at work all the time, and his sister is terrible at it.
  • Played straight in Kochikame with Ryotsu's apartment in being horribly untidy.
  • Inverted in Neon Genesis Evangelion—Misato's apartment is a total pigsty when Shinji moves in, and he takes over cooking and cleaning. (He's known to be especially good at cooking.)
  • 5 Centimeters per Second: One of the signs of the loneliness Takaki experiences in the third act is the messy state of his apartment, including but not limited to an undone bed and empty beer cans haphazardly strewn about. According to One more side, though, he wasn't much for tidiness even before the breakup with Risa.
  • Moriarty's default hideout in Sherlock Hound is spectacularly filthy. When he kidnaps Mrs Hudson as part of a plot against Hound, she takes one look at the place and says that he really needs to get a wife. She then proceeds to do a remarkable job of cleaning the place up while he's out for the day setting up the next part of his plan. After she is rescued, the hideout quickly reverts to being a mess.
  • Averted in Spy X Family. Twilight/Loid Forger's apartment is as clean as an apartment inhabited by two adults and a child (and later a dog) can be expected to be. Loid is actually better at cooking than his "wife" Yor, and Anya reacts with horror when Yor says that she's cooking dinner that night. In the interview for Eden Academy, a sexist interviewer tries to bait them by implying that a husband doing "woman's work" must mean something is wrong with them. Yor is better at cleaning, though, as she'd need to be to be as good an assassin as she is.
  • Averted with Umetaro Nozaki in Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, who lives alone and is unusually domestic for a teenage male. He cooks (better than Chiyo, she admits when he brings bento to school for his friends), and despite his place already looking immaculate, he immediately starts cleaning when he hears his editor is coming over. His editor is there for all of two minutes, and doesn't even seem to notice.

  • Rita Rudner put it best: Men are basically bears with furniture.
  • One comedian says that women clean the house better than men do as a means of marking their territory. If the man brings home another woman, she will instantly recognize that a woman has cleaned the house and that the man is therefore a cheating pig.
    Women dust. Men don't dust! We like a coat of dust — in fact, we need a coat of dust around the house! That tells us where to put stuff back!

    Comic Books 
  • Averted in Batman comics, where Alfred Pennyworth keeps not only Wayne Manor in pristine condition but also the Batcave, despite it most likely suffering from a severe Bat-infestation that probably produces quite a large quantity of droppings over the course of a day.
    • Played straight in a storyline where Alfred gets sick, from something in all that guano. While the sidekicks get the job of sterilizing the cave, it falls to Bruce to try to take care of his adoptive father — "try" being the important word. The Batman can't seem to make chicken soup even with a recipe to follow (and ends up having to order take-out). He's pretty good at the reading of bedtime stories, though.
    • Played straight with Tim Drake who is occasionally slow to show up for his work as Robin because the non-incriminating bits of his costume, like the gloves and boots, end up in the piles of clothes on his floor and he has to dig through them all to find them. His family's housekeeper Mrs. McIlvaine is always mildly irritated with him for the mess he makes of his room and for a while he has Drake Manor all to himself after his father is kidnapped. He's so busy with school and his work as Robin during this stretch that he barely has time to sleep let alone clean.
  • In Hex Wives #3, Aaron deliberately invokes this as part of his reinforcing of gender stereotypes. Isadora comes downstairs to find Aaron making breakfast for her, but, in doing so, he has dirtied every dish in the kitchen, splattered batter on the windows, knocked a bin on to the floor, etc.

    Comic Strips 
  • Jeremy's slovenly room is a regular source of comedy in Zits. On occasions when his mom Connie leaves, Jeremy and his dad Walt are this trope played straight, sometimes even depicted as cavemen.
  • When Andy leaves the house to go to a newspaper convention for four whole days in FoxTrot, she entrusts Roger to man the house temporarily (with the strong implication of having the kids go through a fire escape plan and giving Irma a key in case Roger somehow locked himself out of the house). It does just as well as one would expect: He lets Jason use Paige's dolls as makeshift rockets (although he does at least state he can only do so outdoors), leaves a note to the kids before leaving for work after they are asleep (thus carrying the strong implication that they'll end up being late for school), being forced to call pizza delivery after burning both the dinner and himself on the second day, ruining all of the clothes by shrinking them (as well as the strong implication that he might have accidentally dyed the kids' clothing pink), and finally somehow managing to flood the house four feet deep in water due to a dishwater mishap.
  • A minor Running Gag for a while in Garfield involved Garfield and Jon acknowledging something wrong with the house that needs to be taken care of, then Jon will go off and do something like watch TV. Garfield would then turn to the audience and say, "We're bachelors, baby."
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin once asked his dad why it takes his mom longer to do housework. Calvin's dad replies that he's more efficient at cleaning, to which Calvin holds up a basketball sized dust bunny and asks if he can take it to show and tell. From the next room, Calvin's mom can be heard freaking out as it becomes apparent that her husband has been cutting corners while vacuuming.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In the M-rated Three Ways (the third story in Evilhumour's Suspenders-verse, in which the characters are pony anthros and some of them are the opposite gender from their canon selves), Applejack discovers that Rainbow Blitz (a male Rainbow Dash)'s cloud house is a disaster area, with cobwebs on the ceiling and food containers and dirty clothes scattered around the living room and his bedroom, while the kitchen is even worse. On the other hand, he keeps his pet tortoise's terrarium neat and clean, and as he tells Applejack, he does try to keep things up (he ran the self-clean on the oven a year ago, and cleaned out the fridge just a few months back), but something else always comes up whenever he's getting started on the work.
  • Played for Laughs in the Total Drama Comeback Series. In the second story, the contestants are alphabetically assigned to rooms of four, with no regard to gender; most are coed, but one happens to have all guys. Trent comments that obviously this doesn't mean that they have to give into the stereotype of being total pigs...but then, every time that the story cuts back to their room, we're given a description of how much messier it is than the last time.

    Films — Animation 
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: When Snow White first finds the house of the dwarfs it is very filthy. Subverted in the original fairy tale where the dwarves are said to be quite tidy... although one could argue Snow White knowing how to cook and clean despite being raised a princess borders on the implication that it is her place as a woman to know such things. In Disney's defense, they at least gave the explanation of Snow White having to endure Cinderella Circumstances at the hands of her Wicked Stepmother.
  • Toy Story:
    • Sid Phillips in Toy Story demonstrates the kid-at-home variation of this trope, with his junk-strewn dimly-lit bedroom.
    • In Toy Story 2, Al's lovely penthouse apartment is marred by his slovenly lifestyle, which includes junk food all over the floor.
  • Played With in Incredibles 2. Bob takes care of the kids while Helen is off trying to get superheroing legalized again, and he does a great job of it. He cooks for the kids, helps with homework, and makes sure Violet's first date goes well. The only reason things go sideways is because while Bob's great at handling kids, he has no idea how to handle super babies. Jack-Jack developing 17+ super powers at once really strings him out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, the titular duo's apartment starts off as a mild example of this trope. It gets worse once their evil robot doubles further trash the place.
  • In Blade Runner, Deckard's apartment has stuff littering every surface. When Rachael visits, he has to clear stuff out of a chair so that he can sit down. She remains standing. Deckard offers Rachael a drink, and has to clean a glass from the sink because there are no clean glasses available.
  • Played straight in Dennis the Menace: Dinosaur Hunter when Mr. Wilson tries to do laundry and vacuum when his wife, Mrs. Wilson, starts a part-time job. His washing machine overflows with suds coming out and he wrecks decorations on top of a bureau when trying to vacuum.
  • In Designing Woman, a fashion designer (Lauren Bacall) marries a sportswriter (Gregory Peck) and describes his apartment as looking like the cigar box full of junk her brother had.
  • Enchanted. When Giselle wakes up in Robert's apartment, the first thing she notices is how messy it is. So of course she must get right to work cleaning it up. When Nancy arrives, the cleanliness is a red flag that something funny is going on.
  • Joe's Apartment. The roaches specifically dig Joe because he's a slob.
  • Lone Wolf McQuade: After McQuade strikes up a romance with Lola, she shows up in his neglected house and proceeds to clean up after him and get him some decent food. He brushes her off at first, but when she takes it badly he apologizes for acting like a jerk.
  • Lord of Illusions: Private detective Harry D'Amour's New York apartment is a mess, with his employer noting that the place needs a woman's touch. D'Amour bitterly notes that he tried marriage before.
  • The entire premise of Mr. Mom is that Michael Keaton's character loses his job while his housewife rejoins the workforce, forcing him to keep house as a Fish out of Water.
  • In Real Genius, Chris Knight's half of the dorm (that he shares with Mitch) is an unabashedly sloven disaster area, even moreso than the rest of the dorm itself.
  • The first time we see Holmes' apartment in Sherlock Holmes (2009), it is a darkened disheveled mess, complete with bullet holes in the walls. This trope is indirectly discussed when Mrs. Hudson enters and Holmes teases her for not making her rounds more frequently.
  • In Suffragette, when Maud returns home after some weeks in prison, she asks her husband whether he ate, and he replies by grumpily stating that a female neighbour cooked for him and their toddler son. Maud rushes to make tea for him, a task of which he apparently is also incapable. Later on, her husband is shown to not even be able to dress their son - the child is walking around in his pyjamas.
  • Invoked by Sick Boy while he and Renton are sitting in his flat in T2 Trainspotting
    Sick Boy: Veronika doesn't like to come here.
    Renton: It's a mess.
    Sick Boy: It's masculine.
  • Sam Witwicky's room in Transformers, complete with Porn Stash references.
  • Withnail & I contains the gay and straight versions of the trope. Unemployed actors Withnail and Marwood share a squalid flat in London with a particularly vile kitchen. They go for a holiday in gay Uncle Monty's country cottage, which they find to be a barely habitable hovel. Then Monty turns up and takes charge, and quickly makes it warm and homely.

  • There is a fable about a husband and wife who always complain about their respective duties: farming and housekeeping. So they swap for one day. The wife does a great job farming, but comes home to find the cow hanging off the roof and the meal spoiled utterly. There are many such tales, but this particular one is probably The Husband Who Was to Mind the House.

  • This has been implied as the norm in the Discworld City Watch, even after the introduction of female recruits. Mrs. Palm was noticably Squicked by the canteen in Feet of Clay, and Sam Vimes was clearly distressed in Thud!! when his wife Sybil actually washed the tea urn.
    • On the other hand, Lord Downey was noticeably squicked by the Watch canteen as well (he's an Assassin, and they're known for their refinement), and the neatest character in the books is Stanley. It's probably just the Watch that can't keep house.
    • The tea urn thing is probably one of those specifically British tropes which are not understood elsewhere. There are two schools of thought on such matters: one holds that teapots should be washed and kept clean in the same way as any other utensil, the other holds that teapots should never, ever, under any circumstances, be cleaned out, because the years-old internal encrustation of tea deposits improves the flavour of the tea. This is Serious Business in Britain because it is about tea. Sam Vimes is clearly of the latter school, while Sybil is of the former, which is what would be expected given their class origins.
  • Dave Barry mentions sharing an apartment with a fellow young male. It lacked furniture, but this allowed them to play Indoor Ricochet Death Frisbee. Another one is when a reader tells him he has boxed up a ton of old junk and arranged the boxes into ugly brown furniture. His girlfriend fails to see the simple genius of this arrangement, obvious to any male.
  • Keisha refers to this in Owlsight, when she thinks back to when the village women cleaned up Justyn's old cottage. She concedes that he kept the treatment areas clean, but the living areas .... Later, when she first sees Darian's home in the new Vale, she can't believe at first that a single male lives there because it's so clean. (Darian does not score any aversion points, since the hertasi clean the place for him.)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman built a story around this trope: a young widow, who's determined never to keep house for a man again, warms up to a patient suitor when she sees how neat he keeps his home without needing a woman to pick up after him.
  • Subverted in A Brother's Price, the bad state of the rooms where Keifer Porter lived is considered proof of his lazyness. The protagonist, on the other hand almost immediately makes plans for redecoration when he moves into the rooms. His wives approve. Not surprising, as this is a world where masculine men can keep house.
  • Mentioned in passing in one Sherlock Holmes story, where a dead man's apartment is decorated almost "to the point of effeminacy".
  • Subverted in Aubrey-Maturin: Jack's Love Interest Sophie's mother thinks this, and wonders just how slovenly Jack's house must be since he only has sailors working in his household and no proper staff. Turns out the joke's on her; Jack's team sticks to the Navy standard procedure when it comes to care and maintenance. This means dusting, sweeping and mopping the entire house before breakfast every day, inspecting and repairing anything slightly out of order daily, bathing twice weekly, and repainting the entire house once a week. Killick proves himself in the kitchen (of course, seeing as he's cooked his captain's meals three times a day for years), and Sophie's mother grudgingly admits he's probably better than her cook.
  • Subverted by Willie Rushton, who wrote a book called Superpig that manages to be both funny and informatively useful at the same time. Superpig is a manual for how a single man, single by either inclination or circumstance, can live his life without reverting to a porcine or caveman state. The book teaches about domestic skills such as cleaning, cooking, and keeping house for the average man, so that any women in his life might be both pleased and pleasantly surprised.
  • In Bimbos of the Death Sun, Marion Farley accuses her boyfriend Jay Omega of being this, telling one of the convention staff that she once found a radio in his fridge. However, Jay actually has a perfectly reasonable explanation for it: The radio had a problem that appeared intermittently when it heated up, so he put it in the fridge to try and make the problem permanent so he could fix it. On the other hand, when Marion points out that he's also got lemons old enough to vote in there, Jay shrugs and admits that he eats out a lot.
  • In The Berenstain Bears' Life With Papa, Mama Bear goes away for a few days, and Papa's in charge of taking care of the house. As befits this trope, his efforts of doing the chores his way only end up making a bigger mess.
  • In Alexander Pushkin's The House in Kolomna the new cook Mavra is absolutely terrible at cooking and housekeeping. As it turns out, she is a man Disguised in Drag.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in The Andy Griffith Show. Andy and Opie are at first able to clean up the house really well while Aunt Bee is gone, but then they fear she will feel they won't need her. They decide they have to mess the house up all over again.
  • The Japanese dramedy TV series At Home Dad uses this as its premise. The main character is a high-flying advertising exec until his cavalier attitude towards clients' demands lands him on the unemployment rolls, while his wife picks up her career where she left it off to become a full-time mother. It's now up to Daddy to cook, clean, make, mend, and keep up with the high-pressure neighborhood mom clique. However, the guy next door has been doing the househusband thing since day one of his marriage — and he's got the whole thing down to a science.
  • Inverted on The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon is the ultra-regimented neat freak and Penny is the slob. It's even a plot point in one early episode, when Penny has given Leonard a key to her place in case of emergencies; Sheldon considers her slovenly apartment in itself to be an emergency, steals the key, and sneaks in while she's asleep to clean and organize the place. While she later admits that it looks great, it's hard to blame her for being freaked out when she first wakes up.
  • The eponymous shop in Black Books is almost impossibly poorly kept, thanks to Bernard's complete disinterest in keeping it clean (and indeed anything else that's not wine and cigarettes). On at least one occasion the shop was colonised by a species of creature with fur and a beak apparently unknown to modern science, and even before that had mollusks living on the pipes (despite the fact that "traditionally, they live in the sea").
    • At the beginning of the third series, Manny has left thanks to finally having enough of Bernard's abuse, and Bernard sinks into a depression that leaves him even less inclined to tidy up. When Fran returns from a holiday in Cornwall, she find the place piled high with trash and sporting a dead badger.
  • In Seasons 4 and the first part of 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies have graduated high school, but Xander still lives at home in his parents' basement. It's pretty cluttered, though how much of this is Trash of the Titans vs. his parents using the basement as a storage room is unclear. We also never see the rest of the house.
  • A mild version appears in Community with Troy and Abed. Their place is generally quite tidy, but they lack some basic skills. When Annie moves in with them, they ask her to finally show them where the water goes in the iron, what the iron is for and how to get out Kool-Aid. And they tried opposite color Kool Aid, and it doesn't work.
  • Criminal Minds: Prentiss comments on this when inspecting a suspect's dirty home, causing Morgan to protest as he's a clean freak.
  • Doctor Who: "World War Three" gives us this exchange, particularly notable because Rose has been away for a whole year and yet still knows the contents of Mickey's kitchen better than he does:
    The Doctor: Mickey, have you got any vinegar?
    Mickey: How should I know?
    The Doctor: It's your kitchen!
    Rose: Cupboard by the sink, middle shelf.
  • In the unaired pilot of Dollhouse, Agent Ballard takes Echo (programmed to believe she's a woman searching for her missing sister) back to his apartment and has to dispose of a banana peel and some tissues. She asks for a drink, and Ballard says he's got an unopened bottle of wine in the fridge.
    Echo: Ex-wife leftovers?
    Ballard: [suspicious] How did you know I was divorced?
    Echo: Wife... [indicates picture of Ballard and a woman] Ex... [indicates mess on the table]
  • Elementary: Sherlock Holmes has a real proclivity for making messes.
  • Father Ted:
    • When Mrs. Doyle has a night out, Ted and Dougal manage to start a fire in their attempt to make a cup of tea, and run around in a blind panic.
    • Also used to remove the zombie-horde of old women looking for Eoin McLove.
      Mrs. Doyle: Stop! Stop! Ladies! It's after seven o'clock. I think your husbands might be wondering where their breakfasts are!
      Father Ted: Mrs. Doyle's right! Remember last year, Mrs. Dunn, when your husband tried to wash a cup, and burned the house down. And Mrs. Collins, when Mr. Collins tried to make the bed on his own... [dramatic pause] ...and lost a leg.
  • On Friends, Monica & Rachel's apartment is generally portrayed as much more cleanly, well-stocked with food, and all around nicer than Chandler & Joey's apartment right across the hall, where much of the wall had to be plastered over after a game of "hammer darts", and the floor is considered an acceptable place to keep food you intend to eat later. This is mostly focused on Monica being a neurotic clean freak and Joey being a complete slob, though, with Chandler and Rachel mostly going along with however their current roommate likes to keep house.
    • Inverted when Ross dates a beautiful woman whose apartment resembles an honest-to-goodness landfill, and he breaks up with her because getting intimate with her in the middle of that mess is just too gross.
  • The I Love Lucy episode "Job Switching" had Ricky and Fred invoke this trope along with A Day in Her Apron.
  • In an episode of My Three Sons, Rob's wife Katie, the first female character to join the previously all-male cast, must go away for a while. Although before Katie came along, the men had been able to do fine for themselves, now they flounder. Apparently they have forgotten what to do. Before Katie returns, the men hire three cleaning women to restore order. When Katie sees the clean house, it upsets her. She takes it as evidence that she is not needed.
  • The Partridge Family: When Keith briefly moves out in "Waiting for Bolero," he can't iron his shirts without burning them and needs to pay Danny to bring him food.
  • Peep Show: Jez (and his friend Super Hans) are consistently grubby and messy. Jez's best friend and roommate Mark, however, is something of a neat freak.
  • The short-lived and aptly-named sitcom Pig Sty is based on the premise that five single guys live in one apartment.
  • NCIS: Kate brings up the inverse, the belief that females are inherently better with housekeeping, when she takes a single dropped sweater as proof that a woman and her daughter were kidnapped, because "Little girls aren't slobs," so without foul play, they would have already cleaned up.
  • Played very straight with Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple. Felix, on the other hand, keeps house just fine.
  • Averted in Our Miss Brooks. Mr. Boynton's apartment is seen in "The Wrong Mrs. Boynton". All Miss Brooks has to criticize is the abundance of wildlife specimens and an abundance of doors.
    Miss Brooks: Not bad. If you like wildlife . . . and doors.
  • Played pretty straight in Sherlock, as 221b Baker Street, inhabited by two men, is consistently a mess (complete with a hurried attempt by Sherlock to clean things up when John first visits, which amounts to him moving a couple of things around and sticking some mail onto the mantlepiece with a jack knife). This is usually played as more of a result of Sherlock's occupation and experiments, but Mrs. Hudson is about the only person who ever makes any effort to tidy the place up.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Chief O'Brien was this while his wife was on Bajor studying plants for a full season, in spite of being a military man. Colm Meaney protested the characterization, saying it was cliché humor and a bit offensive.
  • On The X-Files, Mulder goes to a guy's apartment and assumes his mother or girlfriend cleans up after him because it's so clean. The guy says it's just him. (Which is rather ironic of him to say, considering Mulder is no slouch in the housekeeping department. Besides his bedroom/storage closet (filled with boxes of dirty magazines), Mulder's apartment is pretty neat and tidy.)
    Mulder: Well, bravo. You know, they say single guys are just bears who own furniture.
  • In the Hallmark Channel movie Christmas In The Air, a frazzled toy inventor hires a professional organizer to help him get his personal and professional life in order. When we see his house, it is indeed a mess. He's a widower and while it's not clear exactly when his wife died, it's indicated that she's the one who handled all this.
  • Averted on Seinfeld with Jerry, who is consistently shown to be a bit of Neat Freak, and even Kramer seems to keep his place reasonably tidy. Newman, on the other hand, has a very messy apartment.

  • In The Odd Couple, Oscar Madison's house started going to pieces the day his wife moved out. In a couple weeks, Felix manages to render it too clean for Oscar's comfort: "I don't think that two single men living alone in a big eight-room apartment should have a cleaner house than my mother."

    Video Games 
  • Understated but still played straight with Adam Jensen's untidy apartment in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, he could easily be given a pass for this, having recently gone through a lot of serious trauma. That said, an email from before the game's events reveals Adam did slack off on some chores even before he got augmented.
    • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has a similar situation in a sidequest — the mutilated body of a journalist is found on an alley, and her husband is immediately blamed for it. His apartment is in such a bad shape it cannot be a recent development. Being augmented some time back gave him severe depression, which Adam can sympathize with. Turns out he's innocent, since his new hands have no fingerprints yet the killer left some on the body.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, a Running Gag is that Sunny always burns eggs she tries to fry in a pan, which Snake and Otacon are then reluctant to eat. When Snake quips that Otacon should teach Sunny to cook, Otacon protests that he knows nothing about cooking.
  • In Dragon Quest IX, there's a woman in Coffinwell who's one of quite a few who've caught the mysterious disease, and it falls to her husband to keep house. It's not shown in the graphics, but according to her, he generally doesn't stay on top of things. He is seen sleeping standing up, however. After the disease is dealt with, talking to her reveals that he vacillates between this and outperforming her.
  • Inverted in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Pipit's mother, Mallara, is a horrible housekeeper, who stands around idly while her house is covered with dust. She mentions that Pipit keeps it clean for her, and the player (as Link) can clean it to earn rupees and gratitude.
  • Roger Wilco's quarters in Space Quest VI: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier shows this, which fits with his poor performance as a janitor. It's also filled with mementos from the previous games in the series.
  • Trevor's trailer safehouse in Grand Theft Auto V is extremely untidy. It progresses through various stages as the game progresses, but following the kidnapping of Patricia, she spends her time tidying up the trailer, but is reverted to its normal state after her release. Floyd's apartment becomes this when Trevor temporarily moves in.
    • Also true with Michael when his family left him temporarily. His house will be scattered with pizza boxes since he presumably dismissed his maid during that time.
  • The Sims 3 gives us a pre-made exmaple with Dustin Langerak, who despite being a House Husband, doesn't clean the house and is actually a slob. Apparently his duties only extend to caring for and disciplining the kids. His son Parker is also a slob. It's ultimately averted, though, as his wife and sister-in-law also don't clean, so all the cleaning duties are left to daughter Kaylynn, who is a child. (Whether this trope is played straight or averted in the Sims series in general depends on the player, of course.)
  • Hawke's uncle Gamlen, in Dragon Age II, falls into this trope. He lives in what the family describes as a filthy hovel; although it's mostly not shown, probably to reduce loading time, there is a wheel of cheese in one room which is specifically said to have been in the same place for at least a year. Hawke can also make a comment, when interacting with one spot in the main room, that "The house isn't going to clean itself, Uncle." Eventually Hawke and their mother move out, but visiting Gamlen in later acts shows that the house is still exactly the same.

    Visual Novels 
  • Zig-zagged in Ace Attorney: in the Phoenix Wright trilogy, Phoenix tries pretty hard to keep the office tidy so that potential clients would have a good impression should they come to his office, going so far as to be constantly cleaning an already spotless toilet. However, he stops paying attention to it after he gets disbarred, since clients wouldn't be coming anyway. Most of the mess that occurs after that is usually because Trucy buys Stage Magic paraphernalia and leaves it lying around.
  • Amnesia: Later: Kent is really bad at housekeeping duties. His parents tell the heroine how Kent accidentally got soil from his plants onto his futon cover and proceeded to put the entire futon into the wash. They do hope that the heroine, whom they already treat like a daughter-in-law, will be able to teach and take care of Kent. His story actually revolves around averting this trope, as Kent is trying to learn how to keep house, and turns out to be a quick learner and enjoyer of things like cooking and baking.
  • Averted and discussed in the Tokimeki Memorial 2 saga. The main protagonist is described as a tidy boy, and his room (which acts as the main week schedule screen) reflects this; and when girls happen to visit his home (such as, for example, Miyuki in Dancing Summer Vacation), they remark his room's tidiness and are pleasantly surprised, telling him that, since it's a boy's room, they would have thought it would be messier.

    Web Comics 
  • In Erfworld, the apartment Parson Gotti lived in prior to his summoning was, by his own description, a complete mess. It's played as a sign of his depression and disinterest in his own life more than anything.
    Parson: This place is a hole. A condemned hole. For squatter hobbits.
  • In Tales of the Questor, Arlen's is caused by too much to do at once. Nevertheless he comments on the woman's touch in the clean-up.
  • In Sinfest, both Squigley and Slick are terrible housekeepers.
  • In General Protection Fault, Fooker's housekeeping is so horrible that the EPA is supposedly involved and another character, a slime mold named Fred, gains sentience in the mess. Luckily for Fooker, Fred does pay his share of rent and other bills. His housekeeping does improve later in the strip, when he starts dating Sharon and finds that her allergies require a cleaner environment.
  • Inverted in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. Commander Badass, time-travelling Super Soldier and divorced father-of-two is something of a domestic god, and his current girlfriend Jonesy is an abject slob to the point that the Commander refuses to visit her apartment.
  • In Sabrina Online, the first time Sabrina goes to RC's house for dinner, it is revealed that the only food in the house is frozen, microwave meals.

    Web Videos 
  • What horrors of filth bachelors can inflict upon a poor unsuspecting "sink."

    Western Animation 
  • Seen quite frequently on The Simpsons, where if Marge (and to some extent Lisa) aren't around to clean the house, Bart and Homer are very much not up to the task, and it goes to hell very quickly:
    • In "Little Big Mom", Marge is recovering in the hospital, and Bart and Homer turn the place into a filthy sack in minutes. A dismayed Lisa tries to introduce some order and cleanliness, but with no success. She eventually tricks Bart and Homer into thinking the dirty conditions have given them leprosy, in an effort to convince them to clean up — again with no success.
    • In "Bart After Dark", Marge and Lisa are away cleaning up an oil spill, and the house is so dirty that Bart and Homer are making "garbage angels" on the floor. Homer also happens to be wearing a grocery bag which he didn't even clear of groceries first.
      Visitor: ...Are you wearing a grocery bag?
      Homer: (indignantly) I have misplaced my pants.
    • In "$pringfield, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling", Marge picks up a gambling addiction and neglects the housework, so Homer attempts to make breakfast — with a mixture of "cloves, Tom Collins mix, frozen pie crust..." He also has to help the kids with their homework, which included making a costume of Florida for Lisa (for a contest where the kids dressed up as different states) which was so lackluster that Principal Skinner declared that Lisa was one of only two kids who "obviously" made their costumes without their parents' help.note 
    • In "Marge in Chains", Marge is sent to prison for shoplifting, and the house becomes a pigsty within ten minutes. Everyone runs out of clean clothes because nobody knows how to do laundry (not even Lisa, apparently), and the family is forced to start wearing stuff from the attic like wedding dresses and Halloween costumes. Bart is sent to school with a sugar packet and peanut butter smeared on a playing card for lunch.
  • Subverted and played straight in The Cramp Twins, with their mother getting a job Lucian takes over as 'mother' of the house and actually does a pretty good job. His father, on the other hand, has no idea where his socks are, and his brother went to school in his pajamas because his clothes were not put out for him. Lucian tries to keep authority in the house but Wayne decides that with mom gone he can do whatever he wants, and easily convinces his Manchild father to assist him in causing damage to the house by trampolining in the dining room through a hole he makes in the ceiling and roof.
  • Family Guy showed this in "Breaking Out Is Hard to Do" where Lois went to jail. After being arrested the house pretty much goes to hell, with garbage all over the place, Stewie not getting a diaper change in god-knows-how long, and wild animals coming into the house.
  • On Futurama, Fry and Bender are shown multiple times to live like this.
  • Taz-Mania: "Boys Just Want Wanna Have Fun" is about what happens when Jean and Molly go away, leaving Hugh and the boys in charge of the house. The results are predictable.
  • The Captain and the Kids cartoon "Blue Monday".
  • Batman: The Animated Series shows this even applies to supervillains - after the Joker kicks Harley out in "Harley and Ivy", he forgets to feed the hyenas ("They snapped at me!") and can't find his socks. Or trousers, apparently.
  • In the Goof Troop episode "Mrs. Spoonerville", Pete and Goofy join a housekeeping contest, where this trope is played straight with Lazy Husband Pete, who is so bad at housework that he resorts to bribing his children to do it for him (for which he's called out), and averted with single parent Goofy, who is shown to be highly skilled in the field of domesticity.
  • One episode of Popeye and Son deals with Olive Oyl being away while having Popeye and Junior keep an eye on their home. The two of them use spinach to completely clean up the house.
  • The episode "About Face" of Duckman has Bernice leaving Duckman in charge of the house while she has a night out with her friends, telling him to cook the kids a healthy dinner instead of just ordering pizza. Cut to Duckman having done exactly that, then passed out in front of the TV with the house now a filthy mess. Keep in mind that the period of time in which this happened couldn't have been more than a few hours.
    • It's even worse in the episode "Married Alive" where Bernice is gone for a week, and the entire house turns into a city dump with Charles, Mambo, Ajax and Grandmama being trapped in the garbage. An actual homeless man also moves in for the duration.
    Homeless Man: I threw up in your vegetable crisper. An otherwise uneventful few days.
    • Taken to its logical extreme in "Exile In Guyville", which combines this trope with Men Are Uncultured. The Battle of the Sexes escalates until the U.S segregates itself into two states, one for men and one for women. The men's civilization is essentially an even filthier Mad Max.
  • In the episode Hobgoblin part 2 of Spider-Man: The Animated Series Aunt May is rendered comatose by the sight of Peter and Harry's bachelor pad.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated features this. Daphne tells the group that when her mom left for a week, they found her dad half-naked and sucking on a can of soup.
  • One 1970s Fred Basset short features Fred's female owner away on vacation. Her husband is useless on his own. He's forced to eat mediocre canned TV dinners without his wife around.


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