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One of the "ideas" I was raised listening to was that poor people were dirty, if you were unclean you were poor (or if you were poor you must be messy) and if you were clean you were wealthy. (This became a bit of a problem with those who believed this way -one in particular- when I was 17 and came down with a nasty case of head lice.)

This blatant stereotype is so grossly inaccurate that it paints the believer onto the same canvas as the ignorant and prejudiced amongst us. I've been thinking about this a lot lately... since I'm poor and most of the people I know are poor* and I've come to two simple conclusions.

1) The reason the poor are depicted as messy or unclean is because they have no room to store things! When you own a large house and have closets and spare rooms to shove all of your excessive earthly belongings people may well think you are cleaner than you are. When you live in a small house or apartment with your spouse and children and/or roommates there is very little in the way of 'extra space' to put things. Also, it might be noted, when you have limited funds you can't spend it on buying objects that hold things (dressers, armoirs, plastic drawers, etc).

2) Equally valuable is that not having a "clean" house is often because there is very little time (or energy) to spend on laundry and dishes. If you are like me, you are going, going, going. There are the kids to drop off at school, the baby to get ready, yourself to get ready, classes to go to, a husband to trade off the baby with, and then you have to get home, get ready for work, go pick up the kids or find someone to do that for you and by the time you come crawling back into the house at 11PM the last thing on your mind is the stacks of dishes or the piles of laundry. Things fall by the wayside when you are doing everything you can to make ends meet.

So, are poor people more dirty than wealthy people? NO! We just have fewer resources with which to hide/handle/combat our stuff.

I grew up with a lot of interesting views on the world floating around my house. Most of them my relatives and I have pretty much thrown out the window with the trash (oh, I mean... we don't throw our trash out the window...) but every once in a while you realize you've missed something and it's starting to smell. So it's worth it to reevaluate what you were raised to believe.

I've known a lot of really great... really clean people who had little to live off of. I've also known many, many people who were really nice, rather well off and terrible housekeepers.

So let's all just take that nasty little stereotype and throw it in the garbage where it belongs, shall we.


*Most of the people I know right now are in some sort of Graduate/Medical/Law school and those aren't the cheapest types of education out there. In fact out of state tuition for the law school here is around $10,000 a year... and that's really cheap. The top schools are around $30,000 or $40,000 a year.


Lisa said…
Here Here. I'm going to make Jared read this. We agree and just had this conversation. Last night we officially labeled ourselves as "poor".
Claire Wessel said…
I grew up in a very poor area in CA. My high school was the second worst in CA at the time (the worst being Centennial High in Compton). I've been in about a billion poor, ghetto houses. Ya know what? They are all super clean. Very, very clean. The extreme poor actually clean quite a bit. I think people just look down on them because their furniture is shabby, clothes might be stained(but washed!) and their dishes don't match and they don't have the latest stuff. (Well, when I was a kid it was that way. Nowdays people are living in the hood driving Caddys and watching plasmas. Yay credit!)

On the other hand, I moved to Orange County, one of the most expensive areas in California, about 7 years ago. I saw a lot of people's houses there too. These rich people are NASTY!! If they don't have a housekeeper, their houses are dirty, dirty, dirty. Dishes everywhere, stuff everywhere, and no one bothers with it. Generally, people have housekeepers, so the place looks good as long as the housekeeper shows up. I have to say though. I never met a single person who grew up in Orange County, regardless of sex, who had the first clue how to clean a house. It was pretty grody!

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