How can women avoid the pressure of keeping a spotless house? "We can't avoid it -- it's deeply rooted in our cultural expectations," said Kelly O. Finnerty, an Edina-based marriage and family therapist.

"But we can begin to notice our reactions to this pressure and become curious about them. The way to deal with this stress and the thinking that drives it is similar to dealing with many kinds of stress."

If you feel guilty about the state of your house, Finnerty offers these tips:

1. Address your fears by asking yourself: "Is anyone being harmed by this?" or "Is my family suffering?" No? Then ask, "What part of making a home really matters?"

2. Notice how your body registers stress.

3. Take a few deep breaths. Notice the "shoulds" in your thinking.

4. Then bring balance by reinforcing your memories of positive experiences that counter these fears and "shoulds."

5. Give yourself a moment to actively appreciate the positive things about your home. Remember the good things that have happened in your home. Feel the importance of your home for you and your family.

6. Be kinder to yourself. As you focus on the positive experience of your home, you will begin to notice what makes the biggest difference to your well-being each day.

7. Don't be afraid to ask for help in keeping the home pleasant and livable.