Are you tired of The Chore War with your husband?
One of the best parts about blogging is that I meet some amazing other bloggers. And Kathi Lipp is one of them. She and her amazing red hair caught my eye at a MOPS convention years ago, and since then we’ve been buddies. I’ve been on her podcast talking about sex; she’s guest posted here.
Kathi and I are each passionate about marriage, but lately Kathi’s been focusing on the basics: How to get your life more organized and how to live clutter free. She and I were talking about how much we’d enjoy guest posting for each other, so we’ve decided that once a month she’ll write for me, and I’ll write for her! So I’ve asked her to write some posts on organizing and clutter with a marriage angle. And here’s her June installment on winning the chore war! (For the record, I relate to #3 all too well):
I went from hurt, to stewing, to fiery mad.
(Trust me, that is not something you want to see on a redhead.)
It was another Saturday and instead of spending the day cleaning house, (which it desperately needed) my husband wanted to head for the mountains. Not to get out of housework, but to take a day off.
My mind raced:
“Great. He’s going to leave me to do all the work when we get back.”
“How selfish. Doesn’t he see everything that needs to be done?”
This was in the first year of our marriage. Since then, I’ve learned some key facts about my husband:
- He doesn’t want me to do all the work. He just doesn’t want to spend his one real day off doing household chores every week.
- No. He honestly doesn’t see all that I see that needs to be done. But when it’s pointed out, he’s usually more than willing to help.
But this took me way too many years to figure out. Too many years and too many fights. As I’ve spent years working with families when it comes to cleaning out the clutter and getting organized, I’ve learned a few key principles to help deal with chores when it comes to couples:
1. Have “The Talk”
For years, after dinner, I would unload and load the dishwasher.
I hate loading and unloading the dishwasher.
I really, really hate it.
I would rather do three loads of laundry than load and unload the dishes just once.
But every night I did them because I was trying to be a nice wife. So Roger would put food away after dinner, clean counter tops, etc. to get our kitchen back into shape and I would silently, and sometimes with a great deal of hostility, do the dishes.
One night, after a really busy day at work packed with meetings and tension, I was just over it. I told Roger, “I will give you a thousand dollars to do the dishes. I will clean the kitchen from top to bottom, but please, please, don’t make me do dishes. I will snap.”
His answer stunned me. Roger said, “Sure, I don’t mind doing dishes. I hate cleaning up the kitchen, but I don’t mind doing dishes at all. In fact, you do them wrong, so I would love to be able to do them correctly every night.”
He was joking… kinda…
For years we were doing jobs we hated, simply because we’d never had a discussion about what we like (or don’t mind) doing.
So have the talk. Ask your spouse what chores they don’t mind, or even enjoy, doing. Turns out, Roger loves a freshly vacuumed carpet enough that he has taken to making sure our living room is “Roomba-ready” (everything is off the floor, no curtain strings etc. will get caught in its path…) every night. One less chore for me.
He also has become an expert at folding a fitted sheet. (He regrets ever watching that Youtube video. He is now in charge of folding all the sheets.) I don’t mind doing the grocery shopping, general cleaning, running errands, cooking or doing laundry. And he doesn’t mind dishes, vacuuming, BBQing, cleaning up our patio or small fix-it jobs around the house.
The rest, we divide and conquer together, to get done as fast as possible.
2. Agree on a level of good enough
I’ve been known to want to renovate the entire house before a couple of friends come over for dinner. Every once in a while, my crazy, perfectionist side flares up and I lose my mind and all sense of reason.
When that happens, I try to remember how it’s coming across to my husband. This scene from Everybody Loves Raymond, always pops into my head:
Debra: “Ray, could you get up and help me, please? We gotta shampoo the rug before they come over tonight.”
Ray: “Shampoo the rug?! It’s Bernie and Linda, I’m not even gonna shampoo myself.”
When I start to get into a “shampoo the carpets before people come over for dinner” frame of mind, I try to identify where that feeling is coming from. Usually, it boils down to shame: I’m not comfortable with __________ (how my house looks, my cooking, etc.) and I’m stressed to impress. When I can start to recognize it for what it is – shame panic – I can share honestly with my husband, “Hey, I’m afraid my cooking isn’t as good as __________ and I’m feeling insecure.” That goes a long way to defusing a potential argument about why he doesn’t want to remodel the bathroom before my parents come over.
3. Timing is everything
The worst time to talk about housework? At the time you actually want it done.
I’ve finally learned to make plans when I want a dedicated amount of time and effort from my husband. Using the phrases below has helped lessen the stress and actually get things done:
“Hey there- can we dedicate four hours on the 24th to getting the garage cleaned up? I need your help in making decisions and moving stuff around.”
“Tomorrow I want to get the kitchen cleaned up before we have everyone come over on Saturday. Can you help me out for 30 minutes so we can knock it out?”
This did a couple of things for us:
- It made me less resentful – I love knowing I have a committed time to get stuff done and will have buy-in from my husband
- It made my husband feel less ambushed – My guy has a little time and space to wrap his head around gutting the garage on his day off. Plus, he makes sure that the weekend before and after are dedicated to fun.
4. Agree on routines so you can both have some time off
One of the most marriage-enhancing things we’ve done is agree that we spend 20 minutes after dinner, as a couple, cleaning up. That’s 40 minutes of housework that is getting done each night. This does two things: First, it makes our mornings less rushed. We are not constantly catching up from yesterday. That twenty minutes really does make a huge difference. (One of my tasks in those 20 minutes is to set up the coffee to brew the next morning. It’s a gift I give to both of us.)
Secondly, it frees up more time on the weekend. We don’t have to spend our whole weekend cleaning because, for the most part, we’ve kept up on much of it during the week. This give me the freedom to go and play a little when Saturday rolls around!
These four suggestions will not eliminate all arguments when it comes to getting household chores done, but it will make the discussions a little less contentious. (And I know it makes me a lot easier to live with.)
What are some ways you handle The Chore War in your home? Have you used any of these tips? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!