Posts and pages throughout Secular Homemaker may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I may earn money or products from other companies mentioned in these posts. Please see my full disclosure policy for more details
Have you ever found yourself seething with resentment because you are the only person in your house who ever seems to tidy up? Are you tired of watching as your kids cram more garbage on top of an already overflowing bin? Does it seem like you are drowning in your chores with no one even noticing that you need some help?
But not all the time. See I have figured out that if I need some help I need to ask for it. (And by figured it out I mean my husband flat out told me that is what I needed to do). It is so much easier to just come right out and tell my family what I need done than it is to just do everything myself and hope they eventually see me struggling and lend a hand. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with actually getting them to do it, but I am far more likely to get help by asking for it than I am by waiting for them to notice I need it.
“But I shouldn’t have to ask for help to get it. If something needs doing they should just do it”
You are absolutely right! In a perfect world you would never need to ask for help because everything would just be done. Buuuut it doesn’t ever seem to work that way does it? In my case at least I’ve come to realize it’s because my family and I have different standards when it comes to what constitutes “done” in regards to chores.
Take laundry for example. I want my clothes folded a certain way and placed in specific drawers because I like my stuff to be organised a certain way. My 4 year old son is fine if his stuff is all mixed together. When I put away his laundry, socks, underwear, and pyjamas go in one drawer, shirts and sweaters in another, and pants and shorts in the last. When he puts his laundry away he starts shoving stuff into the top drawer until it’s full and then works his way down. Before my husband and I got together his laundry storage system would have been best described as “clean pile, dirty pile”. My 5 year old daughter likes her clothes to be on top of the dresser, the chair, the toy box, the night stand, and the table, so it’s all visible. So if I I want them to do things my way (which for now is how it’s going to be since I am the one primarily responsible for laundry and cleaning) I need to explain how I want it done, and then ask them to do it.
“But what if they don’t do it how I want it done?”
Oh I guarantee that will happen and the way I see it you have two options. You can either give up and do it yourself or find a way to force them to do it. OK maybe there is a third way. Stop trying to control everything! I put my husband’s clothes away because we live in the same room and share the same space (and I’m not about to live that “clean pile, dirty pile” life). I want my space a certain way so I make it that way. But with my kids I have a different way of approaching it. If I happen to put their clothes away myself I do it my way. If they do it themselves they can do it their way, within reason. I do require that the clothes be in drawers and that the drawers must close. Other than that I just let it go.
“Can you really force someone to do something your way?”
In a manner of speaking, yes, maybe? I can ask my kids to tidy their rooms until I am blue in the face and it will never happen. I can yell, I can threaten to throw out toys (and actually follow through), I can even offer to help, but it won’t get done, or if it does, it won’t stay done for more than five minutes. I have, however, had some success with withholding my services for bedtime. I simply refuse to have to walk over toys, step on legos, or kick clothes out of the way in order to tuck someone in. If the floor is too messy they know they need to at least make a clear path for me to get to the bed or all the hugs and kisses and saying goodnight happens outside of their room. They usually prefer to have me tuck them in so they often will clear a path. It’s not a clean room but at least I won’t break my neck. As a side note, I do think my kids should have some say in how they care for their rooms so as long there is no food rotting and nothing getting broken I am usually okay with just the clear pathway.
“Okay so the kids usually listen, but what about your spouse? How do you get them to do what you want?”
This is the part where you get to learn the real magic. The real trick to getting your spouse to do what you would like them to do. Just ask. Seriously. People are not mind readers. They’re not even very intuitive most of the time. A lot of the things you want done, and think that they should just know to do, are things that aren’t even on their radar. Empty the dishwasher? Why, when you can just take the clean plate that you need straight out of it? Put dirty clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor? Why, when it’s so much easier to just leave them where they fall off my body? (OK so that one is not a good example. I’ve asked about this one may times but the clothes just stay on the floor beside the hamper.)
“But they’ve been doing things their way for so long? How do you get them to see that your methods are clearly superior?”
Old habits die hard, which is why things that you ask for need to be asked every single time. (hmmmm…maybe that’s why asking for the clothes to be put in the hamper doesn’t work. It’s ongoing and I’m not asking every single time). Regardless, ask for what you want done. And do it nicely, and give plenty of time for them to accomplish the task. “Can you take out the garbage before tomorrow morning?’ “Can you put the dishes away before dinner? “Honey, it’s the end of April. Can you take down the Christmas lights so I can open the windows?” The “giving plenty of time” part is a personal preference. I hate being asked to do something right when it needs to be done. I need time to mentally prepare for any task. And to drink 14 cups of coffee beforehand 😀
“But what if I don’t want to have to remind everyone every time something needs doing?”
At the end of the day, it comes down to what is your time worth to you? Would you rather fight all the time or just ask when you want something done? Is it worth your sanity to sit and seethe about how a grown man can walk past a full garbage without taking it out as opposed to just asking him to do it? Or to be upset because your kids don’t even notice when they’ve left all their toys out and moved onto another activity before cleaning up the last one? I personally prefer to be happy and have a peaceful home than to sit around being mad because my husband and kids happen to not want to do things exactly as I want them done. Eventually they’ll have to catch on and I won’t be responsible for making sure things get done. Or they won’t and I’ll have to remind them for all eternity. Either way I’m not doing everything myself and I find that to be an adequate trade off.
Until next time,
Chantal, the Secular Homemaker
Check out this post for a quick way to get the house cleaned for company (the kids play a big role in this too, so it’s a teaching tool and a cleaning method. Win win!) Or this one where I detail how I
keep attempt to keep my house clean enough for company.