Chores, Adults, and Respect

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
Really enjoying the website, and my house is getting cleaner every day thanks to all the tips and the chore schedule. Now my current issue is HOW to get my hubby and our long-term guest to at least KEEP it clean. What rules should everyone follow to keep the house clean for longer?

I vacuum every day, although I don’t even have a carpet. Same basically with every chore, from cleaning the coffee table to constantly picking up after the rest. As I said, I do give a good example by doing the chores and cleaning up after myself. They just don’t seem to notice. I already thought of the rules “no shoes in the house” and “rinse your plate before putting it in the sink” but have so far been unsuccessful in enforcing them.

What other house rules are necessary and useful, and how should I communicate them to (frankly) lazy, uncoordinated adults?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Mrs. OCD

dealing with adults and chores

I am so glad you’re finding the chore list helpful. The topic of dividing chores fairly among adults comes up fairly often.

I am divorced, so please know that in no way do I consider myself an expert on being a great spouse. That said, I do know that relationships take two people to work, and both parties can’t check out at the same time, or things begin to fall apart.

I would venture to guess that the state of the house is a symptom of a communication problem or, worse an issue with respect. (I’m not saying that lack of respect is an issue in this case, but that it *could* be.)

I think you first need to have a conversation with your spouse, out of earshot of your long-term guest. Your spouse may be oblivious to the fact that you have been trying to get and keep the house in better order.

A lot of times, we, as individuals, make decisions and set goals and don’t say anything about them to our partners. OR we have set these goals and made these decisions so many times that the current goal is lost in a sea of previous attempts.

how to divide chores evenly
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It sounds like you have a few weeks of effort under your belt and that things are improving around the house. Now is the time before resentment really settles in to have this talk.

The exact chore division needs to be decided together, and it’s going to be largely determined by the specific dynamics of your relationship. In a relationship where both adults work, one person should not be in charge of all of the household chores. If one spouse works long hours with a long commute and and and, they should obviously not be the one performing the bulk of the housework. (They also aren’t the one home creating a mess, either.). To be clear, being the “breadwinner” is not an excuse to not parent or to neglect all household chores.

If there are kids involved, that adds other variables to the equation, but they should definitely play a role in helping at least pick up after themselves as soon as they are able.

Once you and your partner have a discussion about the fair division of labor between the two of you, it’s time to address the issue of the long-term guest’s contribution. What are your expectations, and who should communicate them? The person closest to the guest should have the conversation, and it should be presented in a respectful manner to everyone involved. This isn’t the time for anything like “She has a bug up her butt about the house being a mess” it should be presented with the two of you as a united front. (If it is of actual concern that anything like my example would be said, then respect IS an issue and should be addressed sooner rather than later)

I don’t know whether the guest is a close family member or a friend in need. If possible, facilitate the guest’s contribution by making sure they know where tools like spray cleaner, paper towels, rags, broom, etc., are kept. Sometimes, as a guest, one wants to contribute, but the awkwardness of asking where things are or not knowing how things are done in your home can stand in the way. Displaying a chore list in a communal area probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Acting like a grown-up is hard.

I often want everyone to know what I need from them.

Life doesn’t work like that. Have the conversation and make sure your spouse has time to express their opinion—listen to that opinion—and together figure out a plan to move forward.

Remember that you have a few weeks’ headstart on this goal. You’ve already been establishing a habit of keeping a cleaner home, and it’ll take some time for the new household rules to become a habit for everyone else.

Be patient, but don’t be a doormat.

house cleaning help
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If you cannot have this conversation, it’s time to talk to an objective, trusted third party. That may be a counselor, therapist, or if you attend church, maybe someone there. (Be careful with the last one if you attend a church that follows strict gender roles. There are some instances, in my experience, where that advice has been more harmful than helpful.) 

These conversations are never fun, but they are incredibly helpful in preventing resentment from taking root.

I wish you the best of luck.

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