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Drowning in housework? Here’s what to do (but you might not like the answer)

This past week, I’ve gotten emails from several people asking what to do about mountains of housework.

The laundry is piling up, the dishes beckon from the sink and crumbs taunt from the floor.

How does a busy wife and mom cut through the mess without being a full-time maid?
clean home

If this is you, you might think you need to get more organized.

You think you just need a better system, a little more energy, or a new checklist. While these things may help, I have a much better solution.

If this is your problem and you’ve got other family members over the age of 5 living with you, consider this:

You need to decide you’re not the family maid.

Ouch. Maybe this is a bit harsh. But you know what? It may be the truth for some people. We moms love to serve our families. That’s our job, right? And how else is all that work going to get done?

Read on, my dear friend, read on.

Why do some moms do all the housework?

Believe me, I’ve been there with every one of these reasons. Sometimes it’s just easier to do the job yourself instead of dealing with getting someone else to do it. Do any of these reasons ring a bell with you?

  • Whining. You don’t ask your kids to share the housework because they throw a fit when you ask them to wash a dish or clean the bathroom.
  • Perfectionism. You like things just so and won’t allow any room for error. No one else can load that dishwasher properly! It’s especially hard to sit back and allow little kids to clean because they aren’t nearly as capable as you.
  • Everyone else is too busy. The whole family is running in 10 different directions and there’s just no time for chores. (But isn’t mom just as busy?)
  • The mommy guilt trip. You don’t want to ask your loved ones to do things they don’t like.
  • More guilt. If you’re not working you may feel like it’s your “job” to do all the housework. (More on this below)
  • The desire to be nice. If you insist on help, you risk a confrontation and that doesn’t feel nice.

Once you look at these reasons (which are actually excuses), you may realize that you don’t want to give in to them anymore.

It’s OK to not love housework.

This goes for children as well as parents. No one promised everything in life will be fun. If your kids complain that chores are “boring” or “yucky,” you can sympathize with them and encourage them to keep working.

clean kitchen

 

So how do you ask for help from your family to do housework?

You have 2 options:

1. You can ask nicely
2. Put your foot down

The first option is much more pleasant for everyone. I use it as often as possible.

“Would you please take the dog out?”
“Can I get some help with these groceries?”
“Don’t forget to hang up your coat.”
“Do you need to do some laundry today?”

A simple checklist or a chore schedule can be a great help in getting family members to keep up with helping with home cleaning. Also, having set times of the day or week when everyone does housework makes this option easier to implement. No one likes being ambushed with an hour of housework.

So do cultivate habits (say dishes right after dinner, chores on Saturday, whatever works for you) to help the work become more automatic.

Option 2 is less pleasant.

You might even be called a meanie if you use it. Unfortunately, option 1 doesn’t always work. So in those cases, it’s time to be firm.

“It’s your turn to do the dishes tonight.”
“Yes, you must clean the bathroom this morning.”
“If you continue to leave dishes around, I won’t be cooking dinner any more.”
“I need some help with the housework. Here’s a list of chores. Which ones can you do?”

Use the “when – then” method with kids.

I learned this technique from Amy McCready  and it works great.

Start by when you’ve cleaned your room, THEN I can take you to your friend’s house.
Followed By, after we’ve cleaned up the kitchen, THEN we can turn on the movie.
Then say when your backpack is put away, THEN you can use your computer.

You can be firm and insist on help from your family (husbands included) while still being loving and calm. You just have to decide what you want and talk with your family about how to best solve the problem. It’s ok to set boundaries around what you will and won’t do for them.

sink with dishes

Why is this a hard thing to do?

If you’ve been doing the majority of the housework, it’s going to be hard to ask for help. It may require you to admit you’re overwhelmed. You may hear how no one else’s mom makes them do this stuff. You may have to get tough. Perhaps your own mom or your mother-in-law never asked for (or demanded) help.

If you’re facing a confrontation, it may be uncomfortable. But none of these things mean that this isn’t the right thing for you to do. Sometimes the hard things in life make the biggest difference.

This isn’t a magic fix.

You may still end up doing lots of housework, especially if you have small children or if this is a big change for your family. But at least you can start making a change and working toward a more fair division of labor.

If you’re home all day and your partner is not, it’s natural that you will do more of the housework than he does. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t help when he’s home.

I’m happy to say that I don’t feel like the family maid.

Our family isn’t perfect, but my loved ones do understand that it’s everyone’s job and not just mine to keep the house clean.

Do you ever feel like the family maid? How do you divide up the housework in your house?

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8 thoughts on “Drowning in housework? Here’s what to do (but you might not like the answer)”

  1. I really need to figure this out. I fall back on all of those excuses, even when I’m trying to get my kids and husband to help out more. I am overwhelmed and grouchy, which I’m sure no one likes. I love having a clean house and pretty much never have it despite my best efforts.

    Reply
    • A clean house is lovely, isn’t it?! I think you have to decide what you want and then stick to your guns. I’ve been mulling over a post called the “Mean Mom Chore Plan” which would give some suggestions.

      Reply
  2. Loved reading this! Sometimes i do feel like a maid in my own home which is not a good feeling. I have a 6 year old daughter and 2 year old boy/girl twins and I am teaching them how to clean after themselves. For example, if they are playing with their toys and are finished, I simply tell them to put it back where it belongs.l also sing the “clean up” song with my twins haha! It works most of the time. My hubby is getting better at helping me with the house chores which is great. Thank you for the tips 🙂

    Reply
    • Aww, thank you, Ros! You’re teaching your kids such a good attitude! At that age, they’re a lot of work so I can imagine that you’re a busy mom 🙂

      Reply

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Welcome. I’m Sarah!

Sarah

I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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