Dividing up Household Chores:
“The house is a mess!”

"Sandy Bay, Isla de Roatan" by Mimi Stuart ©
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Can a clean house eliminate family conflict? Does a messy home make or break a relationship?

Too much clutter tends to confuse the mind while good feng shui enhances harmony in the home. Nevertheless, family conflict stems more from how you go about dividing up chores rather than how clean the house is.

Clear communication about expectations and goals is the best way to avoid the growth of disappointment and resentment, which can devour family relations like a malignancy.

As with most joint decision-making, it’s best to sit down to discuss the issue neutrally and fairly rather than giving unilateral directives. Doing all the chores yourself, grumbling snidely, or escaping the whole issue through distractions causes resentment among all parties.

Start with a comment, such as, “Let’s sit down and discuss chores, so we all can decide what we are willing to do and feel that it’s fair.”

Write down all the daily, weekly and seasonal chores. Then jointly figure out who prefers which chores and reach agreement on who will do what. Use a matter-of-fact tone and a good attitude as though you are choosing what to order off a menu rather than having punishment meted out. (“Let’s see… I’ll take the ‘Mow the lawn on Saturdays.’”)

It’s important to be fair and cooperative. Consider taking turns doing the chores nobody likes doing. If your budget permits, consider hiring or trading with outside services for the jobs nobody can stand doing.

If you have been doing most of the work, it may be in your best interest to allow your family members to lead the discussion and bring up ideas of how to divide up the work. They are more likely to buy into their own ideas. Write everything down and post the list.

Only jump in to do others’ chores if you can do so out of the goodness of your heart and without resentment. Try not to police others, because it creates tension and it backfires. If someone keeps neglecting their chores, have another meeting and discuss it. Joint decision-making and ongoing open communication will pay off for everyone, especially the children. It gives them ownership.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Order vs. Chaos; Responsibility vs. Spontaneity.”

Read “Clutter in your surroundings causes clutter in the mind: ‘I don’t have time to deal with this mess. I’ve got so many things going on—it’s chaos.’”

Read “Living together Part I: Manners and Boundaries — ‘What’s the matter with you? Look at this mess you made!’”

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