How to Get Your Family to HELP With Housework

How to Get Your Family to HELP with Housework @AdriansCrazyLif It can be easier than you think if you just are clear about what you want.

If you are like most people, you live with one or more other people. The problem with this is that no two people have the same level of cleanliness. Invariably, one person is going to end up being the “cleaner” one and one will be the “messy” one. And somehow you have to come to grips with that.

Housework varies from the #1 to #3 cause of stress in marriages & families, right along with money, child raising, and sex. It is the topic of many a fight and has even caused the breakup of many marriages. Therefore, it is worth giving the topic some time and attention.

I believe the way to get the cleanie people to live in peace with the messy people in the house is a little bit of open and honest conversation with a good healthy dose of respect and tolerance. Then you can get past some of these stalemates and power struggles that have been going on for years.

Part of an honest conversation is to ask for what you want. What a refreshing concept! No more criticizing and blaming the the other person, no more passive aggressive manipulation, you just come right out and say what it is you need. Here is something I came up with for my family a couple of years ago. It’s still written on a piece of paper on the side of the fridge as a reminder.

My Bill of Rights:

  • My desire for a clean house needs to be respected even if it is not understood or shared.
  • This is my home too.  I deserve to live in a place that meets my needs and my desire for a peaceful, clean place to relax.
  • I do not deserve to be embarrassed when company stops by unexpectedly. Even if it’s not fair, they blame me when the house is messy and not you. I shouldn’t have to be ashamed when it isn’t my fault.
  • I will expect your cooperation because you love me and want me to be happy.  Having a reasonably clean home is necessary to make me happy.
  • I don’t expect miracles or extraordinary efforts, but everyone needs to do to some basic things on a daily basis to help keep the place in order.
  • I would love to have your praise and compliments, but I will settle for you not criticizing my efforts or making me feel bad about asking for what I need.

That is calm, respectful, assertive, and to the point. And it did get results. After I wrote that, my family began to see that having a clean home was a priority for me and that I really wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable or extraordinary, and they began to help more and complain less.

Similarly the messy person in the relationship needs to have the right to not be nagged over every little thing.  Our arrangement is that if the public areas of the house are presentable, I don’t gripe (very much) about the non-public areas of the house.  If he wants to keep 8 empty drink cups in the den, or let the dust bunnies run wild around his computer area, that’s OK, so long as he helps keep the living room and kitchen mostly clean.  That’s a compromise we can both live with.

Same thing with kids.  If I ease up about little things like having to have the dishwasher loaded a certain way, or the towels folded just so, and instead show a little appreciation when they help out with things, won’t that make them a lot more likely to cooperate?  And I need to understand that their idea of clean isn’t always the same as mine, but it doesn’t make them bad or lazy people – just different.  Seems to me that seeing the other person’s point of view would go a long ways towards developing some compromises that would work out for both parties and bring a little peace to the household.

What are your strategies for dealing with the cleanies vs. messies situation in your household?

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  1. Great article. It’s true, the main source of stress in a household IS chores, especially with kids. Funifi DO is a great app that motivates children to do their chores. Yes, they might even beg you to assign chores to them! They can gain points and turn them into rewards.

  2. Oh boy this is a SORE subject in out house. As we speak the hubs is upstairs repainting the college kids bedroom for the little one to more into, and MAKING A MESS!!!!!

    I am the neat freak, he is the laid back one. I want a museum, he reminds me daily we don’t live in a museum. Wednesdays and Thursdays are my favorite days of the week, he leaves early the kids are at school, I get to clean the house and enjoy it for the WHOLE DAY!!!!

    The kids have to have their room picked up and put away before they leave for school in the morning, the hubs has to have his clothes put away before he leaves for work and his stuff put away too.

    I do all of the cleaning on the inside, and he does the outside. It is a touchy subject in our house, I have tried to live with our picking up all the time and it drives me INSANE. So I wait for the right moments and just do it. Yes sometimes this leaves me feeling very unappreciated….. But that is my issue I suppose….


    • Just a thought. My mother-in-law was a lot like that and now that she’s gone, I have a lot of negative memories of that sort of thing. I still remember the times she was nice or we had fun, but mostly I remember her yelling at me for loading the dishwasher WRONG, or coming to my house after I’d been cleaning all weekend and pointing out the one thing I’d forgotten to do, or expecting me to chase my one year old around with a bottle of Windex so he wouldn’t leave fingerprints everywhere. There’s a cost to that sort of thinking. She left behind a house full of perfect, unscratched white furniture, and a lot of bad memories left behind in the people who loved her.

  3. I’ve introduced the rule that on Saturday everybody has to help out.

    • I have that rule too, but they get antsy if I try to get more than an hour or so out of them. I think guys don’t understand very well how much time is involved in keeping a house clean.

  4. I love this Bill of Rights. It’s very true, and it is a source of stress for many of my friends and clients because you are right… the mother’s get “blamed” for the dirty house and feel the most shame over it. I deal with by having zones… I don’t harp on the girls over their rooms, and my husband has an office with a door. The kitchen/living room area is my zone, and you don’t dump in my zone. If you do, I will pick your stuff up and either dump it in your cubby basket or on your desk, and don’t blame me if you can’t find something:)

    • Thank you! Yes, I think it sounds like a very reasonable compromise that respects everyone’s own level of cleanliness and still maintains a reasonable common area.

  5. I really love the way you compromise about housework. I do that, too, so I know it’s hard for you!

    • Thanks! I decided decades ago that I could either have a clean house or a happy husband – both just wasn’t going to happen, so I made the compromise. Now I have a mostly clean house and a mostly happy husband and that’s OK.

  6. Your bill of rights is a great idea to make sure your needs are known and respected. I like having an orderly house, and I’m training my boys to do their share to keep it that way. I still have to follow up, but my family is doing a pretty good job. :)

    • That’s good. I think it’s always helpful to teach kids to respect the rights of others. It’s so easy for them to think they are the center of the universe.

  7. I love your bill of rights. I plan to make it into a cute printable to pin up on my fridge (unless you want to make a cute one for me that you could put on your blog!). My oldest two are finally at an age where they’ll understand this.

    • What a terrific idea! I have to admit, I missed the boat on the whole “printables” deal – I’ve never created one or printed one, so if you are so included, I say go for it!

  8. I think it’s wonderful that your Bill of Rights worked as well as it did. I can openly admit that while I would love to follow your example, and have my family follow suit, that note would either be taken down and discarded or completely ignored.

    I’ve asked my husband for the last 24 years to pick up after himself; however, my pleas fall on deaf ears.

    – Bonnie

    • I hear you. I’ve been married for 30, so I know how hard it is to get old husbands to change, but sometimes a little plain talk and making it clear to them exactly what you need seems to be helpful. You never know what’s going to actually “click” with them.

  9. That is so cute! I love your Bill of Rights. Genius! I’m going to have to share with our parents and students. They will really love all these ideas. I think they struggle with getting kids to helping with chores and could really use this to help in the house. Thank you!

  10. Heaven knows I need this for my kids!

  11. I think this is a wonderful strategy to keep both sides appeased. It often boils down to something so simple: respect. While standards for cleanliness might differ for both parties, understanding each other’s point of view and (more importantly) respecting them is the key to a happy marriage (and happy home).

    It’s wonderful that you’re keeping these lines of communication so open with your hubs. More couples should learn from your example!

  12. Hmmm… There’s lots to think about here. I live with hubby, 3 kids and 2 male roommates!

    In general we have lots of respect and understanding between us. The challenge is me feeling that the normal kid mess is inconvenient for our roomies who don’t have kids.. But they don’t complain.

    I am a pile maker and this has been an annoyance to my hubby for years. I try to keep it clean, but we’ve come to the understanding that it probably won’t change. Now he just asks, if things get too cluttery, “Where is your place for piles?” Then we agree on one spot so I don’t get out of control with the clutter. 😉

  13. This is a great post.

  14. What a wonderful idea. A statement of intention. It’s so easy to forget that sometimes you just need to ask for what you need.

    I’m gonna try it.

    My house is a mess,

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