Tidying Together

There has been a recent surge in household organization probably due to the popularity of the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Now is an excellent time to work together as a team to create a living space that brings you joy.

A frequent bone of contention for couples is the perceived unfairness of the division of responsibilities. This disagreement often intensifies once children become part of the equation. Who signs the kids up for activities? Who fills out and submits the tedious forms, makes sure that lunches are packed, and drives children here and there each day?

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As much as marriages have become more egalitarian, much of the day-to-day intricacies of parenting still falls to mom. Many of our female clients point out that they do most the mental work of taking care of the home and children. This constant effort to make sure that all the small things get done can be draining for women, especially when it goes unrecognized and unappreciated. 

Couples can start to address the perceived unfairness by listing the time spent by each of them on all the responsibilities that go into family life. The Self-Monitoring Chart for Sharing Family Responsibilities asks you to keep track of the time you spend on household responsibilities and estimate the amount of time your partner spends on these responsibilities. You can find the chart here. The goal is not to start a fight. The goal is to gather information, be open-minded and look for ways to either make the division of responsibilities more fair or to see it more accurately.  

Often we overestimate the amount of time that we spend and under-estimate the amount of time our partner spends. When you each track your time and estimate your partner’s time spent and then compare the results, you can end up with some interesting insights. 

Opening this conversation up in a calmly and objectively may help reduce tension at home. You may find that you could benefit from adjusting who does what. 

Once you have divided the family responsibilities, it might be helpful to take trade jobs occasionally, so you each gain a better appreciation for the work involved.

If you are the partner who is very particular about how specific tasks should be done, you might need to let go of needing it to be done your way in order for your partner to take ownership of the job. Don’t hover and criticize your partner’s attempts.  

Another option for couples struggling to divide household responsibilities is to decide which tasks they can hand over to a professional. Investing in a weekly housecleaner may reduce friction and free up time for family. Hiring a sitter on occasionally can help a couple complete errands quickly or have some much-needed couple time.

If this seems like an insurmountable task you may want to consider getting some relationship help. Couples counseling is not just for troubled relationships. Consider working with a couples counselor as an investment in your marriage. You can come out with stronger communication skills, more empathy for your partner, and a better understanding of each of your individual needs.

Working together through the Kondo method of tidying may help you align your priorities. You may begin to feel more like you are on the same team. Remember the division of responsibilities is an ongoing process. You should continue to evaluate how duties are shared as life responsibilities change.