Housework is Too Hard


I’ve been reading a lot lately about how there isn’t enough time, housework drains our energy, men don’t do enough of it, etc. But, I have found that all the negative ideas of home care do not help motivate you to do it.

Sure, you can talk with other members of the household, hire it out, lower your standards or do less. Those are great options.

And if you want to be more motivated, it’s helpful to not focus on how no one ever helps you with that “woe is me” martyr complex. Looking at a household task with dread about how hard it is saps any desire to do it. Thinking about how tired you are and all the other difficult thoughts about cleaning and organizing you have only makes you more tired.

It was only when I switched my mindset to, “housework is no big deal” that I was able to get things done more regularly. I used to wait until dishes piled high because I kept telling myself how much I hated doing dishes and I didn’t wanna do them. Which made them harder to do as now they were stacked up with food stuck to them. One day I remembered how my 90 year-old grandparents would do dishes right after a meal with a no-nonsense, this is how it’s done attitude. There was no force, whining, power struggle or big hurdle to climb.

I may not do dishes right away after every meal, but we do them multiple times a day (and no dishwasher!). I try to keep that no big deal mindset.

I also started timing myself. What, it only takes under a minute to make the bed?! I can sort through today’s mail in a few seconds? If you keep up with the house, most tasks don’t take a long time. I was completely shocked by how little time many of my chores took. They seemed much bigger in my head.

Of course music and laughter lightens the mood. I like to rock out to 80s music during cleaning.

I clean up more throughout the day instead of leaving piles to clean up at night or on the weekend. Simply taking your cup into the kitchen as you go from the living room to the kitchen makes cleaning easier. Doing a quick task now instead of telling myself I will do it later, saves me time as well. Every time we put off a household task we are adding more time: to find the item, maybe now there is a pile, remembering what we were going to do, putting it on a to do list.

I am not saying you have to or should be doing everything yourself. But, do you have a lot of conflict about who does what with a focus of making everything completely even? Are you keeping score? If you are always feeling resentment, that drains a lot of energy. It also creates resistance with other people in the household whom you may be pressuring. They will start hating chores.

But, if it’s no big deal and you all have a family clean up time every evening with music it feels differently. Or letting people pick from a jar or choosing which of today’s chores they want to do. Put on a timer and see how fast everyone can get it done. Or create a chore game. (Or find a fun chore app.)

If making it no big deal and more fun is helpful for you, it probably is for the rest of the household as well.

Does it seem like it’s still too much cleaning? Then you may want to do something every other day instead of daily. Or every other week instead of weekly.

Perfectionism in housework kills everyone’s motivation. Homes don’t stay clean. Especially with kids. So you may need to loosen up. And don’t gripe about things not being done exactly how you would. I recently read an article in the Atlantic that said UK women do more work than the men, but at the same time the women would not let go of the reins. They wanted to be in control and have everyone do it exactly how they would and to their standards.

If you play the lead all the time on household things, then family members will often assume you are handling things. They may not be aware of all that entails. When you are a team or a partnership, everyone has a say. Get everyone’s ideas and input.

And this is not necessarily a man/woman thing. My husband is much neater than I am. Often a clean home means more to one household member than another. You can’t expect everyone to have the same priorities, beliefs about what clean means, or need for order. So share why something is important to you to have done and listen when someone says they are feeling overburdened or stifled by mess. (See Living with a Messy Spouse and When You Live with a Neat Freak.)

Household chores are actually one of the bigger conflicts, so if this is a problem in your home you may want to talk about it with a counselor.

Have you created a power struggle about household tasks with your family? Or with you as you try to motivate yourself to do chores?

How would it feel to view housework as no big deal? To relax about it and not try to control everything? What is one chore you will decide to set a timer to and perhaps view differently?


  • Martha says:

    Great article re housework. Thank you!
    In The Happiness Project, the author suggested that if a task takes a minute or less, just do it NOW. And I’ve reminded myself of that many many times since, and followed through. I also think tidying the kitchen after supper helps me start the day with a happier outlook in the morning.

  • Beth says:

    Thanks, Martha and a great tip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *