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My Spouse Won’t Do Their Share of the Housework! Part One

My House is a Mess, and My Spouse Won’t Do His/Her Part!

You may even be considering divorce because you just can’t stand living in a pigsty anymore, and nothing you do or say makes much difference. You may be so embarrassed you can’t let anyone come over. You may be so angry you are starting to think domestic violence makes a lot of sense. I really do understand how awful this problem can be. Therapists have tended to dismiss housework as a significant problem. We are quite willing to believe that problems with communication, sex, children, in-laws, and addictions are serious. But I believe housework can turn into a huge problem, so I’m going to focus on that for a while. I hope you can start to get some relief. If it makes you feel any better, you would not believe how common this problem is. You are not the only person/couple in this predicament.

So, your house is a mess. I am going to start there.

As far as your spouse doing his/her part, that will come later, but I am just working with you right now. You have identified this as a problem, and so you are the person who can start to find solutions. You really don’t need your spouse at this point. You may be saying that’s not fair, why is it all up to you, you aren’t the only person who lives in that house, etc. I know. But I would like to offer a thought that might help. We (as a society) have decided that housework is demeaning, not fun, etc. We have decided that above all we must not be the one stuck doing the laundry, or cleaning the bathroom, etc. Hogwash. Housework can heal your soul. It’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s just work. But work is not going to hurt you! And as you get the hang of certain jobs, this high level of frustration is going to melt away, and you are going to start looking forward to coming home. You are going to open the door to your house and instead of chaos you will feel peace. Your house is going to reach out and welcome you. The war will be over.

That said, where do you start?

I have the disadvantage of not being able to see your specific situation, so I am going to make some assumptions. Please just take what applies to you and ditch the rest. I am going to assume that your house is out of control. I am going to assume that every dish is dirty and you have to pick up your clothes off the floor and smell them to determine if they are clean or dirty. I am going to assume that your living room is full of toys, plates of old food, and ancient piles of mail. I am going to assume that your bathroom is a health hazard. I don’t mean to insult you, but I want to start by acknowledging that you are in the middle of a serious mess.

Start in the kitchen.

One way to begin is to set a timer for 15 – 20 minutes and start washing dishes. See what you can get done during that time. When the timer goes off, go make your bed. I am borrowing some ideas from Flylady (Visit for more ideas.) Another way to start is to swallow your pride and ask a friend for help. Another way to start is to see what you can get done in 5 minutes. Can you wash a few dishes? Can you wipe down the counters? Can you make your bed? Can you put a load of laundry into the washer? Can you fold a load of laundry, or part of a load of laundry? Now is not the time to start polishing doorknobs or some other task that you could put off for decades. If your house is a mess, put all of your energy into getting the kitchen to the point that you could cook something in there, and into getting your bedroom picked up and peaceful. Avoid saying negative things to yourself. I know that’s not easy, but the truth of the matter is that houses can unravel in a very short period of time. Think of this exercise as a form of “house yoga” – go to the point of resistance or discomfort and just breathe. Think in terms of incremental progress. You are opening up areas and letting oxygen flow in. Don’t push. Don’t make it painful. You will be doing this again tomorrow and the next day. Be gentle.

The timer will help you. Set the timer and start getting rid of clutter and trash. Do not worry about recycling, etc. right now. When you get your house in shape, you can take different piles of stuff to recycling. Right now concentrate on getting any trash or obvious clutter out of your house. Set the timer and take a trash bag and go through your house and throw out trash. Now, set it again and go through your house with a new trash bag and fill it with clutter that is still good enough to be donated to your favorite charity or thrift store. When the timer goes off, tie up the bag and go put it in your car. Next time you are out driving, drop off the bag. Stop; eat a good dinner, and go to bed at a decent hour. Don’t crash and burn. You will be doing this again tomorrow.