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The Essence of Family Organizing

Sharing Household Tasks

Who will do which household tasks? This is often an area of constant negotiation. The question is challenging whether there are two full-time workers and children too young to pick up after themselves; only one working adult and teenage children; or two able-bodied adults in the house who have different values about homemaking. Lynne Weygint, coauthor of The Joyful Family, is a professional organizer who helps families get organized. She often works with families in which all members are overbooked and no one has any time to do the household tasks. The challenge that she sees is that often both parents work, and neither parent has developed the skills to run a household efficiently. In addition, the children have a full plate of after-school activities as well as homework. No one has the time or energy to take care of the basic tasks.

In these cases, just getting the laundry done can be daunting. She has seen households where the family might be fifteen loads of laundry behind. At times, the laundry challenge can come from the lack of a laundry system, or it can come from too many clothes. How many pairs of jeans does each child need? How many khakis? Two or three, but some children have seventeen pairs of jeans and throw them into the laundry at the end of each day. Her recommendation to overwhelmed families is to list the areas where individuals are feeling the most stress, and design systems that will substantially reduce or eliminate the stressors.

This family might want to decide on a reasonable amount of clothes for each individual, so that they are beginning a laundry system with an appropriate amount of clothing. A laundry system that has been successful with several of Ms. Weygint's clients is for the family to purchase three large laundry baskets, each one about the size of a large load of laundry. Label the first one "whites," the second basket "darks," and the third "mediums." Each family member (above the age of five) sorts his or her own laundry each day into the three baskets. The baskets should be centrally located, ideally in the area where the laundry will be washed. On the day that a basket is full, it gets washed, dried, and folded by the individual whose task it is to do the laundry. Family members rotate laundry duty either daily or weekly, depending on a prearranged schedule. In a family of three to five individuals, there will be between six and eleven loads of laundry a week, including bed linens and towels.

From It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul, Ph.D. Copyright © 2003. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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