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The Essence of Family Organizing

Here are some other tips for sharing household tasks:

1. Create a family attitude that recognizes that household tasks are an important way of supporting a comfortable family life. As best-selling author Sarah Ban Breathnach says, "Getting our houses in order, and endowing our children [and ourselves] with a respect for and an appreciation of order, is one of the most precious gifts we can give them and ourselves."

2. Recognize that people often slide into agreements about who does what household tasks. They often resent what they "slid" into and may neglect to take quality time to reevaluate the success of agreements that they have made. Allocate family time to seriously evaluate the success of your systems in accomplishing your family goals using "learning conversations."

3. It helps for each person (older than age five or so) to take responsibility for cleaning up after themselves. Everyone should make their own bed, empty their own trash, and put their own dishes in the dishwasher.

4. Create a plan for sharing tasks that builds on people's natural affinities for the work that must be done. For example, let the one who likes to cook, cook. The one who is good at household repairs should do those repairs. Then, divide up the main tasks: collecting and putting out the garbage, doing the dishes, shopping, laundry, and so forth. Sarah Ban Breathnach also suggests the following principles for self-responsibility that everyone should be expected to follow:

  • If you take it out, put it back.
  • If you open it, close it.
  • If you throw it down, pick it up.
  • If you take it off, hang it up.
  • If you use it, clean it up.
5. Treat doing household work as a collective, worthwhile set of tasks, supporting the creation of a shared homey space. Make housework more pleasant by choosing musical accompaniment for clearing the table or create "laundry time" when everyone sorts and folds their laundry together in front of a favorite TV show.

6. Appreciate each other's contributions. When your partner makes the bed or your child sets the table, don't forget to say "Thank you." It helps when everyone is looking for small ways to appreciate each other.


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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