Thursday, September 30, 2010

On how doing more housework made me a happier person

As I mentioned the other day, I was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It was just okay, but certainly inspiring.  I only read about 3/4 of the book and didn't really feel like I needed to finish it.  So I didn't.

Anyways, she talks a lot about doing small things to increase your overall happiness and quality of life.  She breaks the book up by month and focuses on one specific area of her life each month.  One month she focuses on her marriage and she decided she wanted to stop nagging her husband so much because her nagging made both of them unhappy.  It occurred to me while reading this particular section that I had also had a similar epiphany a few months ago re: nagging and I though I'd share it with you. (You're welcome.)

In my home, as I am sure in many of your homes, my spouse and I share household duties.  I do the lion's share of the housework because I am home all day, but there are some very specific tasks that fall to Nelson.  These include most yard work; taking out the trash and recycling; picking up toys at the end of the day (this because he prefers not to cook dinner or do dishes, so I do both those things; he picks up the toys as a trade off); and, up until recently haul the laundry up from the basement and put it away in our closets and drawers once I have folded it.

I am going to be honest here.  Aside from the toy clean up (which I would not mind doing), all of Nelson's chores are things I personally hate doing, which is why they have been assigned to him.  In all fairness, Nelson's chores are not things that HE hates, so that works well for us.  With the exception of bringing up and putting away laundry.

As you might be able to imagine, since Nelson hates bringing up and putting away laundry, he was a little lax at getting these particular tasks done.  So I would nag him about them.  "Can you please bring up the laundry?" "Have you brought up the laundry yet?"  "Is that laundry still in the basement?"  It felt like I had to ask him a minimum of three times to get any action on the task.  And the laundry would sometimes go two weeks without getting put away and it would get to the point where there were no baskets left for our dirty clothes.

I was getting frustrated because things were not being done in what I considered a normal amount of time, and I also felt crappy because I knew I was being a nag.  And I'm pretty certain that my nagging was not really doing anything to encourage Nelson to bring up and put away the laundry.  So, I made a decision.

I decided that I would no longer ask Nelson multiple times to bring up the laundry.  I would ask him once.  If he did not bring up the laundry in what I considered a reasonable amount of time (one day), I would just do it myself.  In doing it myself, I decided I would not complain or martyr myself in anyway.  I would just do it so it would be done, and not complain.  I also decided that instead of waiting for Nelson to put away the laundry, I would do that as well.  No complaints or passive aggressive comments or even the expectation that Nelson was going to notice.    I just decided to start doing this stuff because I was tired of being a nag.

My thinking here was that yes, I was going to be doing more work but that I would feel happier and better about myself because I wouldn't feel like a jerk for being a nag, and that also I would have increased good feelings towards Nelson because I wouldn't always be feeling irritated that he was not listening to my requests or doing his household tasks.

And you know what?  It totally worked.  I stopped nagging Nelson about the laundry and I feel better as a result.  I no longer expect him to do these tasks so I don't feel annoyed that he's not doing them and I don't feel like a jerk for constantly harassing him to get these things done. And doing the tasks myself is not even a big deal.  I'm able to fit the extra laundry duty into my day seamlessly, and it only ads maybe an extra 20 minutes of work to my day two or three times a week.

Truthfully, I don't even dislike putting away laundry as much as I thought I did and I do it ten times fast than Nelson so my doing it is so much more efficient..  And I love that when I'm finished I have these lovely empty baskets. Such a sense of accomplishment.  As an added bonus, now when Nelson does put away the laundry (without prompting) it feels like a relief.

With bringing up the laundry, I ask him once and then do it myself.  Yes, I bring it up a lot more than I (or my back) prefers, but it gets done and that is fine.  Recently (about three months in) I have noticed that Nelson is more likely to bring up the laundry right when I ask, and I think this is a direct result of him not feeling so harassed about the whole issue.

For a long time, I did not thing that Nelson really noticed that I'd backed off on the laundry nagging and picked up the putting away clothing detail, and that was okay because I'd decided I was not doing these for him; I was doing them for me, so I could feel better.  Then one day he suddenly commented on the fact that I was so on top of things which felt really good.  I did not expect or need the recognition, but it was nice to see my efforts appreciated.

This whole deal also made me realize what a negative effect nagging was having on my marriage.  My doing an extra hour of work a week makes me feel better about myself, about my husband, and I'm pretty sure he feels better about me too.  A happiness success for sure.


Susanica said...

What a great insight Jenni. It's funny how the division of labor happens sort of organically. Most people never even talk about it except to nag (or the ever popular passive aggressive HINT) about it.


Jan said...

When I read the title to this post, I thought, "Poor woman; she must still be sick." Of course, when I read it, I saw what you meant. I agree with Susanic; most people don't think or talk about it, they just keep nagging.

In our house, the division of labor is split up much more equitably because we both work outside of the home (more than full-time, too), but we each have our chores. Mine is cooking, Be's is laundry. I vacuum, he sweeps (we both, I'm sorry to say, avoid mopping if we can). He dusts and cleans the light fixtures, I polish the 4,000 pieces of oak furniture we own. He cleans the tub, I clean the toilets.

Most of the time, we don't drive each other too crazy.

Sprite's Keeper said...

Great minds, Jenni!
I am on the same track, I have been since the New Year, trying to bring the house to a clean slate. Every day, I neaten up or clean out one small area so it doesn't feel so time consuming, usually while I make dinner. Laundry is now a twice a week occurrence and John, in an effort to be more proactive, has begun making the bed every morning. Very nice to come home to.

Keely said...

I'm glad that worked for you. I've tried that approach and it just means I end up doing EVERYTHING. Paul is kind of oblivious, though he's getting better.

Amy said...

Wow! This is great--that "being a nag" feeling is not pleasant. Interesting that he is now more likely to do it, too, when you ask him. This post is making me think! (Thanks a lot.) ;)

Michele R said...

One day soon you can assign responsibilities for the boys to bring up stuff from downstairs!!! And the trash!!! And learn lawn stuff!!! But you will need that help cuz there will be more laundry! And they will care about having sports clothes washed and ready. And you will be making a lot more food. But then they won't have to go to the store with you! (sorry about all the !!! but I got carried away at how some things will change but other things will change!

Sandra said...

I totally agree with you. I gave up nagging a long time ago. It's much easier to poop scoop than it is to hate my husband.
Great insight!

tulpen said...

I try really hard not to nag. Our duties are divided into indoor and outdoor. I take care of indoor, anything outdoors is all him.

Though I will not nag him to do it, I WILL not pick his clothes up off the floor. They stay where he leaves them until he puts them in the hamper. Sometimes there is quite a pile on his side of the bed.

My son thought he was being helpful and put my husband's underwear in the hamper. He looked at me like I was crazy while I retrieved it from the hamper and placed it back on the floor.

Ok. maybe I am crazy.

Kandi said...

So funny because I have the same issue with bringing up my folded clothes and putting them away. Its my job, but somehow I feel SO lazy about it.

Great job taking initiative in your happiness and in your marriage. Nobody wants to feel like a nag. But my biggest inspiration from this post is that you didn't do these things in a martyr fashion which, let's face it, can be really easy to do. And bonus points to Nelson for noticing.

Mrsbear said...

This is so true. Though I'm not much of a nagger, I tend to be more of a bottler, I think this realization still applies, rather than stew and become resentful about certain things, making the choice to do thing differently and just let stuff go can do wonders for my own mood and everyone's overall happiness. Great post.

Patty O. said...

This is such a great post. Your plan is awesome, though not one I will find easy to emulate! I have a problem with nagging too and it is hard not to be a martyr, but I totally agree with you: it only makes me and my husband, and by extension, my kids, unhappy.

I like that you made a choice to think about it differently. I find myself annoyed that my husband yet again forgot to do a chore and then I just get more and more miffed. But when I stop to consider that yes, he forgot to put his shoes away, he also managed to do about three other things for me that I really needed done. Then, I realize I should be thankful for all he does rather than dwell on the one or two things he forgets.

Thanks for the reminder to change my attitude!

anymommy said...

Awesome. I love it when I can get a whole new perspective on a situation and make a real change.