Help! My house and family are in chaos. Since the pandemic began, we have not caught up on household chores, and our whole family system needs a reboot. How can I start to organize everyone and get the family back on track to help with household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, and yard work? How do you start a chore system when no one wants to participate? I am so tired of doing everything myself and getting mad about it to the point that I no longer want to talk to my family. Help me before I lose my mind!
– Struggling in Issaquah Highlands
Dear Struggling in Issaquah Highlands,
I believe you are not alone in feeling your family system is in a state of chaos, especially during the past year when all our lives were uprooted due to COVID-19. First, I recommend you make a list of what you would most like to be different in your household – what chores need to be done, who needs to do them, and when they need to be done. Pick your most important tasks (five to ten, depending on the day), then sort out who you would like to do each task.
Next, pick a good day and time and invite all your family members to attend a family meeting. Print out the tasks that need to be addressed and explain to your family you all will be transitioning to a team-based approach within the house, where each and every family member needs to contribute to the household. Be open to some flexibility within your list (who does what, when). Explain to your family you love them, but you will no longer carry the load you have been carrying.
Make agreements, post the list in the kitchen, and demonstrate an expectation to maintain the agreements. If someone is late in completing their task, remind them, do not do the task, or fight about the timing of the task. Instead, simply remind your family member to do the task (“you need to walk the dog now” or “you need to begin dinner now”). Give the whole process three months to fully launch. If you get five or six days of compliance most weeks, that is a very good outcome. Good luck and be well.
Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and the owner of Issaquah Highlands Counseling Group.
This column is for entertainment purposes only. If you are in crisis and in need of support, please contact the Crisis Clinic at 866-427-4747.