How to get your spouse to clean the house

Ways to share household chores
Once you appreciate the gender differences with respect to cleaning, you're ready to ask for more help. "You're going to be resentful, tired, and cranky if you're doing it all yourself," says Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist at Rutgers University and author of No: 250 Ways to Say It – and Mean It. "If he doesn't see that, you're going to have to tell him – that you're not his maid."

If you're newly married, it's important that you and your mate have a full and frank discussion about dividing up the household chores evenly, says Jen Singer, a parenting writer and a stay-at-home mom. Think of it this way – you're establishing patterns that will last for decades. It's a lot easier to agree on equitable division of labour in the glow of an early relationship than it will be to change entrenched habits years from now. Furthermore, if you take on too much of the cleaning, you're going to be overwhelmed when you have children. So make a detailed list of all the cleaning duties that need to be done in the home and divide them up – each of you getting some chores you enjoy, as well as some that are nasty. Chart out who's going to do each duty and how often it will be done.

If you've been married for years, and it's time to redistribute the workload, plot out in advance the discussion points you want to make, approach your spouse in an rational state of mind, and spell out the housework situation – what needs doing and who's currently doing what. Tell your spouse that the workload looks uneven, and tell him how that makes you feel, says Beckwith. (Pop quiz: Which phrase is less emotionally charged: "burdened" or "pissed off"?) Remark that it looks as if he has more leisure time than you do – you want extra time to spend with your husband and less time vacuuming. Ask which duties he would like to take on – and let him decide. Again, it will help if the two of you work together to make a list of the cleaning chores, assign your name or his name to each task, and note how frequently each will be done.

Following are other ways to make sure that cleaning chores shift from your to-do list to your spouse's.

Make your work visible
Does your spouse have a Magic Underwear Drawer? He puts used undies into a hamper and clean ones materialize in the dresser! No, no, no. You need to find subtle ways to remind your spouse of all the work you do, says Singer. So if you're going to launder his clothes, deliver his laundry in a basket to the bedroom – but let him put everything away. Also, when the two of you are relaxing in the den in the evening, having the "How did your day go?" discussion, don't hesitate to list all of the cleaning chores you accomplished. You did the work, so take the credit.

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Excerpted from How to Cheat at Cleaning: Time-Slashing Techniques to Cut Corners and Restore Your Sanity by Jeff Bredenberg, copyright 2007. Excerpted with permission from Random House of Canada. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.

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