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Failure to take out the trash or pick up a wet
towel from the bathroom floor needn’t become a family issue.

Couple Doing HouseworkWhile tripping over the trash can be aggravating, it’s the expectations for cleanliness – How clean is clean? – that may be the greater problem, said Olsen, who advises couples considering marriage or others who are thinking about living together, such as college students choosing a roommate, to add housework to their list for discussion before making a commitment.

Suppose, for example, you are dating someone whose apartment is picture-perfect, with everything in its place. Knowing that your own style is more relaxed, with a stack of newspapers and magazines ready and waiting and the shoes worn yesterday still next to the chair you were sitting in last night, should you step back from the relationship?

Housework – or lack thereof – needn’t derail a relationship or spoil a friendship, said Olsen, who offered the following suggestions:

Talk about your expectations

How important is it to make sure that the dishes are done (either washed or put in the dishwasher) and counters clean before bedtime? Do you expect clean towels every day, or once or twice a week?

Make a list

Make a list of household and other essential tasks, such as paying the bills, grocery shopping, and servicing the car.

Match skills and interests to tasks

If a spouse or partner likes to do laundry, let him do it while you vacuum or grocery shop. If a roommate likes to cook, but doesn’t like to clean up the kitchen, relieve the cook of that responsibility to balance the workload.

Do your share too!

Set a good example by following through on your share of the work.

Don’t be critical

Let go of the idea that everything has to be done your way, and try not to be critical of others who are doing the work.


Be willing to compromise and talk about trouble spots before they become issues. “In the long run of life, housework hardly seems worth arguing about,” Olsen said. “Working together to keep the household running smoothly can free-up time for more enjoyable activities.”

More information on managing marriage and family life is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on Extension’s Web site:

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