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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Spring Cleaning

I recall coming to terms about expectations for cleaning early in our marriage. I can remember our first regular “cleaning day.” We assigned duties and went to work. Stacey, being efficient, finished well ahead of me, then plopped down on the couch to watch TV while I finished.

I came from a home where everyone cleans all day until it is all done, so I was a bit put out that she stopped contributing. She was put out, I remember, because we agreed to a plan and she did her part; it was just too bad that I was not as fast as she was.

Of course, neither of us was right or wrong—we just had different expectations. Over 12 years, we’ve had a lot of time to even out those rough edges.

Another example: laundry. We tried different routines for about 10 years. I folded shirts differently than she preferred, and she liked to put clothes away as she folded them while I’d rather get all the folding done, then put everything away at once.

Then there was the issue of initiating—laundry isn’t a fun task, so it isn’t easy to get started. With life getting busier with more children, it got even harder to finish. Sometimes, we’d get frustrated with one another for leaving a load in the washer for days on end.

Finally, about a year ago, we struck the perfect compromise. The laundry gets done once a week, and we take turns doing it. If it is my week, I get to do the laundry as I see fit, and it is my responsibility, start to finish. This has been a very good solution.

Our cleaning solution works well, too. Stacey and I split the cleaning chores around the house—she dusts and vacuums and I clean the floors and bathrooms. All of our rooms are carpeted and we have only one full bathroom, so it is a pretty even deal. Once in a while, we’ll shift duties, just to step into one another’s shoes for a week. Turns out I’m happy with doing the floors and bathrooms.

Because we share one full-time position at work, one of us is always home for half the week. That home time each week is spent in cleaning or laundry, among other errands.

Last week, I came home to a super-clean house. Stacey had cleaned both her part AND mine. She was grateful for some initiative I displayed the week prior to getting the house in order for some visitors, and she felt like she should reciprocate.

It felt really good to have my cleaning done for the week. So, during my week at home, I had some extra time to take on a spring cleaning project that had been grating on me for some time: cleaning the blinds. Every single window in our house has aluminum blinds, and they all were dusty. Some, in the kitchen, had enough spaghettis sauce splattered on them to look like a murder scene. Funny where you’ll find food when small children are involved.

Cleaning the blinds felt great—I was happy to be able to enter any room in the house and know they are clean, and Stacey was grateful for me taking on that project. She frequently makes the point that it is important for her to feel like we’re both contributing to the household. When it feels like she’s the only one, it starts to feel burdensome.

It is easy for me to prioritize other things over housework, but know that if I remember to take initiative in caring for our household, it makes for a happy wife. We work on mutuality in many areas of our marriage, but often it is in the daily rhythm of life where mutuality matters the most.