Tag Archives: chores

Getting them to Pick up their S**t

If you live as a slob alone , it really only affects one person: yourself. Enjoy!

When more than one person lives in the same confines, well, “Living together can be complex”.  – Lillianna.  Full name with-held for confidentiality.  Lillianna was a real-live former 4th grade student of mine who coined this phrase as part of a human geography project.  It was impressive and true at the time and rings true a decade later.  Especially where slobs are concerned.

Having co-existed for over two decades with someone who is happy to let others help out a lot, I’m glad to no longer be so “helpful”.  Yes, you too can be free.  But first, the slob:  It seems almost anyone who might be labeled “slob” truly has little intention of actually being a slob.  They just get busy.  Distracted. Tired.  Overwhelmed.  Stressed.  Sick.  Oblivious.  Whatever.

But living together shouldn’t pivot around statements like: “Oh  my gosh, I’m so sorry you stepped on that tack in the middle of the night!  When the box of tacks fell the other day I meant to pick it up but…” It gets old.  Fast.  “But…but…but…”  But who cares?!?  I just stepped on your tacks, in my bare feet, at night, because I had to get up to go to the bathroom.  Now, I still have to go, and am bleeding too.  “I love you too, dear!”

So complicating the issue of co-living is the picking up of their s**t.  After 23 happy years together, once in a while I find myself, you know, about to pick up either my spouse’s or our daughter’s s**t.  Yes, it still happens but much less frequently.  Thanks to author Marla Cilley, I found my escape:

Kiss the fights goodbye.  Stop formulating a less nagging way to say it.  The easy solution is written in Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley, 2002.  Recommended to me, ironically, by Lillianna’s mom.  Addressing picking up after her husband all too often, Cilley offers a phrase in her book similar to this: “Oh, (fill in name/title/pet name, etc. here) did you want me to pick up/clean/fix this (fill in the s**t here) for you?”

It seemed too easy to be true but out of desperation one final-straw-day I tried it.  And it worked…like magic!  After years of using it (less and less needed by the way) I’ve found that each word counts.  Let’s see this at work:

Say your honey left their dirty breakfast dishes in the sink, again!.  You come home after work to them as your invitation to cook dinner.  Instead of yelling: “How the h** am I supposed to cook dinner with you’r dirty a** dishes from 12 hours ago still in the sink?!?!?!!!  Address the subject respectfully by using their usual nomenclature.  Say “Dave,…”  A different name (such as first and middle as we intentionally named our daughter: Anne Margaret.  Say it slowly without sounding cross.  Good luck!) like his whole name, David Robert, gives away that something’s up.  The other party must not suspect this or all is lost.

Next, be direct and ask the obvious question.  “…did you want me to clean your …” Since they’re not doing it or haven’t yet, at best they must be silently planning on asking you to do it (an innocent if incorrect assumption).  At worst they forgot and since it’s not on their mind, it’s not their problem and they have no plans to address the issue what-so-ever.  Even though they expect dinner in 20 minutes.  Logic is not at play here or in any situation where one person is put in a position to feel they need to care for another in this way.

Then, name the object in one to two words only.  “…breakfast dishes…”  Otherwise there’s an invitation to talk about whatever other words might be interjected.  Better to stay focussed on one and only one thing.  Dishes are dishes.  That’s it.  Call it out and be done.

Cilley’s final key is in naming the critical element: “…for you?”.  This works when everyone knows that capacity isn’t the issue.  It’s the putting the task off until someone else (you?!?) does it because of being tired of the waiting, nagging, and ignoring the job that’s the issue.  So all together this has very simply and innocently been offered: “Dave, did you want me to clean your breakfast dishes for you?”

The trick is that Cilley’s phrase subtly humiliates without obviously robbing the picker-upper/fixer/cleaner of their dignity.  It’s brief and clear.  Let’s review:  How to subtly humiliate while keeping dignity in tact and getting the job done too?   Simply ask the question, as though you’re of course happy to do it but as it’s the other person’s s**t would never have thought to.  A light voice and neutral-to-curious facial expression helps keep an innocent tone.  Good luck!  Share results here.  Nagging is more destructive to a marriage than infidelity.  Let it go.  More on that another time.  Truly. try it Cilley’s phrase out.  Let’s hope it works as well in your house as it has in mine!.

Best wishes always,

Jeannie