8 Tricks for Getting Help With Housework (Without Starting a Fight)

updated Mar 2, 2021
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Nothing’s worse than sharing a space with someone who doesn’t carry their weight in housekeeping duties. But what do you do when the “dishues” arise and it’s officially time to talk chores with your housemate?

We asked Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists Antonia Di Leo and Shira Etzion of Andrea Cornell Marriage and Family Therapy for advice on negotiating housework with the other humans in your home.

Here are seven tricks to remember when trying to persuade your roommates and family to get sh*t done:

1. Don’t point fingers

“Remember that everyone has different ways of doing things and it’s not a personal attack if the dishes aren’t being cleaned as quickly as you’d like,” Di Leo says. “Approach your roommates calmly to request a meeting to discuss household responsibilities so that you can all be on the same page.”

2. Be specific and measurable about your expectations

“It’s important when establishing ground rules to be specific and measurable about who, what, and when things need to happen,” Di Leo says. “Set solid guidelines (i.e. Madeline does dishes on Thursday) so expectations are made clear.”

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

3. Offer to help

“Sometimes housemates simply don’t share the same worldview as you about cleaning,” Etzion explains. “Offer to help a roommate that’s struggling with completing chores to encourage a sense of togetherness, not control.”

4. Use “I” messages

“If someone doesn’t seem to be handling their responsibilities you can use the couples counseling strategy of employing ‘I’ statements, such as, ‘I would like to establish a schedule for chores,’ versus ‘you’ ones,” says Di Leo. “‘You’ statements—like, ‘You aren’t doing your fair share of housework’—can create blame and may cause the person to shut down or feel resentful about helping out in the future.”

5. Create a sense of camaraderie

“Do your best to make housework feel like a team effort and not separate responsibilities to bring unity to your home,” says Di Leo. “Saying something like, ‘When are you doing your chores this week? Maybe we can play some music and do them together,’ will create a sense of togetherness when completing housework.”

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

6. Speak calmly

“The way we speak to each other can change the trajectory of the mood if it’s presented in a calm, subtle way,” says Di Leo. “[Use] statements such as, ‘Hey, is everything okay this week with you? I noticed the dishes weren’t done, maybe we can talk about it while washing them together?’ to gently get your message across.”

7. Use a passive tone

“If you need to be more direct with someone using a passive tone is also helpful when trying to keep the peace at home,” says Di Leo. “Try saying something like, ‘Would you mind vacuuming today?’ or ‘Do you have enough time to the dishes today?’ to be clear and direct, but non-confrontational, about when you would like this done.”

8. Compromise is key

“Always convey respect for your roommate’s autonomy when establishing expectations about housework,” says Etzion. “They, too, have the right to choose how they wish to go about getting the goal achieved—nobody’s way is the ‘right’ way.”