Do you and your people have different ideas about housework? Change your thinking without changing your standards.
I got up early — how can I still be late for work?
The usual culprits — the pets, the kids, Facebook…
I shove a toothbrush in my mouth and reach for the curling iron before realizing I’m not an octopus.
Beep-beep… Beep-beep… Beep-beep…
The alarm jangles my nerves and increases my sense of urgency.
Hubby rose early this morning, so there’s no one in bed to turn it off.
I can’t take the time to turn it off; I’m already late. It’ll stop soon.
Mercifully, silence returns.
But the clock squeals its beep-beep pattern every thirty seconds, getting quicker, louder, and sharper over time.
Effective as an alarm, the clock isn’t pleasant morning ambiance.
Beep-beep… beep-beep… beep-beep…
As much as I try to ignore it, each time the alarm beeps, I get more frustrated.
My toe taps, as if additional movement will propel me through my morning routine faster.
I scrutinize my reflection and add another curl. When I’m late I risk sporting the hairdo of a confused ‘80s popstar — well-coiffed on the right, bed-head on the left.
Beep-beep… Beep-beep… Beep-beep…
My heartbeat quickens. Toe-tapping turns to leg-shaking.
Why doesn’t someone turn it off already?!
I should have recognized my insanity.
The rest of my family ate breakfast upstairs, unaware of the incessant beeping.
The neglected alarm began a state of near-constant screeching. Exasperated, I made the arduous trek across the bedroom, my hand crashing down on the button.
Ahhh… The silence brought instant peace.
Seven seconds is all it took to turn the last few minutes of my rushed routine into calm.
For the sake of seven seconds, I let the noise jangle my brain for several minutes.
Which made my temple throb.
And made my morning less pleasant than it could have been.
At least this time, an inanimate object sparked my frustration. Several days earlier, a different situation set off my annoyance.
The Toilet Paper Incident
I deposited groceries in their appropriate places, and set a package of “twelve but equals twenty-four” toilet paper rolls on the bathroom floor.
Rescuing chicken thighs from an 84-degree kitchen took precedence over placing individual rolls in the proper cupboard bin. I would do it later.
And I had every intention to.
But once I lugged five bags of groceries up from the garage, saved the family from salmonella poisoning, and wrestled the vegetables into a refrigerator bin too full to close quite right, a cool drink and a quiet book occupied my mind.
The toilet paper stayed put.
The following day, the combination of yard work, hot sun, and soda conspired against me, and I rushed into the boys’ bathroom. I had plenty of time to stare at the oversized package.
Two boys showered today. Each entered the bathroom several times in the past 18 hours. Yet the toilet paper still sits in front of the cupboard.
My not-quite-sane self made a decision.
I didn’t put the paper products in the cupboard.
And I didn’t knock on the boys’ doors and ask them to do it — even though the results would have been favorable.
Nope. All logical reasoning had dissipated.
Instead, I decided to see how long it took for the boys to put the toilet paper away on their own.
You can guess the rest of the story.
Each time I entered the bathroom, I tripped over the big ol’ bag of jumbo rolls. And I’d get annoyed.
Then I’d have not-generous thoughts about my two sons:
Why can’t they put away the toilet paper because they use this bathroom and they live in this house. And, look at all we do for them: we buy food and keep a roof over their heads and we have a nice middle class lifestyle. And, who do you think pays for the internet they’re so fond of using? At least they could put away the toilet paper!
Beep-beep… Beep-beep… Beep-beep…
The reminder of the alarm clock incident shamed me into seeing my error.
My frustration boiled again and again. But I could have avoided it completely if I’d taken a few seconds (seconds!) to either put away the toilet paper or ask the boys to do it.
I let myself be frustrated for days when I could have resolved the situation in seconds.
Maybe this story doesn’t ring true for you. But…
- Have you ever avoided putting the peanut butter jar away because you’re not the one who got it out?
- Or refrained from wiping off the kitchen counters because it’s not your mess?
- Left a stack of towels on the banister hoping they’d find their way to the cupboard?
Procrastinating our own chores produces internal stress, which we can avoid when we just do them.
But when a job feels like someone else’s, frustration adds to the stress each time we remind ourselves of the infraction.
What do these situations call for?
Sure, I could wait until the boys put the toilet paper away, but I suspect we would use up the rolls before they made it to the cupboard.
And each time I tripped on them, I got annoyed at my sons.
Every. Single. Time.
Of course, sometimes it’s appropriate to be upset with my boys. But even the courts don’t allow a person to be tried twice for the same crime.
And they’re considered innocent until proven guilty.
Yet I mentally condemn them each time I see the uncompleted task.
When I finally came to my senses and situated the offending rolls in the appropriate repository, I completed the task in fewer than twenty seconds.
For the sake of twenty seconds, I allowed discord to fester in my house and in my heart for days.
This was not a matter of principle, even though I tried to tell myself it was. Principle doesn’t initiate a standoff over toilet paper.
In fact, my reflection resembles the foolish woman in Proverbs 14:1 (NIV):
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
Next time you huff internally because Someone didn’t complete a Very Important Chore, ask yourself: Is the continued frustration of this situation worth it?
No? Then complete it now. Or ask them to complete it.
Thankfully I never do annoying things like what you have described, and for shame, girl! I do not have one passive-aggressive tendency in my body!
(insert sarcastic eye-roll here)
Wow, you have stepped all OVER my toes here, my friend. Thanks for the wake-up call and the reminder.
There are plenty of sore toes over here, too, my friend. 😉
Oh girlfriend, this sounds so good in theory. In practice, in my house at least, it results in everything becoming my responsibility. Which means my day becomes full of things that need to be done rather than things I need to do (exercise, writing, time with God). I’ve yet to solve the conundrum, but me doing it all isn’t it.
I hear you, my friend! I get myself caught in the “why do I have to do this/ why do I have to tell someone else to do this” mind trap regularly. I’m s l o w l y learning to pick my battles and figure out which things the boys need to do, which things are only important to me, and which things don’t even matter at all. Which is why the towels in the bathroom cupboard are always folded the “wrong” way. I’ve decided having others who do it matters more than it being as tidy as I’d like. And I barely twitch anymore! 😉 Hang in there, girlfriend! <3