Prioritizing Household Chores in Today’s World

Prioritizing Household Chores in Today’s World Blog written by Lynn Hallbrooks Graphic credit: The content team at Call Sign Wrecking Crew

It’s a reality that household chores need to get done. It’s equally true that not everyone can afford outside help. That means most households need to make decisions, based upon their situation, regarding who will be responsible for household chores and what chores take priority within a given time frame.

Please allow me a few paragraphs to build an overall framework. That way, everyone will have a general understanding of. how responsibilities for household chores have changed over time. Also, how full-time work statuses play a role in reducing the time available to spend on housework.

In the not-so-distant past – grounded in culture and traditions – the wife was primarily responsible for the home and hearth. Back then, the husband was duty-bound to provide for his family. This often took the form of working for someone else or being essentially self-sufficient by working a family farm or ranch. There was also a time when women worked until they were married and then took on the role of housewife and mother.

Within the last century, more and more women have chosen to remain in the workforce after marriage. While some take time off to raise children, others work in addition to raising children. To be clear, this is not the case in all countries. However, in those countries that it is the case, there has been some dramatic changes in who is chiefly responsible for household chores.

Due to the changes in traditional roles and responsibilities, households that comprise two or more people have had to determine if one person is chiefly responsible for all the chores or if they will be divided up. One factor that often influences this determination is the work status of each contributor. One more thing to add to the discussion is the further changes in the work dynamic. After the global pandemic hit in 2020, most countries have divided the work statuses of full-time employees into three basic categories. Employees are either full-time on a job site, full-time at home or remote (as in nowhere near home), or hybrid – a blend of part-time at a job site and part-time working at home. It’s also possible that people in the household have school or other obligations that limit their participation in household chores.

The main point I’m trying to make is that when all parties are working / going to school, whoever is responsible for household chores, at any given time, has a restricted timeframe to perform those tasks. While there may be some flexibility for those that work from home, that isn’t always the case. That’s why figuring out what works best for your situation and being aware of which household chore take priority over another is a necessary thing. In this blog post, I’m going to focus on three recurring household chores: laundry, dirty dishes, and meal preparation.

Before I discuss laundry priorities, I should mention that I realize that not all homes have washer / dryer access. In many cases that means laundry is done in a laundromat. I’ve been there. I’ve had to tote dirty laundry to a laundromat and bring clean laundry – folded and hung up – back home. This took up several hours of my weekend and I was far from alone in doing so. The upside of doing clothes in the laundromat is that you can do several loads at one time and have it all done until the following weekend.

However, when you do laundry at home, you need to prioritize loads based on what you don’t have readily available. As I mentioned in “Helpful Household Hints for the Harried Human”, I sort laundry by color – predominantly reds, whites, and blues – and wash the same colors together. I go on to explain why in the book. My point is that if you’re nearly out of a particular item, let’s say socks in your drawer, then you need to prioritize the color that has the most socks in them. The next load is the next priority that needs to be resupplied and so forth. Of course, as we all know, this is a never-ending cycle. Sort clothes, wash clothes, dry clothes, put away clothes, wear clothes, get clothes dirty, put clothes in hamper and back around the cycle again. Later, I’ll explain some hinderances to the laundry process.

Dirty dishes and meal preparation, go hand in hand. When you make a meal, the dishes from preparing and eating the meal need to be washed. If you have a dishwasher, you can put some of the dirty dishes in there. Naturally, there will be some items that must be hand washed. In some cases, pots and pans will be too hot to wash right away. Sometimes, they will need to be soaked overnight. Therefore, you should take those things into consideration when deciding on priority levels. Count yourself blessed if your dishwasher can be set to run 2, 4, or 6 hours later. That means you can adjust the timing so you can prioritize one event over another.

For example, let’s say you need to do a load of laundry and a load of dirty dishes, you can preset the dishwasher for a later time. Yes, I know that some washers have the capability to preset a wash load. I also know that with some of these washers, the lid is locked down after setting the timer. Therefore, I don’t recommend presetting laundry, because of the potential damage caused by bleach or sanitizing liquids added into the dispensers.

Speaking of potential damage, I’m going to give you some scenarios that should be factored into each household’s decision-making process. I’m also going to explain why I believe that’s the case.

Depending on the age of the home or apartment complex, potential water pressure and electricity issues should be taken into consideration. If a place is older, there is an increased risk of hazards, such as broken water pipes and electrical glitches. Therefore, if you live in an older residence, I highly recommend not allowing washers or dishwashers to run without someone in the home. It’s much easier to take care of a problem right away than to walk into your home and discover standing water or worse. On the flip side, when you are home, you’ll know if there was a power outage or pipe damage. In the case of power problems, you’ll know that you may have to re-start the washer or dishwasher from the beginning – when conditions are safer.

As for meal preparation, if you prefer to use a slow cooker, the age of the home / apartment is a contributing factor. If you were to proceed using a slow cooker during your absence, I foresee two potential problems. First, the power could surge and cause a fire. Second, the power goes out and the meal is not as cooked as you would expect. The first could ruin more than a meal. The second could result in a visit to the doctor or hospital. Both are preventable.

Depending on the flexibility in work schedules, people who work full-time at home could start a load of laundry or the dishwasher during a break and then return to work. They could even do meal preparation with a slow cooker either before they start work or during their lunch time. The catch is planning ahead and making sure to be aware of your surroundings and being able to respond if an emergency occurred.

If your work schedule doesn’t allow for much flexibility during the work week, then I guess all of our days off will be spent doing chores. Like I said, they need to get done at some point. Of course, helping hands from others in accomplishing these tasks, will make things go quicker. Which in turn leaves everyone involved with more time for fun.

Author Credit: Lynn Hallbrooks is a published author under the Call Sign Wrecking Crew, LLC umbrella. One of the books Lynn has written is entitled, “Helpful Household Hints for the Harried Human”. Lynn is considered an original member of the Service Professionals Network (SPN). Currently, Lynn works from home, crafting and strategizing content with her team leader at a career services company.

Graphic Credit: Content team at Call Sign Wrecking Crew.

Topics discussed in this blog piece: Home and Office, Prioritizing Household Chores, Factors Related to Decision-Making, Work Statuses

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