How to stop fighting about dirty clothes

I guess you might call this Housekeeping Week here at Yesterday you got tips on bathroom organization. Today another guest poster will offer tips to help you stop fighting about dirty laundry. I met Sarah Welch while we were both waiting to be interviewed for the 10! Show in Philadelphia. We have a lot in common. I’m guessing her house is a lot cleaner and more organized than mine. But, hey, it’s not a competition and she’d be the first to tell you that. Sarah is the co-author of Pretty Neat and the co-founder of

Yes, honey, there is an inside to the hamper

By Sarah Welch

I have a problem.

My dear husband seems to miss the point of hampers entirely.

Perhaps that’s unfair. What he seems to miss is that there’s an inside to the darn things.

When he sheds his clothes for the day, they always end up on top of, hanging over the side of, or balled up next to…but never in…the laundry basket.

Invariably when I go to toss clothes of my own into the basket, my biceps get a little workout as I struggle to lift a lid weighted down by several pairs of jeans and fleece jackets. A baseball cap often flutters to the floor landing next to some balled up boxers or smelly socks.

It’s a constant source of frustration.

I’ve tried ignoring the problem, gently reminding him of how hampers work, removing the lid, lobbing dirty socks at him…wailing and gnashing my teeth.

All to no avail.

It’s not that he’s trying to make me nuts. He simply doesn’t see the basket as anything more than a flat surface, despite its cylindrical shape.

And the occasional floor dropping? He doesn’t “see” those either.

In the scheme of things, it isn’t that big of a deal. It only affects our room, and it only takes me a few seconds to either deal with or work around. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a significant source of marital tension.

To be fair, my tendency to shove groceries willy-nilly into the fridge and pantry drives him equally batty.

Like it or not, our individual organizational tics can create minefields in our marriages. The little things, like dirty dishes that never make it into the dishwasher or dirty clothes that never make it into the hamper, are the cavities of our unions. Little holes that, if ignored, will eat away and eventually rot something once solid.

The key is to catch your organizational cavities before they cause serious damage.

Stop complaining & fix it already.

Tired of complaining about my husband’s clothes-dropping habits and hearing him grumble to me about what a mess the fridge was, we agreed recently that we needed to stop whining and do something about it. Complaining is so darn impotent; there’s an inherent resignation in every complaint that things will not change.

We both needed to figure out ways to trick ourselves into doing things we didn’t think we liked doing, such as putting the groceries away neatly and yes, getting clothes inside the hamper, on autopilot.

It turns out the fix for his hamper-myopia was relatively simple. We put a little basketball hoop right over the opening and, voila, it was transformed from something he just didn’t see into a fun game he plays twice a day. I have to admit I really enjoy the thrill of sinking a sock from across the room now too, something I’d never have experienced if it weren’t for his shortcoming.

Addressing the grocery pit ended up being simple too. I created some pretty stickers to indicate where items should go, and can now not only put things away faster but shave minutes off of meal prep every, single, day. Not a bad thing. I also love seeing him smile whenever he opens the pantry.

The bottom line is: actions speak louder than words. Nothing says “I love you” more powerfully than addressing the one or two tiny little things you do on a regular basis that make your spouse nuts (and not in a good way).

So what about you? How do you currently handle your organizational differences? How might your union be improved if you stopped complaining about each other’s organizational tics and actually thought creatively about how to solve them with minimal effort?

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Gretchen Rubin Dishes About Her Marriage

A few years ago, several publishers turned down the opportunity to publish Project: Happily Ever After(that’s my new book in case you are new here) because they said it was too similar to The Happiness Project, at the time a soon-to-be published book by Gretchen Rubin. The Happiness Project went on to become a #1 New York Times Bestseller and be translated into several languages.

If I was an enlightened human being, I would have been happy for Gretchen’s good fortune. I would also have been happy for her readers who were benefiting from the spread of her message and able to improve their lives as a result. I wasn’t. I’ll admit: I was filled with envy. I wanted what Gretchen had.

Flash forward roughly two years. My book is about to be published. A friend asks me if I’d like to join an author’s group. Gretchen is a member of said group. Gretchen and I trade emails. Gretchen says she’d like to read my book. I mail it to her. She says she loves it. We meet for coffee. We become friends. I feel guilty about ever feeling envious of her. And we agree that our books are similar in the following respects:

* They have many similar words in the titles.

* They are both memoirs with a “project” theme.

And that’s it. Her book is about happiness. Mine is about marriage. You could read both and never feel as if you just had a deja vu moment (unlike the folks who read my Facebook feed and who have deja vu moments all the time because it’s broken and always feeds the blog posts in twice). Several people have told me that Project: Happily Ever After has saved their marriages. I’m telling you that The Happiness Project just might save your peace of mind. It’s coming out in paperback. You can find out where to preorder it. Gretchen is giving away a free copy of her Happiness Paradoxes to everyone who pre-orders. To get it, just email her with “I pre-ordered” in the subject line.

What follows is my interview with Gretchen about marriage.

1. How has the Happiness Project (the book and blog and not the actual year long project) impacted your marriage? Does writing about happiness lead to marital happiness?

Absolutely. One of the main goals of my happiness project was to have warmer, more romantic, more light-hearted atmosphere in my marriage, and that has truly happened. It’s a sad fact about a happiness project that you can only change yourself, but when I changed, my relationship changed, and my husband changed. We’re a lot more patient with each other, more affectionate, better about doing the little annoying tasks that the other wants us to do. Also, we “catch” happiness from each other, and as I boosted my happiness, it lifted my husband’s happiness as well.

2. You worked on nagging in the book. That’s a big one for a lot of readers here. What do you think was the most effective technique you used to get yourself to stop doing it?

Alas, the most effective technique was…to do a task myself. I realized that I was nagging most about assignments I gave to my husband, without much regard to whether he thought they were tasks that needed doing at all. For instance, I realized that he didn’t care about sending out family Valentine’s Day cards, so he didn’t want to help. Valentine’s cards were something that was important to me, not him — so why did I get to make him help?

3. What is your favorite piece of marital advice?

Before I got married, someone told me, “Leave something unsaid every day.” That’s good advice!

4. Is there anything you do for your marriage every day?

I give my husband a proper hello and good-bye. I have a little conversation, give a kiss — not just a “Hey” shouted from across the room while I’m busy checking my email. I do the same thing with my daughters, too, and expect them to do the same. We call this “warm greetings and farewells” as in “Come on, I need a warm greeting.”

5. During those frustrating moments in marriage, what do you tell yourself to help yourself get back to a positive place?

I try to keep a sense of humor. This is so, so hard for me. But if I can joke around, or talk in a more light-hearted way, it makes me calmer and more constructive. I suspect that my husband has figured out that if I’m angry, he should wait for a few minutes before engaging, to let me my better instincts kick in.

Gretchen has offered to give away one free copy of the Happiness Project to a PHEA reader. I will choose the winner from the comments this Saturday (2/26) using In the comments, let’s discuss: What can you do to boost your happiness without the help of your spouse?


* POOF BOOKS reviewed PHEA saying, “While the book does indeed have a happy ending, boy it was a heck of a ride to get there.”

* I will be on WBFF Fox 45 Morning News in Baltimore this Friday around 9:20 talking about marriage. I understand that viewers will be able to call in and ask me questions. If you live in the area, I’d love to hear from you while I’m on air.

* I finally cracked the 100 site mark for the PHEA virtual tour!

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