Monday, January 11, 2010

Housekeeping & Marriage

The first book I get to review for the Tyndale Blog Network is Kathy Peel's The Busy Copule's Guide to Sharing the Work & the Joy. Tyndale House Publishers provided me a complimentary copy of the book to review.

In getting to do my first review, I had the choice of two items, this book or a DVD set on Christmas and helping the homeless. Both sounded interesting, and the latter is more directly related to my blog. However, when I saw the advertising line, "Are you married to your housekeeping opposite?" I knew this was the book I should get.

You see, my wife and I often comment how we are essentially housekeeping opposites: I like things a lot cleaner than she does. And it leads to a lot of fights. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to both do a review and better our relationship.

Content-wise, the book is solid. I may actually reference it in the future for therapy clients. I like how Peel emphasizes that we spend a lot of time on many compatibility issues in relationships, but ignore housekeeping, and yet that breaks up a lot of marriages. I would agree with that. It is often the little things that nag us and bring a couple farther apart. And it's the little things that bring people closer. So it is an important issue to address, and Peel does a nice job normalizing the struggles and looking for practical solutions. In many Christian traditions, we often say that if you find the right spouse and try hard enough, the relationship will just work. As one of my friends and I have discussed, it's rarely that simple, and this book does a nice job of addressing that.

Martial problems due to housekeeping differences or other things are not due to spiritual or relationship deficiencies.

I also like how Peel is not prescriptive in how tasks should be assigned. She actually asserts that chores should not be determined by tradition, but rather by time and talent. I think this is really important and emphasizes a more egalitarian perspective. The problem is when a certain chore does not really fall into anyone's time or talent (I don't think the toilet is high on anyone's list). But Peel is practical and even has a website with downloadable worksheets that can help a family determine what needs must be met and their priorities.

She also recommends couples sit down and address what their respective norms were growing up and trying to compromise to create a new norm. There's even a worksheet for that. This is a psychologically sound practice that is frequently used in other areas of a relationship, but I do not remember hearing this be applied to housekeeping very often. So major kudos to Peel.

The use of technology through the website and even recommending iPhone apps that are applicable is excellent. Peel does a great job of being practical and making a lot of suggestions so that the reader that find what is most helpful.

Now to the negatives. The book is labelled "A Couple's Guide." The problem is the content is really not aimed at the couple, but rather the wife in a heterosexual relationship with kids. I did not realize this when I chose this book to review. Peel even says this book is meant to be a companion to The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home. And then there's a subtitle on the book, stating "with advice for men from Bill Peel."

That just made me groan when I opened up the package with book and saw that. I thought, "Great, another book emphasizing and oriented toward gender traditionalism in which the woman is neat and the man is a slob." These kinds of comments alienate men who are the neat ones or even couples who do not yet have children. At the same time, the content is solid. The "advice" from Bill Peel is really not gender-specific. If they could have taken out the specific references to make it oriented to mothers, the book would probably have much larger marketability.

Perhaps the mother crowd is the biggest audience, but if I saw the book in the bookstore with the men advice line, I probably would not purchase it. Yet the book would help. I have not gotten to practice the suggestions yet (I want my wife to read it, too, although she doesn't know it yet :) ), but I think they are solid, useful ideas.

If you are married to your housekeeping opposite, this book is very useful. If you're in a gender traditional marriage and have kids, it'll be great. Otherwise, you'll have to overlook a few words (really not a big deal) and just have faith there are other couples like you out there.


  1. Housekeeping is a real issue for my wife and I at times, often Spring and Fall. At those times my wife feels everything needs to be emptied out of the closets and she loves to wash everything but it drives me crazy as it then is chaos for a week at least!

    I am a "clean as we go" type with scheduling, for me Mondays to do floors, window sills, dust all the coffee tables.

    We have been married 37 years and we split housekeeping, at least I think we split evenly!
    I hate finding dishes in the sink when we have a dishwasher but I am sure she is bugged that I trim the hedges every week which is noisy when she will likely be reading.

    I know our different upbringing plays a big role. My dad as a musician was home days and made lunch and dusted etc before playing in the evening. My wife's dad and mom believed that was women's work and so natursally my wife feels she is the General when it comes to the house. The change to shared housework as women began working in business has made it hard to balance the traditions we all maybe grew up with and the expectations of our modern world.

    One last point I think is really important: We all have friend's (couples) that watch and if a different background or a spouse who does or doesn't act as they see my wife and I, they weigh in which is not often helpful. ( Doesn't J-M do this or Why is Betty doing that)!

    We all just have to laugh not fight and say "So, honey, did Great Grampa and Great Grandma have these differences of who does what"?


  2. Houskeeping and Marriage is one big problem for us. Everytime we go through another big house cleaning for visitors or just because it has gotten crazy....we make it through but no resolution on how to make it better next time. We don't have a solution yet and it brings up lots of angst and issues each time. Part of it is our very different personalities, part of it is our feelings about free time or non-work time and what should be done with free time. Part of it is how we organize. I can't find my books if they are in a box. I need to see them...Jim perfers to have things put away and then get them out again. I prefer to leave them out when I'm in the process of using them. Of course my process can be short or long. Long: whole semester for a class. Short....two days. This is Vanessa leaving this post.



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