Ask Dr. Neil (Nov. 2023)

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Dr. Neil Weiner, Ph.D.
Dr. Neil Weiner, North Portland psychologist & writer

Tired of being a maid to my family 

Dr. Neil,

I am absolutely done. 

My whole family is a bunch of slobs who take me for granted. They leave their messes behind for me to clean up. The house is a sloppy mess, and the kitchen table and sink are piled with dishes. I have to clean it up because nobody else will. I ask them to do one simple thing and they just shrug it off like it’s no big deal, and they don’t do it. 

I’m really angry right now and ready to tell them all off. I’m tired of being everybody’s maid. I don’t expect them to clean up my messes, and I don’t want to deal with theirs.  

Please give me some advice about handling this. 

~Sick and Tired, The Maid

Dear Sick and Tired,

These are the steps I suggest:

1.  Before doing anything, give yourself some time and space to calm down. Anger and productive solutions don’t get along well.

2.  Writing out your requests for each family member is impactful because you can avoid the risk of miswording what you want to say, forgetting what you want to say, or getting steered off topic. You also have an opportunity to review and revise your requests. 

3. Then do nothing. Nothing at all! No threats, no reminders.

 Consider a message like this one: 

“I’ve asked repeatedly for you to clean up your messes, but you have not. Instead, I have been cleaning up for you. You are fully capable of taking over these responsibilities, and I will no longer be doing them.” 

Now be very specific in your requests without appearing critical or nagging. Your list of requests may look something like this:

1. “When you’re done eating, rinse your dinnerware and put it in the dishwasher.

2. Take your things to your room rather than leaving them in family areas. 

3. Wipe off the kitchen counter after eating.

4. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper and wash them.”

Stopping may be harder than you think. You will be tempted to clean up after them. Don’t. You will want to take care of their stuff “just this once.” Don’t. If they have a high tolerance for a mess, things may get worse before they get better. That is your test. To pass it, all you have to do is nothing. You can do this! Essentially you are on strike to be treated with love and respect. You deserve this!