Spring is in the air and with many of us starting to think about blitzing the bathroom and deep-cleaning the kitchen, it's an ideal time of year to review and refresh household routines, especially ones that could damage our most important relationships.
My role as a professional organiser often involves negotiating between partners with different attitudes towards household clutter. While some people can blithely step over clothes that accumulate on the 'floordrobe', others become decidedly agitated by disorder in their wardrobes.
New research by energy provider E.ON highlights some of the most common sources of conflict among couples who share a home. The top three energy-related things that people argue about with their partners are the temperature of the house (22%), leaving lights switched on (22%) and leaving heating on (18%).
It's interesting that couples who live together for longer seem to argue less about these matters. Eight in ten (83%) of those who've lived together for more than 21 years say they never argue over changing bed linen compared to half (53%) of those married between 0-1 years. This could be because people grow accustomed to their partner's imperfections over time, or perhaps couples simply settle into harmonious home habits as time goes by.
When it comes to avoiding 'chore wars', the most effective strategies, I find, are those that enhance communication, cooperation and constructive mindsets. I encourage couples to clarify roles and responsibilities, and to take the time discuss specific points of contention. Focusing on what matters - shared goals and values - is key.
But alongside these traditional tools of conflict resolution, new technologies may also promote peace. According to E.ON's research, one third of people say that having smarter solutions at home would improve domestic harmony (32%). Among the most popular suggestions are clothes that never need ironing, self-making beds and self-cleaning cleaning ovens. People also said they'd welcome energy meters that can read themselves - a technology that's available today with smart meters.
Some of innovations are more likely than others to materialise so in the meantime, here are some tips to create a more organised and peaceful home:
Acknowledge that running a household requires teamwork. It shouldn't be the responsibility of just one person with the other person 'helping' out. Even if the division of labour isn't entirely equal, you each have an important role to play in creating a peaceful home.
Create routines so that certain jobs are tackled on a daily or weekly basis rather than waiting for either of you to feel like doing them. Maybe designate which evenings each of you will cook dinner, for example, and decide in advance that whoever cooks, the other one will wash up.
Simplify systems so that chores can be accomplished quickly and easily. For example, keep spare toilet rolls in or near the bathroom rather than under the stairs so that they can be replaced within minutes.
Be polite and specific about requests while avoiding critical generalisation and rhetorical questions which are likely to escalate disputes. Do say for example: 'Next time you leave the bathroom, please turn off the lights'. Don't say 'You never remember to turn off the lights' or 'Why do you always leave the lights on?'
Since you both have limited time and energy to dedicate to chores, establish priorities and choose your battles accordingly. If it irks you to waste electricity by filling the kettle with too much water, point this out but perhaps be willing to overlook a dirty mug or two in the sink.
6. Smart solutions
Looking into new smarter technologies and solutions can help avoid disputes. For example, a smart meter reads itself so avoids the need to argue over who goes to the back of the under-stairs cupboard.
To find out more about E.ON's smarter customer solutions, such as self-reading smart meters, visit eonenergy.com.
To see more of my tips about decluttering and organisation, check out my website here: www.jlpcoach.com .