20 answers

Help! My Kids and Husband Are Slobs!!!

My kids are 7 and 13, and huge slobs. My husband is a slob too. I feel completely disrespected by their ways. I give up. I have tried grounding, bribery, etc. My husband was raised by a do everything for her son type, so she has completely screwed him up...lol! Nobody listens to me on this topic and now I have refused to pick up after them. Joke's on me though, my house is a wreck! They don't care, but my eye is twitching. I get so insane about this. I was always doing everything for them because I could not stand it, but after I caught the kids just tossing candy wrappers on my floor, I snapped. I would clean one room and start the next, but the room I just finished was already getting messed up! I will not clean up after a grown man and a 7 and 13 year old any longer. They should all be able to pick up after themselves. I grew up in a freakishly clean, organized home. My mother, father and 4 sisters all cleaned and did yard work and cooking. But when it comes to my home, I am a failure. I know that the kids look at my husband and follow his "example" so I guess I need to break him first, but how? I have tried, he agrees with me but he still won't pick up after himself or help around the house. I even tried standing over him to pick up but that does not work and I feel like a mother to him when I do that, so, yeah, no good. Short of kicking his sloppy butt back to his mommy, how do I "fix" him and our kids? I love them very much but I cannot live with their sloppy ways anymore, something has to be done.

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So What Happened?™

WOW! Thanks to everyone who voiced their thoughts and ideas. Some of you ladies were a little harsh, but hey, that let's me know that I am not alone in this.
I have tried everything in the past. I mean EVERYTHING...I am nuts about this. There is NO fun, allowances, friends, parties, I have canceled vacations, etc. I have stripped them bare of freedom, but they still did not do any chores.
I informed them of my post here and they were very embarrassed that I aired our dirty laundry, and mad. Oh well! I let them all read your posts and they were shocked at some of the answers given. This was a huge plus because this is coming from people we don't know, not my mouth.
I looked at flylady...OMG! For the first time I feel like my dirty house is not the only one on the planet! I introduced "27 fling boogie" last night and of course the husband told me the Phillies game was coming on and that he was not doing it, but I spoke to him like a pissed off Mom (hated that, but it had to be done) and he complied. They LOVED it! I am not kidding you! They said it was fun! We did it again today, still loving it and it has already made a HUGE difference in our home. We all yell out "27 fling boogie!" and get started. It takes no time at all and everyone was excited that we got almost 1000 items in the trash, (YES A 1000!!!) and nobody was tired, sore, complaining. It was great! They all told me that when I would tell them to clean in the past it was too much of a daunting task to tackle, say, their bedrooms, in one day. It was depressing them and they felt trapped by their own filth. I felt trapped too. I'm an "I want it now" type of girl, and they are clearly not. They love how fast fling boogie is and they feel good that they made a dent, and that the house does not have to be done all at once. We will be doing this every night until the house is clean of "stuff" then the scrubbing comes in. This has been a huge help, thank you all again!

Featured Answers

Gonna be rough with the hubby.

Might try something really drastic, move to a friends house few days and let the dad and kids handle being on their own for a bit. There is no reason why they all not helping around the house, cleaning their rooms.

Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

I'm in a similar boat that you are. I am a SAHM and can't keep up with everything. I'm not an exremely organized or neat person, but I refuse to follow everyone around cleaning up their messes. My husband does not lift a finger - "his job is outside the home while my job is inside the home" is his mentality. We are making small strides in turning that around. My kids are 3 and 4 so they are bound to make messes. Though we are far from solving all the issues here are some things that have made a difference in our house:

Every evening after dinner I direct the kids on how to clean up from the day - this goes here, that goes there, put this in the garbage, etc. I imagine even older kids may need very specific directions so they know you mean business. "As soon as you finish dinner you need to pick up the candy wrappers from the living room floor and put them in the garbage. Then you can take out the trash. Then you can watch your movie."

My husband is responsible for emptying any garbage from his dinner plate into the trash and putting his plate and utensils in the sink or dishwasher.

My husband must sort his laundry into the bins outside of the bathroom. I'm starting to teach the kids how to do this as well.

If the kids don't pick up their toys they go in the "closet" for a long time. I can't make myself throw them away because of the money spent on them.

My husband leaves snacks, drinks, etc in the living room. I pile them on the table next to his favorite chair so if he wants to bring out more he has to clear himself a space. I just accept that table will be cluttered.

I don't speak disrespectfully about my husband in front of my children, however, I do speak truthfully with them. When they ask why they have to clean and Daddy doesn't, I tell them that Daddy apparently didn't learn how to clean up after himself, but part of my job as Mom is to teach them how. I tell them that taking care of a house is a team effort and no one person should be responsible for it all.

I tell my kids how much I appreciate them helping me and that when we work together we get the chores done faster so we can have time for fun. I also praise their efforts and don't redo what they have done unless it is absolutely necessary.

I wash my husband's clothes and I fold them. Then they go into a pile until he puts them away.

I can't comment on how to handle your husband because I haven't made huge strides with mine. I haven't been bold enough to go completely "on strike". But with the kids I would make a clear list of rules and chores. I would set up consequences as well. Maybe get them involved in devising a plan so they can feel their input is valued and they can have some ownership of the rules and consequences. You will have to be consistent in following through with consequences.

One other thought...Something a friend of my SIL did to handle the piles of dishes in her sink was to pack hers away (until needed for company)and replace them with one plate, bowl, cup and set of utensils in 4 different colors. Each family member was assigned a color and was responsible for washing their own dishes. They could choose when to wash them but if they wanted to eat and didn't have a clean dish they knew what they had to do.

Good luck to you!

2 moms found this helpful

I feel your pain. I can relate on a certain level. I am the same way--raised in a very orderly, immaculate house. Sometimes I feel like my house NEEDS to be perfect at all times. I've learned to relax my standards a bit since my son was born. But I still like a basically tidy and clean house. I believe that the more you DO, the more others will let you do.
I second the idea of flylady.net. Especially if you are feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start or how to stay on track week to week. It will organize your efforts (and it's FREE!).
I think posting a list of rules/expectations is a good idea. Your kids need to abide by the rules if they want their allowance, special trip to XYZ, video game access--whatever will motivate them.
The 13 yo, at least, should be able to keep his/her room tidy. EVERYONE can use a trash can and everyone can clear their plates from the table, etc. I have my 5 yo empty the cutlery from the dishwasher. He's just now starting to put his dirty clothes in the chute. Sigh.
You really need to talk to your husband seriously about this issue b/c they DO look to him as a role model. Then tell him specifically what to do. I believe men are incapable of looking around & doing what needs to be done. You've gotta tell him, "vacuum that" or "pick up the newspaper & put it in the recycle bin." I don't feel bad about directing my husband b/c he lacks a sense of flow and priority. He needs direction!
You have a responsibility to stop the insanity cycle of the helpless man! teach your boys cleaning, cooking, etc and you will have very happy future in-laws! :)
Hang in there. Check out FlyLady and just start the babysteps. You don't need to catch up--you just need to hop on the schedule where it starts. It's okay if you miss a day or a week. It will help you. Good luck. Hope this helps a little.

1 mom found this helpful

I have the same problem. I have 4 children 19,15,13 and 10 except the only one who helps out is my 10 year old. My house is a wreck also. When they all go to work or school - I feel like a maid and it is soo frustrating. There is only one thing that worked out about shoes lying all over the floor. Especially, under my kitchen island. My husband started coming home from work and kicking his shoes under the island. I vaccumm everyday and my island is the horrible(with having 3 golden retrievers the hair is everywhere and the island is the "catch me all". I started throwing their shoes down the basement steps. One it kept morning a little easier because kids trying to fine the other shoe when the golden picks it up and carries it somewhere. Second they hated running down the basement steps to get their shoes. I figured I can't see them. As far as everything else I need help also- can't seem to master that yet. I have been married for 21 years and my husband is still a slob.

1 mom found this helpful

You can fix this! it will only be difficult because it will be change. Obviously if you had enforced rule from the start, it would be easier (not necessary) but that's no help! Here's what you must do:

PLAN A: Assign chores. Not negotiable. Strong negative consequences for not performing them in addition to no allowance. They're not voluntary, you can't "opt" not to do them and not get paid. That's where the consequences come in. It's healthy for them and better for them to learn organization and neatness and discipline than if they don't. They must do chores, it's the new law.

Give them a head start (to ease your mind about the new "hard line" you're taking.) Get rid of everyone for a day, weekend, whatever it takes. Deep clean your house yourself, or hire help. Set up ways to be organized for them-certain places to put everything, so it is not hard for them to keep clean. Especially since they will have to keep on top of it. Give them the sparkly clean house as a new present, and then introduce the new rules, and struggle through enforcing them. It will be very hard at first. If you get lazy breaking their life long habit, no biggy, you'll have to live with the mess until they move out.

As for hubby, you cannot do anything about him, don't even try. Don't let your kids use him as an excuse, he's the dad. They have to obey you. He doesn't. He must have been a slob before you married him. Embrace it. Let him be the only slob in the house. With a clean kitchen, bathrooms, and their rooms (all within their chores) his clutter in the living room and your room won't be so bad, and maybe when he sees how hard you and the kids are working, he'll improve. But don't count on it.

PLAN B) When the mess is getting really bad, move out for a week or two. Stay with a co-worker or whoever. Let them live in squalor with no one to dig for pots, pans, counter space and clean clothes etc to provide for them. Then come home and implement plan A. Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful

You both work full time. But it's been 15 years of this ?? You didn't go nuts sooner ? (I'm VERY impressed !)

I think you should make a list of chores for every Sat. a.m. Nothing else gets done, no fun, etc., until the chores are done. with the kids -- you can pay them, which will make them EARN their allowance, and learn that money is worth something, life isn't free. If they don't work, no big deal, they don't get money.

Everyone should choose their own chores, but put the price values on them first. that way the kids will pick the ones they earn more money on.

I think once they learn that to have fun, they have to help with the work, then you can celebrate by doing something fun. You have to be willing to tell them they CAN'T go out and play, your husband can't watch football, or whatever, until a certain number of chores are done. I would plan an hour of picking up.

When they learn they have to help pick up, they'll figure out that it's easier to pick up if they don't toss the trash around the house. when the trash goes into the trash can the first time, it's easier to earn your money on Sat.

You will, of course, need to talk to your husband about this and get his support. He should love you enough to give you an hour of his time every week to help clean. And when he gets good at it, he won't notice if the number of chores increase, so once a week you have assistance cleaning.

1 mom found this helpful

Wow it sounds like my house!!! My kids will open capri sun drinks and leave the straw wrapper on the floor, or the fruit roll up wrapper on the steps. My oldest is 14 and she will leave a plate and cup of milk on the living room end table and walk to the kitchen to get another drink without taking her stuff from before.

I have posted chores and when we r home they do get done for the most part. If they r not done, she does not get a ride to her friends house etc... My 7 yr old puts away her own clothes and empties her dinner plate into the trash. She will also windex the dinner table and tables in living room. You need to put your foot down with your kids. When they leave something somewhere you make them come right back in to pick it up, regardless whether they get an attitude about it or not. Make them clean their rooms before they go out and if it is not done then they don't go anywhere. No rides to friends houses etc... If they have phones, take them away. If they have computer priveleges, take them away!

As far as your husband, well i would no longer do his wash, clean his dishes etc... I would tell him that if he wants YOU to continue to do these things for him then HE needs to start helping out around the house by at least taking HIS own clothes to the laundry room, emptying his plate into the trash etc.... You need to tell him that if these things r not done and you find his clothes on the floor (same with the kids) YOU WILL THROW IT IN THE TRASH!!! I have trown away toys that were left on the floor in the trash. If that is how they care about their stuff then they obviously don't need or want it that bad!!!

Stick to your guns!!! Make it work! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Gonna be rough with the hubby.

Might try something really drastic, move to a friends house few days and let the dad and kids handle being on their own for a bit. There is no reason why they all not helping around the house, cleaning their rooms.

Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Let me start out by saying that you're right, it shouldn't be this way. There are tons of other mamas in this situation with you, so you aren't alone. BUT they key to changing it lies within YOU-- not them.

I'll add my flylady.net endorsement. It isn't a magic bullet, but FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself... and that is what she works on (along with getting the house cleaned up). You do get a lot of email from it, but a lot of times someone will write in and share how they got their husband or kids to help... she is always saying "our kids are watching and learning" and reminding you that you do shape their attitudes about housecleaning, etc. My little one is too small for housefairy, but when he learns to walk, he's getting a feather duster, lol.

I think you really need to work on "fixing" your self before you try to "fix" the hubby and kids. Understand what you are willing to do, cheerfully and as a blessing to your self and your family, and what you are not willing to do, and then learn to live cheerfully with what doesn't get done. Try to see that your husband not helping around the house is not the defining characteristic of your marriage. Not that you have to go all Stepford, but embrace the fact that there are somethings you can control (your attitude, your tone of voice) and somethings you can't (his attitude, his upbringing). Once you master that, things will change. Also, men love to fix problems, but hate nagging. If you can present certain things to him as your problems you need help with (I'm having a rough week, and I'm so stressed out, do you think you could help me lift this heavy thing, clean up the kitchen Wednesday night, what ever it is). That definitely works around here.

The kids will respond to a combination of following a good example (a cheerful good example, not a martyr good example), rewards, and consequences. I'd set up a sticker chart (ok, maybe something like that for the 13 yo, but not stickers) for agreed-upon, age-appropriate chores. Each of your boys is old enough to put laundry in the correct hampers or baskets or whatever you do, and your 13 year old is old enough to wash and put away his own laundry. If they do it for some pre-determined length of time, they get a reward (stay up 30 mintues later Friday night, pick out a movie from Netflix, whatever). If they don't, then you'll get to the laundry when you get a chance, and if they don't have something clean to wear to school, then that is the consequence.

This isn't going to change all at once, but it will change. You will change. Things will get better, I promise! :-) Give yourself credit for all you do, and don't let anyone (even yourself) take that away from you.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't know how to fix your hubby (still trying to 'fix' my own - LOL) but for your own sanity, can you afford to hire outside help? I have someone who comes in (only once every 3 weeks) to help me do the deep-cleaning housework I don't have the time, energy or patience for. It won't get the candy wrappers off the floor (ew) but maybe having the house really clean will inspire them to keep it that way?

1 mom found this helpful

I've told my family I don't mind taking care of the house, but I am not their slave - which is what they are treating you like. I would refuse to pick up after them as well - they are old enough to do it, and if they don't start now they will never know how, and turn out like your husband. And, he is old enough to learn and know how also - let the mess keep piling up until they clean it up.

1 mom found this helpful

Wow-I feel for you. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Here is what you should do: You TAKE anything that is on the floor. Don't say anything...just quietly pick it up, put it in a bin and hide it. Take it to a neighbor or put it in the trunk if you must but DO NOT let them at it. When they start looking for their stuff you tell them what you are doing: Anything that is left on the floor is now yours since they didn't care about it enough to put it away properly. Even clothes...so what if they have nothing to wear. They will just have to solve that problem themselves. Stand tough on this policy and don't waiver. And keep it going. Don't stop just because for one day they might pick up after themselves. Hopefully pretty soon they will learn that if they value it they will put it where it goes. You do the same with dirty dishes. If they are left out you put them in a bin. When there is nothing to eat off of make them hold their food. Sounds tough but you need to get them to be accountable for their own mess.

Also- it is UNNACCEPTABLE that your husband does not help you. I would even suggest counseling or some kind of mediator if he will not change because it is completely unfair that he gives you no help. It is showing his complete disrespect for you. Please do something about this soon because you deserve so much better.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I guess I am one of the lucky Moms. My husband likes things neat and clean too so my son sees from both of us that is how things are. I grew up too in a freakishly clean home and my Mom was a germa-phob. I have relaxed in my 'old' age and realized that life is too short to be like my mom or my step-mom (she was Army-clean/drill sgt clean). The best advice I can give you is to pull your husband aside in a neutral environment and talk to him about this and tell him he has to take you seriously. Tell him that you take pride in your house and you want it clean. Children will take after the examples we give them. If all else fails... don't do his wash don't clean up after them ANYMORE. Just take care of yourself. Even if it kills you, don't lift a finger. See how it makes them feel when they run out of wash, food, dishes etc.... I know it is extreme but that is what I would do. They are all old enough to respect you and clean up after themselves. I would take away the things that make a mess. Buy capri sun in a container not the boxes so they straw papers aren't an issue. Don't buy the special snacks they all like. Once they see you mean business maybe things will change.
good luck

1 mom found this helpful

I have heard that there have been some women who take everything that is on the floor-doesn't matter to whom it belongs to...and they throw it out on the front lawn. Dishes, clothes, you name it. If it doesn't belong-they throw it out. When the kids/husband want something they are forced to fend for themselves. You may have to swallow a little more embarrassment from your neighbors if youhave any but -when they see their stuff out there in the open...more than likely they will clean up. I don't know what else to say....I'm in kind of the same mess but not as drastic as this.

Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful


I feel your pain!! I've had the same issues...and here's what I've done.

My kids are 9 & 12. When they don't put their belongings away by the time they go to bed at night, I scoop them up and put them in my closet. It's the "store". They can purchase their items back on Saturdays between 9:00 and 12:00. The price goes up if they have a lot of items in the "store". The pain is that they must pay for their own items AND they lose the use of them for a while. My son purchased a new computer game Monday and left it on the window seat for 2 days. I reminded him about it, and when he still didn't move it...I put it in the store. Ouch. It's a new game and he hasn't been able to play it yet. If they decide they don't want the items, they must pay me a "maid fee" for me collecting it for them. Maid fees apply in our house for a lot of things...if they don't make their beds...I do it for them...and charge them. If they leave their dinner dishes on the table...I do it for them...and charge them. If they don't hang towels after their showers...I do it for them...and charge them. You get the point. I DO charge them for trash left on the floor. What you charge them is up to you. I had to raise the maid fee on my older child a few times until I got his attention. Some think this is mean...BUT...I want them to grow up to be responsible adults and not to expect someone else to clean up for them. I'm not totally heartless. I remind them before bedtime to "scan" the windowseat...or the sofa...or wherever they've left their stuff. BUT...I won't nag them, and if they don't do it...they suffer the consequence...not me. If we have a really late night, I tell them I won't put their items in the store...but...other than the rare exceptions, you have to be really consistent to be fair and for them to "get it." When they slack off, the store temporarily increases its prices until I get their attention again. My older one has had weeks where his entire allowance goes to pay maid fees or purchase store items. It really does get his attention...but don't expect overnight changes.

The husband is a different story. It's harder. Mine is ADD (as is my oldest child) and I really do believe that he gets distracted...and doesn't even see the trail he leaves behind. He was an only child and his mother followed him around and cleaned up everything for him. He never learned good habits at home. I try humor with him "Your clothes on the bedroom floor are lonely...they want to be in the hamper with the rest...." Sometimes, when I get really frustrated, I go through the house with a grocery bag and round up his stray stuff and put it in his closet. When he says "Have you seen....whatever?" I tell him to check his closet. Sometimes, I just need to remind him because he really just doesn't see it. It's an ongoing issue at our house.

For my part, I have also had to let down my standards. I don't think I'm a neat freak, but I do like order. Before my kids were born...the CDs, spices etc. were all in alphabetical order (lol). Though I would love to still have my house in such order, I realize that I share the house with 3 others, and it's not as important to them as it is to me. I want to spend time enjoying their company, not just organizing the house. It's my part of the compromise to make it all work.

As a side benefit...my kids will sometimes drop something off into their sibling's room at night so it doesn't go to the "store"...it's nice to see them look out for each other this way.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I completely agree with using flylady.net. It really does make a difference. Just give it a try.

1 mom found this helpful

Try flylady.org, it will take some time but it really works!!

1 mom found this helpful

Make your husband pay for a maid. And if your children get allowances (but I don't know how they would, if they are not cleaning up after themselves), then make the kids pitch in, too.
One of two things will happen: 1. The maid will come and your house will be clean. 2. Your husband will freak out about paying for a maid and get off his butt and clean up, forcing the kids to follow suit.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Aimee and Pam...I LOVE your answers...can't even think of anything better than that! :)

1 mom found this helpful

I'm sure you'll get lots of post saying the same, but i'll be the first! Flylady.net She'll help you. Because you really can't change your hubby, but you can change your attitude, It's free. Lots and Lots and Lots of people use flylady.net for exactly what you are talking about. You sound like you know how to clean but not how to run the house so that everyone is proud and responsible.

Also affiliated with flylady is the housefairy that might work with your 7 year old. It's basically a postive reinforcement program. There is a small fee for that, But you could also follow the basic tenents yourself.

I happen to know about flylady because i was never taught how to clean, our house was a wreck growing up and i thought that was normal. Do your kids have chores? or allowances?? I know you say dad is a bad example but did you ever let the kids help or did you go back and re-do what ever job they had done? When i moved away to college and had roommates, They would re-clean the areas, I "thought" i had cleaned, so basically i gave up and said if they want it cleaned a certain way and the way i'm doing it isn't enough then they can do it themselves. Not such a great situation.
I've been a flybaby since my kiddos were born and while i'm still not great (sending this instead of washing breakfast dishes) i'm getting better, and most of all i think my attitude is better.
Anyhow, check it out. it might help. Message me if you want to vent more or if you have questions -- the site has lots of stuff on it but there is an table of context on the left side.

For your own sanity and your son's future girlfriends/wives, i hope you are able to find a way to get through to them.

1 mom found this helpful

I would hire a maid and take the money out of the family fun portion of the budget..less vacations, less museums and amusements parks, less toys. They might get the message if their behavior is having a direct impact in their quality of life.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

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