The “mental load” that society unfairly expects women to carry has gotten a lot of attention in the past few years. Several articles have recently pointed out how Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show Tidying Up shines a bright light on this reality. “Mental load” (also sometimes called “emotional labor”) refers to managing the household, which is a different set of tasks than doing chores like dishes and laundry. It includes things like managing kids’ schedules, knowing what needs to be purchased and when, meal planning, how things in the house are organized, etc. It’s a bunch of invisible labor that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
The way the mental load is carried drastically changes the experience of carrying it. The recent articles (as well as many others written on the topic) discuss several unfortunate factors which can’t be changed overnight, or sometimes at all.
But some part of how you carry the mental load is within your control. What most of the mental load amounts to is keeping track of things. Keeping everything in your head is one of the things that makes it unpleasant because it multiplies the amount of work! Below is a list of ways you can diminish the mental load instead.
Set Your Bills On Auto-Pay
Auto-pay eliminates the need to remember to pay bills. (And the opportunity to forget to pay them!) I recommend setting up your auto-pay to debit directly through your checking account so you don’t have to worry about card expiration dates. The set up is a small time investment that will pay huge dividends in the hassle department.
Come up with a family user name and password with your partner. Be sure your family password includes a capital letter, number, and special character so it will meet any requirement that’s thrown at it. Agree about a location to write it down and store any other passwords you both need there.
Bonus tip: While you’re logged in to each of your accounts, you can sign up for paperless billing to cut down on mail.
Utilize Amazon Subscriptions
Wish you could put things like paper towels and diapers on auto-pay and just forget about them? Check out Amazon’s subscribe feature to auto-reorder regularly purchased items in the amount of time you typically run out of them.
If you don’t want to predict when you’ll need something next, check out the Dash Buttons. In your dashboard, you can order things you frequently order at the touch of a button. You can customize the buttons to represent all the things you’d like to order from Amazon on a regular basis.
Make A Grocery List Everyone Can Access & Easily Add Things To
No one can add to or access a grocery list that lives in your head.
This is a photo of the little magnetic marker board on the refrigerator in my house. When my husband or I want something from the store or notice we are low on something, we write it on the board. When it’s time to go to the store, we snap a picture of the list on our phone.
Bonus tip: Delete the photo while your groceries are being bagged!
There are also several ways to share grocery lists electronically.
Share Your Calendars
You can’t answer, “do we have a thing on Tuesday?” with “look at your calendar” if it’s not on his calendar. There are tons of different kinds of electronic calendars and ways to share them.
However, if the world of electronic calendars doesn’t offer a good solution for you, there’s always the old-fashioned paper (or marker board) option that you can hang on the wall. Put it somewhere central, like on the wall in the kitchen.
The most important thing is to stop keeping track of events and reminders in your head. You may not be able to prevent someone from asking you about events, but you can at least give them another place to find that information. Keeping event information somewhere it can be accessed by everyone who needs it feeds both birds with one hand.
Hire A Certified Professional Organizer®
If an important appliance in your house was broken and you and your partner didn’t know how (or have time) to fix it, you’d probably hire someone else to do it. If there is clutter on your surfaces because items in your house don’t have specific places to go, the organizing system in your house is broken.
Creating systems for finding and keeping track of things is what organizers do. Despite the fact we all have homes full of stuff, organizing isn’t a skill everyone has mastered (or automatically knows how to do because of their gender.) No one knows anything without learning it first. A good organizer will not only dig you out of the piles of overwhelm, but will also teach you the skills you need in order to maintain organization. Tidying Up has done a great job of showing America the profound effect hiring a professional organizer can have, as well as the inequity of the mental load.
When your partner asks you a question about something you wish you weren’t solely keeping track of, such as where something is or when something is happening, realize that it’s a clue about a system that needs tweaking.
Make a list of all the invisible tasks in your mental load. Brainstorm about how you can automate, divide, or delegate more of it. Instead of just asking your spouse to do routine tasks day after day, ask him to be in charge of part of the mental load. Find something he cares about as much as or more than you do, and work out a solution together. For example, he could agree to wash the towels every Tuesday, freeing you up from laundering them and thinking about when they’re dirty.
How do you deal with the mental load? What works in your household? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!
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