This is for: Young wives (age 18-25), and girls who plan to become young wives.
Let’s say that a couple gets married. What then does a wife do?
Before she becomes pregnant, a wife can certainly work, and may continue working at the job she had before. But, let’s say that a wife becomes a stay-at-home wife, perhaps because she becomes pregnant, or even — as is common in Japan — because, when a woman is married, she becomes the responsibility of her husband, and, if childless, becomes a woman of leisure. Only the wives of poor men are forced to work at a job. Wives that do not have to work at a job are a key badge of middle-class status.
Today, I will talk mostly of physical duties. We will talk more about the psychological or relationship aspects later. I will also describe a wife who does not work at a job, and who also does not have children, although children may appear soon. In the end, it is much the same even for wives who work full time, with some adjustment and sharing of duties with the husband.
A wife who stays at home assumes complete responsibility for household tasks. Since she does not work at a full-time job, there is no need for sharing duties with the husband, but rather, a division of labor. A wife is responsible for keeping the house clean, and in this she has complete responsibility, and must do everything necessary to get it done, so that the husband need do nothing at all. He has other responsibilities, and would like to delegate this task to his wife without having to think about it much, or waste time and effort on related issues. Since this is at odds with what young women sometimes hear, let me make it plainer: You do everything, and he does nothing. You should take satisfaction in doing it all yourself, without having to rely on his help. This is not very hard to do.
Let’s begin with basic household cleaning. Cleaning is necessary. This includes floors, counters, kitchen, bathroom. This should be done regularly and diligently, often enough that things never become what one would call “dirty.” This is very easy, but a young wife may not be in the habit of it. If you haven’t been trained by your mother, or your mother didn’t do it right: clean more often than you think. Surfaces like the bathroom, kitchen sink, counters, and kitchen floors should be wiped down at least once a day. This is very quick, but do it daily. Vacuuming should be at least once a week. (I prefer no shoes in the house, which keeps floors cleaner.) From time to time, you will have to wipe down things like windows, windowsills or the tops of furniture, where dust may collect. Just go over it with a damp cloth. In total, this need not take more than about 30 minutes a day, maybe more when you vacuum. Use rubber gloves.
For some women, it seems that they like to expand housework to consume the available time. What should be a 20 minute job takes two hours. Then they complain about all they have to do. Don’t do this. Just get it done and move on.
Do the laundry at least once a week. Wash your husband’s clothes too, and put them away for him. Iron if necessary.
One of the main causes of a “dirty” home these days is not dirt, but clutter. The most basic clutter is: stuff that should go into the trash. This is mostly bits of paper, mail, catalogs, magazines, packaging and containers. Then there is a long list of items that are useful, and do not belong in the trash, but which tend to accumulate in corners and on flat surfaces.
These days, stuff just seems to multiply on its own. It is easy to buy things, and hard to get rid of things. Some good books have been written about this. I like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (her real name is Mari), and Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston. Yes, you — our 19-year old wife — should read these books and abide by them. After you have reduced the number of things (sometimes radically), then make sure that everything that you own has a proper place. Clutter accumulates because there is no good place to put it — no established home. This may involve purchasing some furniture such as bookshelves, filing cabinets, or drawers, or “organizing” materials such as closet organizers. But, always reduce first and organize later.
Get familiar with Goodwill or Salvation Army, or maybe a church service where you can donate old things. Sell unneeded things on Craigslist. Repair what needs to be repaired — don’t just leave it for another day. Do basic sewing repairs. For some things, which are too difficult to repair but too valuable to throw out, it is often best to sell it or give it away to someone with the time/skills to repair it. Again, try Craigslist.
Having done all that, make sure that everything is put back into its proper place, at least by the end of the day.
Part of maintenance is replacement of worn-out items. These are things like sheets or towels, shower curtains, or sometimes kitchen appliances. At times, you might want to upgrade, even if the old item is not yet worn out. Keep refills/replacements of things like soap, toilet paper, and even some things for your husband, such as razor blades, deodorant and shaving cream.
Cleaning, decluttering and keeping tidy (putting things away in their proper places) are mundane topics, but they actually have their own challenges — if you consider how many able people fail at them. A young wife should master these things, so that they become familiar habits. A period before children are present is a good time to build these basic skills, so that you can move on to childcare skills later. Laugh if you like, but does your house look as good as Marie Kondo’s? I didn’t think so.
So far, we have just talked about maintenance. We haven’t changed anything, we are just keeping the home clean and functional. Next, we will talk about changing things: home decoration.