The Honey-Do List — Wait For Him Or Do It Yourself?

A picture shows a toolbox belonging to Lampre ...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Most men in a long-term relationship know the moment their sweetie really counts on them — when they’re handed (or asked, nicely, to consider) the honey-do list. For those who’ve yet to get or give one, it’s the list of household tasks summarily delegated to the man of the house.

Blogger Blaine Staat copped to his evasive maneuvers:

You see, the trick to dealing with the “Honey-Do” list is not to actually get things done, but to pretend that you’re getting things done. Let me show you what I mean.

Every Saturday morning when Catherine asks me what I’m going to be doing that day, I grab the “Honey-Do” list off the fridge, give it a very serious look, and say “I think I’m gonna try and knock some of these out.” What happens next depends on what she does.

If she stays around the house, I’ll make tracks outside and hang out somewhere for awhile, usually with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. After a few hours, I’ll spritz myself down with water to make it look like I’m sweating, cross off the first 5 or 6 things on the list, and then proudly show it to Catherine so she can see that I scribbled through some of the tasks. She’ll give me a big smile because she thinks I actually did something, at which point I’ll go upstairs and pretend I’m taking a shower while I rewrite the list in the bathroom and put the things that I had crossed off back on at the bottom of the new list. To her, it appears that I’m making headway, but since the list never actually gets any smaller she won’t add anything more to it.

And bada-boom, bada-bing, just like that I post it back on the fridge and I’m off the hook for another week.

Yet some women love their tools and toolboxes, their drill finger itching at the prospect of the next project or repair. This weekend I’m borrowing a cordless drill (mine has a cord but the garage has no outlet) to polish the grime and cloudiness off our car’s headlights. The living room window needs re-caulking and our balcony bench a fresh coat of paint.

As someone who enjoys working with her hands — away from the bloody computer keyboard! — I love having a list. The sweetie? Not so much. I can’t blame him, by the weekend weary from a crazy job and long commute, by which point the pleasures of the driving range or the golf channel look a lot more alluring than the honey-do list.

I’m not alone in my love for a good set of tools and the satisfaction that comes from using them —  more hardware stores are starting to cater to women. I was bowled over recently at my local Home Depot by the first female I’ve met in that world, Marilyn, a 50-something employee who was the best salesperson I’ve met in decades: smart, funny, super-knowledgable.

“I love hardware,” she told me.

I own my home so I want to take good care of it. While living alone, I designed and built bookshelves and a cornice and my partner and I have built three simple plywood flowerboxes (whose copper flashing feet are both decorative and functional) now heading into their fifth or sixth season. I can’t imagine a life without full toolboxes near at hand.

Barbara Kavovit, who markets tools made specially for women, carries a pile of them wherever she travels — airport security a perpetual challenge:

I love talking to seatmates. Inevitably, when I sit next to a woman in business class, I hear about how their husbands, boyfriends or partners have a list of projects to do around the house. To a one, they always say that the jobs never get done.

I always reply that they can do it themselves. I started my first business after hearing my mom and her friends complain about how many jobs needed to be done around the home and how their husbands were too lazy to do them.

Most of the jobs really aren’t that tough. It just takes some common sense and some good directions. One of the things I’ve always stressed is that women need to be prepared for life’s little emergencies. A good tool and good directions on how to use it can solve a lot of problems.

What’s on your list?

Who, really, will pick up the hammer/pliers/drill and get it done?

6 thoughts on “The Honey-Do List — Wait For Him Or Do It Yourself?

  1. jrlopez

    This is Caitlin’s “Sweetie”–and this is my first comment directed at one of her blogs. Let me just say, that I could never get away with Blaine Staat’s strategy. A small apartment with no place to hide is the main reason, but also, when I do have the energy to tackle our “honey-do-list”, for the most part I enjoy the things that I have become good at.

    My strategy with Caitlin is to try and get as much of our list done on Saturday making clear that Sunday afternoon is my time to sit in front of the TV and catch the last day of the “BIG” golf tournament, wherever its being played. I am grateful that she understands.

    Now then Caitlin, BIG TOURNAMENT this weekend..The lets get the list out Friday night, go over it as I plan to plant myself in front of the tube ALL day Sunday.


  2. lambbast

    Then, of course, there’s the partner who uses the ploy of performing badly on the honey-do list in order to put himself (herself) squarely in the benched “don’t ask me again” category. Applied once, twice, or maximally three times, and the partner is home free–doesn’t even have to suit-up. I happen to love power tools, and most things that go buzz when you depress the trigger, so I’d rather put them on my list from the get-go. Sandra Lamb,

  3. Caitlin Kelly

    Sandy, so true – that selective incomprtence thing! I have to admit I would rather hammer or drill or sand and paint than buy groceries or do laundry. I also rely on my partner for specific skills I haven’t acquired, whether changng the printer cartridge or puttting a DVD. I think every couple has to find the sweet spot where each does stuff they like and do well, whenever possible — traditional gender roles be damned!

  4. inmyhumbleopinion

    I subscribe to the notion that if you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you’re not going to do it, don’t raise your hand, otherwise your partner will be counting on you needlessly. Far too many power struggles could be avoided if people would just be honest and say no if they have no intention of completing the task. While we’re not rolling in dough, my husband and I have agreed that anything that consumes entire weekends or huge portions thereof should be outsourced to people who do it far more efficiently than we ever could, unless it’s a labor of love. I consider it an investment in our marriage so we can spend more time together doing things we enjoy. After that, we each know what we’re good at and do those things–food shopping, cooking, whatever–accordingly.

  5. Caitlin Kelly

    imho, clever you! I agree — and we have paid, and will pay, others to do carpentry, painting of entire rooms (which we once did ourselves), scraping and painting of windowsills (ditto, ugh.) My sweetie really enjoyed (after his initial shock) making the flower-boxes and did a great job; anything electrical or plumbing related, not a chance he or I will mess with it unless it is very simple.

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