The Underwear Principle

What exactly is The Underwear Principle?

I discovered it as a newlywed:

Expecting marital bliss, I was dismayed to discover my new husband would toss his underwear in the same spot on the floor every. single. day. After months of pleading, begging and withholding stimulating intellectual conversation (this is a family friendly blog), he still refused to put his underwear in the hamper! So, determined to win this battle over underwear, I did the unthinkable.

I moved the hamper to the underwear pile location.


The Underwear Principle:

First, I had to let my idea of the perfect hamper location GO. Let it go. I had to pry my white knuckled fingers off of “MY Way.” I just liked the hamper there. It didn’t have to stay there. MY Way is not always the BEST way. MY Way is not the ONLY way. It is just ONE way. A DIFFERENT way. (But different in a more aesthetically pleasing way. Come on, he’s a GUY.)

Secondly, I had to accept this “flaw” in my husband. What was really important here? It was a HAMPER. It was UNDERWEAR. I wasn’t going to divorce my new husband over underwear. I wasn’t even going to fight with my husband over underwear. (I was going to fight with him over money, like any normal newlywed).

Third, I had to pay attention. He didn’t want to carry his underwear across the room every day. He wanted to dump his underwear somewhere along his normal walking path. Watching what WAS happening and figuring out WHY was the key. I was able to modify MY Way to accommodate HIS Way.

Finally, I had to do it all over again when we moved into a new house. Circumstances changed and I had to adapt. Application of The Underwear Principle is never a done deal. Some changes don’t work. Some changes make improvements, but don’t work completely. It requires modification over time.

So, I had to adapt my way of doing things to accommodate his way of doing things. A compromise, to be sure, but still. A win-win situation. The Underwear Principle can be applied in so many other situations. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll post some of my experiences applying it. See below for post links.

So, what’s your “underwear?” It may not be a tangible item. It may be a way of doing something or a difference of opinion. Have you unknowingly applied the Underwear Principle in your life? Can you see any possibilities for application now?

January 16, 2008: “don’t file paper at home anymore. part 1

January 21, 2008: “don’t file paper at home anymore. part 2

January 27, 2008: “don’t file paper at home anymore. part 3

Check out my freakishly organized page for more examples!

11 thoughts on “The Underwear Principle

  1. If I brought up everything I wish my husband did differently, then we’d be arguing all the time. You are so right about it being better to just make the necessary adjustments. My husband certainly isn’t going to change, and my preference really is just a preference. It’s not important enough to make a stink about whatever it is. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. WOW…that was freakishly good. I could so completely relate to the Underwear Principle that I started to think about the “weird” little things that we do at our house. We’ve been married almost 15 years now, so I really don’t remember the underwear being an issue, but I can totally relate to my way white knuckling it and how much stress and pressure that can put on a relationship.

  3. Leslie – My husband is a pretty reasonable guy, so he tries my “experiments” and gives me feedback. That helps so much!

    Melissa – THANK YOU! I’ve been following your blog for a while and am honored by the visit and the compliment!

  4. I did try that with my husband. Moving the hamper that is. Then he just started throwing the underwear where the hamper had been before. And he lays out his work clothes on MY CHAIR!

  5. Aha, you discovered the design principle called “desire lines” – bravo. Have you ever noticed paths worn into the grass just a little bit away from a perfectly usable sidewalk? That too is a desire line. The smart response is to put the path there or add a path there, even if it’s just pretty stepping stones in the grass. Do not walk on the grass signs never work. The designer of the walk probably placed it to “look good” but didn’t really consider how people would actually choose to walk.

  6. HAHA! I love this post!! I had the same problem w/ the hubbs when we first moved in together. Scrubs,Socks& Underwear on the floor everywhere. Heck, I put a hamper in the living room to solve that problem =)

    Kudos on tipping – it sure does apply to everything & everything is a work in progress. I need to organize our paper pile & apply the underwear method.


  7. I’m not married and glad of it–seems to make some of these things easier. However, I think you have a good point about modifying your own ways and looking at WHY things are happening.

    The man I’ve lived with for 14 years insists on doing his own laundry, but he does have a tendency to leave it on the floor first. These days, I can just say, “Please stop doing that,” and he’ll be better for a few months at least. But here’s what I did when we first moved in together: I started leaving MY clothes on the floor too. Then the next day, whenever we were in the room together and he was looking at me, I’d pick up my laundry and put it into my laundry bags. Seeing me do this reminded him to do it, too. Easy!

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