Assign Who Does What Around the House—And Stick to It

couple in kitchen
Create a List of Assigned Household Chores, and Stick to It

Like most kids growing up, I had a list of chores to do. I honestly don't remember what they were, mainly because I rarely ever did them. But I do know that there was a list, as I regularly got yelled at for not doing anything on it. Generally the repercussions were, besides the yelling, a withholding of my allowance. But early on I'd figured out that food and shelter were required by law, so withholding my allowance was little more than an idle threat. I could easily survive without that extra ten bucks in my pocket. Flash forward 20 years and those chores are now called “keeping house," and that list has become a hell of a lot more important.

The division of labor in a relationship can be tricky to navigate. For a lot of people, the perception of how much work they do around the house depends far too much on their degree of self-awareness. Some people clean a bathroom once and act like they should be awarded the Medal of Valor. Others (and I may be on this list, although I'll admit nothing under oath) just sort of forget that, in order for a house to be clean, someone has to actually clean it. Whatever the case, it's not uncommon for there to be a major imbalance when it comes to each person's cleaning habits.

Which is why the best method against messy houses and hurt feelings is to make a list of who does what. You can divide the labor equally, or you can adjust it if one person works a lot more hours than the other, but however you do it, the list needs to satisfy both parties. Hopefully you won't have to convene a U.N. Council to get the thing settled, but it's certainly worth the effort. Because then, once equipped with a list of duties, there's a guaranteed final say in any argument.

Of course, the important thing is that, unlike my teenage self, you stick to your assignment. Hopefully the initial negotiations will make this a little bit easier. After all, you each should have landed on at least on a few things that don't fill you with existential dread every time you have to do them. For instance, I'm pretty fussy about keeping the kitchen clean but, though I like a clean bathroom, don't much care for scrubbing it. So, I generally get kitchen duty. Obviously there are going to be things on that list that neither of you want to do, which is why it's important to divide them up evenly. It's quite a bit less galling when you know your partner is suffering every bit as much as you are.

But however you slice it up, the list needs to be the final authority. That way if you fail to live up to the list, you have no ground to stand on; you're the failure, the weakest link. After all, you wouldn't run a democracy without a constitution, so don't run a relationship without a list of chores.


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