How to Divide Household Chores

Domestic CEO has the key to getting a clean, organized, and happy home in 7 easy steps.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #2

How to Divide Household Chores

I once heard a marriage counselor say that he could tell how much a couple is fighting by the amount of dishes in their sink. It seemed like a silly comment at the time, but actually the sink turns out to be a pretty good indicator of relationships. When the dishes fill a sink and overflow onto the counter, it is a clear sign that the adults in the home are waiting for someone else to clean them. Because of the central location of the kitchen, it is the easiest place for a wife to stop cleaning in hopes of getting her husband to “finally do something around the house.” For those living with roommates, it’s the first place one person will stop cleaning because they are resenting their housemate.

Cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, these are all chores that have to get done around the house on a regular basis. Some people like to do them, some people find them a nuisance, but do you know the impact they can have on your family? Do a quick Google search of “Division of household chores" and "Marriage” and take a look at the recent research. Still think that pile of laundry isn’t a big deal? Even if you are living with roommates instead of a spouse, there can still be stand-offs about whose turn it is to do the dishes.

Here are 7 Quick and Dirty steps to help you and your family (or housemates) keep your home, and lives, harmonious:

Step #1: Create a List

Have a brainstorming session with all the adults in your household and list out all the tasks that need to be done on a regular basis. Remember to include the little things too, such as replacing the toilet paper roll or changing the dryer filter. Do this on the computer so the list can be changed and manipulated easily. After you have everything listed out, print a list for each adult.

Step #2: Task Timing

Next, every person should write how often they feel each task needs to be done and how long it would take them to do it. You will likely start to see some differences between you and your housemates. In all my experience, I have rarely seen two people who live together in sync in their thinking here. Most times, one person thinks that dishes should be done every night before bed, and the other thinks that they should be done once a week. Keep in mind that neither of those are the wrong way to do it, they’re just different.

Use these differences to start the conversation on what the standard will be for your home. For our purposes today, we’ll call the people who like to clean more often the Neat Freaks, while the people who are a little more lax about the chores will be referred to as the Slobs. Please remember, this is not who you are, but it is likely how your opposite-thinking housemate thinks of you.

Step #3: Decide the Standard for Your Home

The key here is to compromise. If you look at the list of how often each of you think the tasks needs to get done, you will see that you have a choice. Again, neither of you is right or wrong, you just have different “breaking points” where you feel the chore needs to be complete. If you are both committed to the living arrangement, you need to agree on a happy medium for your home. The Neat Freak will have to accept that the world will not stop turning if some tasks aren’t completed as often as he/she would like. The Slob will need to find a chore or two that can be done more frequently (knowing that it may not need to be done this often, but it does if the Slob wants to have a happy housemate). Once each task has been assigned a frequency, the fun part begins.

Step #4: Divvy the Duties

For this process, there are several tactics that can be employed. The first is the Kickball method. This involves flipping a coin. The winner of the coin toss will pick his or her first chore. Then the next person chooses his or her chore. This continues until all the chores have been picked. This method works well with children too, but I would highly advise allowing them to pick first (to get the most desirable tasks) to increase the probability the chores will be completed. We all have things around the house that we don’t mind doing, and some tasks we even enjoy doing, so start by picking those. There are other tasks that we do well as compared to others in the house. It would make sense for the person who does them better or faster to choose them.

After the Kickball method has been exhausted, there is usually a decent number of tasks left on the sheet. The next step is the Barter method. After each person has picked the tasks they enjoy or are best at, the bartering can begin. It usually goes a little something like this, “I will commit to keeping the toilets clean every week if you commit to scrubbing the garage floor once a month.” 

Step #5: Keep it “Fair”

This term is used loosely because there is no hard and fast way to make sure this is “fair.” The goal is for each person involved to feel like they are being supported by the other. Once your lists are complete, look at them. If you feel resentment about the distribution, now is the time to talk about it. It’s a lot easier to move the tasks around on paper than it is to have the fight about who isn’t doing their fair share later.

Step #6: Write it Out

Put the assignments on paper and schedule them out so each member of the household is accountable for completing their jobs on time. Create a chore chart, a checklist, notes on your bathroom mirror, “job descriptions,” or whatever works for your household. The goal is to have it be perfectly clear who is responsible for each task, and to take personal responsibility for getting them done.

Step #7: Consider Professional Help

While doing this, you may discover that there are tasks no one wants to tackle—ever. Rather than fight over them or leave them annoyingly undone, consider bringing in a professional service. After all, paying someone a few hundred dollars a month to clean your house is nothing compared to the cost of divorce or a broken friendship.

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at DomesticCEO@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Cleaning Task-Force and Chores List image from Shutterstock