Should housemates split chores 50-50?

By on Apr 14th

Girl Squeezing Bubbles From A Sponge

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography. Used under Creative Commons license.

Fact: Dividing up chores makes a happy household, even when the shares are uneven. The Empire touched on this briefly — Ariel mentioned it on Offbeat Mama last year — but it's got a new application for Offbeat Home.

Learning to live with other people is hard. Having a roommate or bringing in a ladyfriend isn't like living with Mom and Dad and Bro and Sis — it's new territory, with its own rules. We, being polite and hardworking people, want to make sure that we "carry our own fair share" and hope that our co-habiters do the same. But housework is one of the topics couples most often argue over, even when both sides are trying to keep up! Fundamentally, it's almost never about laziness — it's a conversation that needs to be had.

In the division of Rockethaus duties, it is my job to empty the dishwasher, but not load it. It's my job to clean the tub and the sink, but not the toilet. It's my job to keep the hardwood and linoleum clean, but not the carpet. And since I'm House Captain it's also my job by default to do most of the other cleaning, upkeep, gardening and cooking. It's my husband's job to load the dishwasher, clean the toilet and, well, go to his job — which takes up more time and energy than mine.

I do the lion's share of the housework, but this arrangement makes me 100% happy. Let me tell you how I got to this place.

Scott and I struggled over chores for a long time. Some of it was about becoming grown ups who live with other grown ups and maintain our own home, and also about one of us (me) overcoming severe slobbiness — but later it was a series of tense negotiations about who is going to clean that up.

The turning point came when we laid out our tradeoffs. This is not a funny exaggeration: I have an aversion to touching dirty dishes. Just like my other aversions I have no idea why it bothers me — I just don't like it enough that I put it at the end of all my chores and it rarely gets done if left on my plate. And Scott, I learned, doesn't like unloading the dishwasher. He doesn't have a weird thing about it, it's just tedious. Since we discovered I could unload the dishwasher if he put the dishes in — and made a few other arrangements that divided the work in ways that felt right, instead of the ways that seemed most even — we've almost entirely stopped fighting about cleaning.

Now that I essentially got Scott to do the really sucky parts of my job, I'm totally cool with doing the rest when he just doesn't have the time or mental energy. He usually goes above and beyond. We still get a messy house. I definitely still fall behind on my chores — more Fridays than not, our kitchen is a wasteland and our den is a Cat Cave from my workday hunkering. But the everyday upkeep of our house is now routine, calm and drama-free, which makes life a ton easier. Instead of dividing the pie in half, we recognized that for us, it worked best for me to take the filling, and him to take the crust.

How do YOU divide the work? Is it 50/50, or have you negotiated special deals to compensate for each person's strengths and weaknesses around things like dirty dishes?

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About Cat Rocketship

I was the Managing Editor of Offbeat Home for a year and a half. I have a rich Internet life and also a pretty good real life. Hobbies include D&D, Twitter, and working on making our household more self-reliant. I also draw things.