Five Tips for Divvying Up Household Chores

mop-on-tile-floorWhen you’re reflecting on the stresses of everyday life, it’s unlikely that you’ll name washing dishes or vacuuming as major causes of unhappiness. But fights over chores can slowly drive people in committed relationships to the brink of war, and unequal distribution of household chores plays a role in up to 30% of divorces. While chores might not seem particularly important, they have to be done every day, and if one person is doing more than his or her fair share, the person’s quality of life can steadily decline.

Women tend to fare worse in the fight over chores, statistically, and a University of Michigan study recently found that men, on average, create about seven additional hours of work each week for their wives, with married women who have children doing more than three times as many household duties per week as men. With a little planning, though, you can ensure that you and your partner contribute equally.

List Your Chores

Sometimes couples have completely different understandings of what it means to do housework. You might vacuum and mop daily, but your partner might think cleaning just means removing dirty socks from the floor. Sit down together and make a list of chores you each agree need to be done daily, weekly, and monthly, then start divvying them up. This way, neither of you can plead that you didn’t know about the chore, and failing to do something makes it clear that your partner is trying to pawn the work off on you.

Keep Track of Work

Couples fighting over chores often get into disagreements about which chores each party is doing, and research shows that men often overestimate their contributions. If you know that chores are unequal but are unsure of where the problem lies, try keeping a record of each of your household duties over the course of a week, then examining the results together to determine problem areas.

Make Chores Proportional

If one of you works and the other stays home with children, it’s likely that the stay-at-home parent will do more household chores and child-rearing tasks. This does not, however, mean that the stay-at-home parent needs to do all the chores. Instead, try looking at how much spare time each of you has and divvying up chores accordingly. Your chore division should never cause one spouse to have significantly more leisure time than the other.

Take Turns

Rather than trying to make everything perfectly equal each day, try taking turns. Perhaps each of you will take care of the daily house cleaning on different days, or one of you can cook while the other cleans. If there’s a task you both loathe, alternate who does it, but make sure that the turns are fair. If you hate doing laundry but find yourself folding towels three times as frequently as your partner, something’s wrong. 

Work with Natural Consequences

To be able to equitably divide chores, you have to have a cooperative partner. Not everyone sees the value of evenly splitting household duties. If you can’t get your partner to work with you, don’t scream or make threats. Instead, try letting him or her deal with the natural consequences of his/her actions. Stick to doing the chores you need to do to keep your life running relatively smoothly, but stop doing chores for your spouse. When he or she is faced with nothing but dirty clothes and a week of take-out food, the person is more likely to recognize your contributions.

References:

  1. Chore wars: Men, women, and housework. (2008, April 28). National Science Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=111458
  2. London, B. (2012, August 31). Dirty dishes and divorces: Three in ten couples split over cleaning and household chores. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2196408/Dirty-dishes-divorces-Three-couples-split-cleaning-household-chores.html

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  • Amanda

    Amanda

    August 8th, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    My husband and I have always kind of divided stuff up betweeen outside and inside stuff and that seems to work well for us.
    Of course when one of us needs help it is always fine to ask the other, but this division seems to be pretty equitable in our home and doesn’t leave one of us feeling like we are doing more than the other.

  • Chanel

    Chanel

    August 8th, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    I grew up in a home where my mom did all the work morning til night and my dad quite literally did nothing from the moment he walked in every day. She cooked, she cleaned, she did the laundry, and she worked outside of the home too. This was how he felt like work was divided up- he made the larger paycheck so she had to make up for that by doing everything else in the house. I guess it was a different generation but even then when I was younger I knew that this was not the life that I wanted for myself. I wanted to find someone who was all for a little more equality. Either that or I didn’t care about finding anyone at all. I have been with all sorts of guys but the one stipulation that I always have is that they always be willing to do their fair share and I think that most guys today really are unless you start out spoiling them and letting them get away with being lazy. If you let them do that from the beginning then they are always going to be that way.

  • frustrated

    frustrated

    August 9th, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    hate to be the one who is always the designated chore-doer at home.just because I’m a stay at home mum does not mean I have no work.taking care of the kids takes so much energy and effort but until your partner recognizes that, saying all of that feels like screaming to a tree!

  • Abbey

    Abbey

    August 9th, 2013 at 4:26 AM

    It is kind of stunning that we are still even having these conversations in 2013. Everything should pretty much be split down the middle, or at least divided up between what we like doing more or what we do better.

    I would never trust my boyfiend to do the laundry any more than he would trust me to cut the lawn. It doesn’t mean that we LOVE doing these things but these are the things that we are better at, we recognize that, so we have made them our own.

  • adele

    adele

    August 9th, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I have taken a cue from my brother and his wife. They draw straws every week to see who cleans that house. Of course that means that sometimes you get it for a few weeks on end and then there are other times that you get a few weeks off.

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