Housework Sharing: Plans vs Reality!

You know me. This month I created a big set of linked documents to launch our new housework sharing system! I have always been the one to notice and “assign” house and yard work, or just do most of it, so I claimed the right to list what needed to be done regularly. I consulted a few online lists to see what I missed. I included tasks we never do but should do, like cleaning the window blinds!

I listed everything, then divided the list into chores that need doing daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, every few months, seasonally or annually.

Then I posted a one-month list on the fridge of what each of us needs to do. Every week starts on Saturday and ends on Friday. That way we can choose to do our big chores right away that first weekend or find our own time to do them throughout the week, as long as they are done before the next weekend. The monthly stuff can be done any time before the end of the month.

The posted list includes the city’s garbage, compost and recycling schedule so we know what to put out each week. It shows who cooks on which days and how many servings to make – for example, cook on Monday for Monday and Tuesday nights.

Here is what February looks like. The first week of the plan started on February 10. You will probably have a laugh at some of my scheduling: what – you only dust once a month? Yes. It used to be less than that!

First month of new plan

If you like, you can download a copy for easier reading: Monthly Share List – Feb.

You will see some gaps. On some days, no one is responsible for meals. That means one of us has an evening work shift or activity, and the other just improvises dinner. Our grocery shopping includes stocking the pantry for those kinds of nights, and/or it’s a good way to use up what’s in the cupboards and freezer. Given that Rom’s work days are so much longer than mine, I will do more weekday meals and he will do more weekends. But I certainly won’t be cooking every day because we have a high tolerance for eating leftovers.

Some cleaning jobs have a daily, weekly (W), biweekly (BW) and monthly (M) version. I made up a rotation of kitchen and bathroom cleaning, alternating with laundry duty. In the past, Rom always did the laundry and I always cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed. I did not enjoy this. Meanwhile the kitchen floor never got mopped and the microwave was rarely cleaned.

As an example, here is the kitchen cleaning schedule:

Daily

  • Check food to use up for breakfasts/lunches
  • Make breakfast and lunch, clean up
  • Cook dinner
  • Store leftovers
  • Handwash dishes as needed, put away
  • Load & check dishwasher, put away
  • Wipe table, counters, stovetop
  • Clean up spills including floor, fridge
  • Sweep kitchen and upstairs hallway floors
  • Take containers out (recycling)
  • Take compost out, wash container (cooking days)

Weekly

  • Clear and fully wash counters, stovetop, table
  • Wipe fronts of cupboards, fridge, and dishwasher; handles
  • Wipe kettle, toaster, toaster oven

Biweekly

  • Clean microwave and toaster
  • Scrub dish draining board
  • Wipe range hood and microwave shelf

Monthly

  • Wash floor, baseboards, window sills
  • Wash garbage bin and area under sink
  • Dust open shelves and top of fridge
  • Clean cat food tray

Every 3 Months or Less Often

  • Clean out fridge and freezer
  • Clean out food cupboards
  • Clean under fridge and stove
  • Clean windows at front and back doors

If you want to see a breakdown of all the tasks (bathroom cleaning, yard work, etc.), you can download it here: Housework Master List

Every week, we will have a rotation of weekly, biweekly and monthly tasks. For now, there are no plans for either of us to take on our favourite duties forever, but it could evolve. Except budgeting and bill paying – it’s unlikely I’ll give it up, or that Rom would want it.

I will note that for our first month, we were starting with a somewhat neglected house. Every job has taken extra time! Now that they’ve been done in recent memory, it won’t be so hard to keep up.

So how is it going?

We are both doing more housework than we’re used to, but I think it’s due to the start-up effect – all those tasks that hadn’t been done for months! By the end of this month, we will have caught up.

Rom does big jobs on the weekends, and another big chore when I’m out of the house during the week.

Once, I left vacuuming and bathroom cleaning so late in my week that when Rom’s turn came up the next week, they hardly needed doing!

This week I was out three nights in a row. I was supposed to cook a meal the night before so there would be leftovers for a couple of days, but we were busy assembling an IKEA shelf and (several hours later!) dinner didn’t get made. As a result, we had no leftovers and really had to forage. We could easily have planned better.

The first time I came home late from work and saw that Rom had cleaned the range hood and the microwave, I was all smiles!

I think this is the start of something good.

Any ideas for tweaks? Do you have wildly a different list based on your lifestyle or where you live? 

I continue to recommend Unfuck Your Habitat as the most reassuring and inspiring housework site.

18 comments

  1. I tend to sort of meander through my bigger/monthly-rotation chores in a way that accidentally involves lots of ‘little things’ along the way. If I’m sorting paperwork and find things that need to be shredded, I’ll end up pausing to shred them, which often leads to taking out recycling and then vacuuming the pulp dust, which leads in turn to vacuuming the whole office. Then I go back to paper sorting and kind of meander onward. I’m not sure how well that ‘cleaning style’ would translate to this kind of chore delineation.

    My spouse, on the other hand, is fantastic at checking things off lists. I could see this format working well for him. 🙂

    One thing I’m surprised by is that litter box patrol is on a weekly rotation in your household. It has to be done every couple days here. (I would prefer it daily, but I don’t share that chore so I don’t feel I can demand it.)

    • NicolaB

      Ours are done every day/whenever I see they have been used…in the summer the cats go outside for most of the day so the litter trays aren’t used much, but at the moment they seem it too cold!

    • That is the way I usually work (meandering) so I am intentionally becoming more focused so more jobs get finished. Rom and I both like checking things off, though! Until now I have always cleaned the litter box, so I asked Rom if he would do it on the weekends, and he agreed. I always thought since I had the cats before I met Rom that they are my responsibility, but they are his buddies now, too!

  2. A superb document but I would expect nothing less from you LOL! I have a few task lists – daily, monthly and yearly -I gave up on the daily as I never had the time each day to check off what I had not got done!! The monthly one works best – perhaps I will do a post and upload my list so you can view it – probably lacking in your exacting detail but it works for me – most of the time though some months there are more unchecked than checked chores. When I spring clean a room I use yet another ‘room’ list where I note down the date that I last did the cleaning of that particular job. I quite like At Home with Nicki and her ‘chore box’ – it looks really nice too. Will go over and look at your recomendation above sometime – not heard of it before.

    • Would love to see your list, Vivien! I don’t really use our daily list (it is all just normal routine) but wanted something “in print” so we both have the same understanding of what the daily expectations are!

  3. NicolaB

    Your comment about only dusting once a month made me laugh- there are some jobs that I have decided I will do once a month (like sweeping the patio) which arguably should be done much more often…but once a month is a massive improvement on how often they are done currently!

    We don’t have chore sharing plan currently but I think it’s a good idea…not sure how amenable my bf will be to the idea…he does chores but I think he will be against the idea of a plan..! I will raise the idea…

    • Hi Nicola! Yeah, seeing these things on a list will remind me that they need doing (as opposed to forgetting them entirely!) I don’t think a plan is necessary if you like things the way they are. I wanted to see some changes! Rom is a fairly compliant, not rebellious, person and is likely to go along when changes make logical sense to him.

      • NicolaB

        We have a list now- written onto the fridge with a whiteboard marker! I have a list of things that need to be done every day (washing up, litter trays etc) that can be ticked off; weekly jobs and monthly jobs. As it is 1 March today I need to rub off the ticks for Feb!
        There is also a list of one off jobs/things to be mended. The idea is that it’s all laid out as to what needs doing, he can organise himself to do jobs and I can stop asking/nagging! Not sure I have got out of the nagging habit yet, but enjoying ticking things off on the fridge!

      • That is a big step – glad everything is off to a good start! I loved seeing all our jobs ticked off the list as of yesterday. The no-nagging aspect is really working here. We can both decide when to do our tasks during the week/month and not even communicate about them unless we feel like it!

  4. I love you and your way of thinking and planning dearly, but if I came home to a list like this on the fridge, I would emigrate!

  5. Fiona

    You are a lifesaver, Dar! Downloaded your lists and will edit them to suit our situation (e.g. no cats) by the end of the week. I got so cross on the weekend about our totally non-shared housework that I threw a pink fit and moved into the spare room! I’d like to be totally zen about our 1950s style housework arrangementsf, but I’m not! We both work full-time *in the same organisation*. I’m one level up in pay and responsibility. There’s no argument that I should (after so many years married) do all the housework. We shall see what reforms evolve in coming weeks!!

    • I feel for you, Fiona! Since the family has had the same status quo for a while, there must be an underlying feeling, “Mom will get over it and things will go back to normal.” If your young one ever becomes a loving partner and shares a home with someone, that person will be cursing you and saying you didn’t raise him right – which you know is TOTALLY FALSE – but he will have absorbed the example of his dad! I can’t preach since it was my own situation of doing so much of the housework that has led to changes here. I can’t imagine what Mr D is thinking, so I can only guess it’s inertia and habit. Do you think he sees his hours of coaching and attending games as his share of household duties? Anyway, I wish you success – hope to get an update!

  6. wow, that’s fab, I may try something like this..not sure how the family would take it they already think I am a control freak !

  7. I’m so impressed. I wish some people in my house were “fairly compliant and not rebellious.” Our 2 children were supposed to take nightly turns doing the dishes. But something or other came up, for 30-some days in a row, so the next person’s turn was stalled as well. Mom washed a sinkful late at night or Dad early in the morning. Son finally washed one night, and dear daughter announced she take a turn in a couple of months. I am exasperated.

    I think when the housework done by one person it becomes invisible, expected, the baseline, people take it for granted, they don’t notice the breathlessness or resentment.

    I’d like to make up a chart with daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal chores and have people aware of what goes into making a home habitable and somehow commit to performing a portion of those on a regular basis.

    • You have got it exactly – without a comprehensive list, the people in the house who don’t do the work aren’t even aware what needs to be done: they “don’t know what they don’t know.” After just 3 weeks of sharing chores, I feel that Rom has a much better understanding of what it takes to run a household. I can’t claim any success with Link, who later turned out to have ocd of the aversion-to-grossness variety, which impacted all cleaning tasks. Link lives on their own now and still struggles with cleaning, but at least they are organized!

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