It’s your turn to clean, honey

by Erika Torres

How do you split the chores in your household? I am starting to think that we need a household job chart or chores list.

For the past five months, while Eric was in school, I was doing pretty much everything, while he studied. Now that he is back to working a full-time job, I think it’s time to re-evaluate who does what and find a balance.

There are some things I just didn’t appreciate about being the full-time breadwinner and the full-time housekeeper…

…like this

…and this…

…and this…

So let me get this straight:

I’m doing everything while you study and further your career and you don’t even have the common courtesy to put your own dirty dishes in the sink so that I can wash them or throw away your own trash? And you expect me to clean up after you?

What am I –the freakin’ maid?

So of course, it was only fitting, that last week–on his first week off since September–while I went to work, he became Mr. Wife.

He made my breakfast, prepared dinner, went grocery shopping, did the laundry, cleaned the house, vacuumed, walked the dog, washed ALL the dishes, and worked hard on his honey-do list.

Sure things didn’t exactly go off without a hitch…for example, there was that moment when he went grocery shopping for probably the third time in our marriage, spent $22…and forgot to pick up anything for dinner that night. Lesson learned, right?

As wonderful as it would be to have him do everything for five months–you know, just to make it even–I decided to be nice and come up with some sort of balance for the upcoming year. I think a household chart would help.

A big excuse that Eric has liked to use in the past is that he works 24-hour shifts, so he’s tired on his days off. But let’s be clear right now–he’s going to be a firefighter. He will always work 24-hour shifts. This does not justify a lifetime excuse, in my humble opinion, for not contributing to the household chores.

Here is the daily and weekly chores list:

Grocery Shopping
Walking the dog
Cooking dinner
Balancing the Checkbook, Paying the bills
Washing the dishes
Cleaning the bathroom

Things we find hard to split

Walking the dog. On the days that Eric works 24-hour shifts, I have to walk the dog in the morning and in the evening. So I feel that on the days that Eric is home, he should walk the dog. But he feels as if he never gets a break because he always has to walk the dog when he’s home.

Washing dishes. Should the rule be “You cook, I clean” or should we simply take turns washing dishes no matter who cooks?

Weekly tidying and upkeep, like dusting and wiping and mopping the kitchen floor. I like to clean on my Fridays off because it helps me relax better when everything is clean. So should Eric clean on the weekends when I don’t have a Friday off? Or should we designate 30 minutes each week to clean?

I have to do the budgeting and grocery shopping because a) I enjoy it and b) Eric sucks at both of those things. So I think Eric should be in charge of the laundry in exchange. What do you think?

Who does what in your household? How do you split the household chores between husband and wife?

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Jane March 2, 2013 - 9:00 am

You need to share the budget together and if he doesn’t like it or sucks at it then he needs to learn how to be involved in it and become educated about it. If you don’t stay as a team on this foundational aspect expect further problems down the line. Don’t make him feel stupid about it either by saying he sucks. Everything else is negotiable.

The Lost Goat January 10, 2012 - 4:32 pm

I do the stuff I don’t mind, he does the stuff he doesn’t mind, we hire out the rest if we can afford it and live without it being done when we can’t.

Tiffany January 8, 2012 - 4:18 pm

Splitting household chores is definitely something we need to work on. My hubby washes his own clothes and takes out the garbage. That’s about it.

Shaun @ The Family Consumer January 8, 2012 - 1:47 pm

It’s evolved over the years. I used to do most of the cooking, shopping, dishes, cleaning and about half the laundry.

However, it’s switched a bit over the last two years. We are about even on cooking and shopping. My wife does about all the laundry. My wife does most of the picking up, but I do most of the bathroom, floor cleaning, elbow grease stuff.

Penny Pinching Professional January 5, 2012 - 7:27 am

My fiance and I are still working on chore distribution. Generally he takes out the trash, but I’m responsible for cleaning the bathroom. (It may not sound even, but due to our individual preferences and aversions that actually feels fair to both of us.) For dishes, we are trying out a system where he loads the dishwasher every night and runs it if it’s full. When I get up in the morning I check if it’s clean, and if it is I empty it. We’re on such different schedules that we rarely eat together, so during the week we’re each responsible for our own meals. We often go grocery shopping together on the weekends to make sure we don’t forget anything, particularly since we don’t eat together.

As a side note, my mom hates the concept of “I cook, you clean”. She washes dishes as she cooks, and feels like my dad tends to dirty every pot, pan, and dish in the kitchen when he makes dinner.

Laura January 5, 2012 - 6:42 am

I think it’s pretty lame excuse of your hubby about the dog walking. You both own the dog so the dog walking should be 50/50. I think it’s completely fair if you walk the dog on the days he works then he should walk the dog on his off days. Cuz otherwise you will always be walking the dog….

Lindy Mint January 4, 2012 - 10:09 pm

I have been meaning to write a post about this too. But I feel it would be so epic, I can’t get motivated to write it.

Your situation sounds very similar to ours. My husband works long crazy hours, so I pick up most of the household duties. But I also am the one taking care of the kids while he’s away at work, so I’m “working” too. And my husband could really care less if the house is clean anyways. It’s a never ending weirdness around here. I’m voting for waiting until the kids are old enough and making them do everything. 🙂

Teacher Girl January 3, 2012 - 3:00 pm

Hmmm, I can tell you from years of roommate living that one person doing everything gets old quick and resentment can brew and rear its ugly head. Hope you figure it out!

Maria@moneyprinciple January 3, 2012 - 1:07 pm

We share everything but I agree with Shaun that in time things settle. Sometimes because of other changes the ‘contract’ has to be renegotiated. And then there is who is good at what and how much the other is prepared to put up with. I refuse to eat food that John cooks – it is good but very ‘manly’. So guess what? I end up doing most cooking.

RubySongbird January 3, 2012 - 11:49 am

I am SO glad I don’t live with my boyfriend. We have very, very different ideas of what clean is, though we are both pretty tidy on our own. I’m terrified that if we move in together I’ll end up cleaning up after him and that is NOT the way things should go… That said, when we cook together the person who does the least cooking/mess-making cleans up the dishes, and that system works pretty well.

Nichole January 3, 2012 - 11:12 am

Surprisingly, we do chores pretty even at our place. We are complete opposites like 60% of the time but somehow house ish ins’t a real problem for us. Though is version of clean vs mine is still way different (LOL)! And as for the dog walking, I think your way makes sense

justrealhappy January 3, 2012 - 8:19 am

Oh goodness. CB and I have NOT figured this one out. I think we’re both equal in terms of our cleanliness…I may be a little cleaner…but we have not figured out how to divvy up the chores yet. We typically end up doing the same things though. Like, I do the dishes a lot and he’s the sweeper. We’re both crazy busy, but I probably end up doing more of the chores now because he works 15 hour days downstairs. The good thing about him is if he does something shitty (for example, he took a price tag off a new article of clothing this morning and threw it on the floor…right in front of me!), I can give him hell about it and he’ll fix it. At least he has so far!

Shaun @ Money Cactus January 3, 2012 - 5:07 am

I’ve found that time has a habit of sorting out who does what, eventually a happy(ish) balance is established. Sometimes things happen and someone has to pick up some slack, but in the end it needs to be a team effort.

Good luck 🙂

Randa January 3, 2012 - 3:14 am

We tried a chore chart when we first moved in together and it was HORRIBLE for us – we both felt a little resentment at having to be told what to do as if we were still living with our parents. Plus it lead to a lot of resentment if someone didn’t “do their job” at the same time as the other since we traded off each week/

Now we just have two “jobs” that we’re both strictly responsible for – he has to do the cat litter and I have to keep on top of food planning [because we’re each terrible with the other thing]. For dishes, whoever cooks normally doesn’t have to do dishes. We clean the entire house [dust, sweep, mop, etc] once to twice a week and we usually split it up as we go based on rooms since we aggravate each other when we clean in the same room.


Neo January 2, 2012 - 9:32 pm

I am the worst cleaner!! My wife handles all cleaning, but I am the cook and accountant. Its a pretty good system,

Amy January 2, 2012 - 8:15 pm

Admittedly, I get irritated if my husband doesn’t just understand that things should be done (if you see the dishwasher is full, empty it!), but we both pretty much share most of the housework. I hate vacuuming the cat hair off the couch, he hates cleaning the bathroom. I can’t trust him to do laundry, so he cleans the litter box most of the time. If I ask him to do things, he’s pretty good about doing it most of the time, but then again he hates clutter so that helps.

Kayla@Renown and Crowned January 2, 2012 - 6:20 pm

We both cook (together), but my husband typically washes the dishes. We agreed on this, because he hates laundry and I’d rather do laundry than dishes any day. We do the budget/paying bills/balancing bank account stuff as well as grocery shopping together. We also found that if each of us takes 5-10 minutes a day to do one or two things on our list of “5 min tasks” list (cleaning the toilet, taking out the trash, finding 20 pieces of trash to throw away, etc), we have to do “deep cleaning” less often.

Vanessa Rae January 2, 2012 - 6:03 pm

Thanks for this post! We’ve toyed with a chores-chart in the past but like some commenters, in practice find that keeping such a close watch is daunting and makes me feel like mom.
Our system isn’t perfect, and it’s changed over time, but currently I do most of the grocery shopping, cooking and all of the laundry; I also deal w/the trash/recycling. He does all the budgeting/bill paying, and most of the dishes, sweeping and mopping, lawn mowing, dog walking and general tidying. We have trouble splitting the cat box, and I do many of the deep-cleaning chores (that he doesn’t ever see: ahem, fridge shelves covered in yuck?) Sometimes I feel resentful, and sometimes I feel like I’m slacking. I’ve been wanting more help with cooking and he’s agreed to take on two days a week, including planning the meal starting next week. For now, our system works because we’re both flexible on what we each *want* to do in a given week, and what the other has time for.
Reading the other comments here made me think that there really isn’t a “right” way to divide anything, rather, the way you do it just should limit resent from either partner as much as possible. Life is messy, and somebody’s got to clean it up! 🙂

Ana January 2, 2012 - 3:10 pm

Last year, my husband was working 3 times more than me, so I felt bad asking him to do more stuff, since I had 3 days off a week. But still, he would always help keep the place together. In the beginning, there were more clothes on the floor and things like that, but now he’s better at picking up and putting away. He does the laundry too, because I hate that. We have always had a chores list, but now that I’ll work more, he’ll be more responsible for other stuff too. And I always cook and he cleans up the kitchen after dinner. And once a week, I get a cooking break and he’ll make dinner.
I think with men you gotta set the rules straight, because they’ll always come up with some excuse… And my boss told me, men don’t realize that some things need to be cleaned sometimes. I know it sucks, but I think when it comes to cleaning, you gotta be their “mom” and tell them what to do!

e January 2, 2012 - 3:02 pm

We have, from the beginning sort of fallen into our own responsibilities. Sometimes we’ll pick up the slack for the other if we know the other had a hard day etc.

Me: cook couple times a week, do dishes especially if he cooks, most general cleaning, all the laundry

Hubby: cook couple times a week, do dishes 1x per week-ish, clean cat litter, take out trash, grocery shopping (because I hate it and he loves it)

Maybe try just having the jobs that you’re responsible for?? I know it’s hard with him working 24 hour shifts to handle the daily chores but it’s not the 50s anymore, guys can have some household responsibilities as well! Hang in there!

Emily @ evolvingPF January 2, 2012 - 2:01 pm

Honestly, I’m not sure it’s such a great idea to keep score very closely. I think it’ll lead to resentment on both sides. I understand that you were slighted while your husband was studying but I think the chore chart swings too far in the opposite direction.

To answer your question, I do the majority of the day-to-day picking-up around our apartment (dishes, laundry) and my husband does most of the periodic deep cleaning (scrubbing, mopping).

Teri January 2, 2012 - 11:53 am

I agree with the I cook so you have to clean. We definitely need to make a chore chart!

Andrea January 2, 2012 - 10:25 am

Great post! Thanks for sharing it!!

Let’s see… My husband cooks, I clean/do laundry, and we grocery shop together. He also takes out the trash, washes the dog, kills all insects and sets up the electronics, and does whatever else I ask because he knows compared to other couples, his chore list is pretty easy.

jolie January 2, 2012 - 10:03 am

The sooner you two achieve a comfortable working balance, the happier you will be in the long term. Let’s face it – we’re creatures of habit. Might as well establish good habits as soon as possible.

Claire January 2, 2012 - 9:18 am

Fortunately, my fiance lived with some pretty messy guys in college so he knows that he doesn’t want to live in a messy home anymore. We usually end up splitting the cleaning- I do the downstairs while he does the upstairs which includes the bathroom and the fish tank.

As for cooking/dishes, we usually cook together-ish (read, I cook and he watches/helps) and do dishes together. Sometimes if one of us is doing something else in specific, the other one will do the dishes. It works well for us.

With the bills/budget/grocery, that’s totally my department. I’m still trying to break him of walking up and down the aisles at the grocery and throwing random stuff in the buggy!

Dave January 2, 2012 - 8:47 am

My fiancé and I pretty much split chores based on who is busy. I’m a graduate student so the end of the semester is busy for me so she handles more of the chores. She works retail, so once school was out for the Christmas break I took over more work.

As far as the food we pretty much follow one cooks/one cleans. We also split walking the dog based on whoever wakes up early does walk number one. Then whoever s home does the during the day walks.

I generally do more laundry, because she tends to only wash what she needs. That frustrates me. I prefer to spend an entire afternoon and do ALL of the laundry.

jobo January 2, 2012 - 8:07 am

Ha! I laughed at the grocery shopping snafu 😉 And I agree with you, that is a healthy balance, and he’ll adjust to a few extra chores on his days off, just needs to schedule them into his catching up on sleep, right?? It’s weird, I actually prefer to always do the dishes and laundry, though I welcome help folding and putting it away (his stuff anyway, I can put my own away, since I know where it goes!). I think the laundry in exchange for budgeting is a good compromise!

Shannon January 2, 2012 - 7:00 am

We follow the rule of one cooks, one does dishes. It is a balance with laundry. Once it is ful, start it. If the dryer stopped, then switch teh laundry. however we do fold and put away our own because I can’t military style fold shit. the rest has just worked itself out and become a balance but I can see how it would be much harder with his schedule. Figuring out something now will save you that headache in the long run.

Daisy January 2, 2012 - 6:18 am

The boy and I recently had to make a chore list, since I was constantly feeling pretty resentful toward him for having to do more. It’s great that he’s picking up more of the slack.

My mom and stepdad do the “you cook, I clean”, whereas I do most of the cooking and we take turns doing dishes – but boy takes the dog for a walk.

Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents January 2, 2012 - 6:06 am

We split everything. Thankfully he likes to clean, while I hate it.


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