How to Split the Chores When You Both Work

FullSizeRender-9In February, I started working my first official full-time job. I had worked part-time jobs that were almost consistently full-time, or multiple part-time jobs, but never had I worked a regular, consistent full-time job.

Kyle was also working full-time when I started. I knew that trying to keep a house clean and chores caught up was going to be hard when adjusting to a new job and schedule. So I told Kyle, even when I was still applying to jobs, that I was going to need some help if I would be working outside the home 40 hours.

Because here are your basic options if you feel like you need help around the house: You can either be the nagging spouse, you can grumble secretly to yourself and build up resentment, or you can just ask for help.

I’m extra sensitive to nagging – it’s one of my biggest fears to become a nagging wife. So I lean towards the “secret grumbling” end of things. The only problem is, that builds up then explodes over something insignificant like a single sock that’s been on the living room floor all week. These explosions are not pretty or helpful to anyone.

I found out Kyle is a lot more receptive to helping out than I originally expected. And it wasn’t even as if I was doing all the chores on my own already. He would pitch in here and there, and there were certain tasks he always did without a discussion. But t’s always the consistency of expectations that get to me – I expect him to do the dishes if I cook, but I had never told him that. So I sit in my corner of the room getting all frustrated when he has no clue what I’m even upset about.

So just have the discussion! Just ask! Be realistic with your expectations of course, and be as fair as you can, but just ask. Because housework is work, too. Let’s look at the math.

The reality of the 50/50 split expectation

When I was home, I didn’t expect Kyle to do much besides maybe clean up his own messes, and even that I didn’t mind doing too much. So when I started working part-time, he took on a few more responsibilities at home, helping with dishes more and helping me straighten up. Still, I didn’t expect him to do 50% of the chores because I was only working outside the home 50% of the time he was working – the other 50% of the time, I was home.

I didn’t expect a 50/50 split until we talked about it when I started working full-time. And even now, I don’t mind doing a little more than 50/50 when I can, because I know a refreshing home is one of the things that makes him feel loved and less stressed, just like he knows things that makes me feel loved is conversation and quality time – so there’s a trade off in order to show love in the ways that mean most to you spouse.

Which brings me to giving credit where it’s due. About the time I was starting my new job, we also were in a marriage class called Dynamic Marriage which is based around the book His Needs, Her Needs. We HIGHLY recommend it to ANYONE married or planning to get married.

In the book (and class) we learned about our top emotional needs, one of which being “domestic support” – basically be provided with a relaxing environment to call home. (That’s Kyle’s #2, by the way). In the Domestic support chapter, the author gave ideas on how to share the chores load, so credit to Dynamic Marriage and the book for some of these ideas we used.

Disclaimer: We are a pre-kids couple, so I’m sure the process may be tweaked some when kids come, but many of the tasks that come along with parenting can probably just be added into this process. But out list does not include any childcare responsibilities.

Without further ado, here are the 7 steps we took to split the chores in a way that clarified expectations and kept us reminded and accountable to pitch in and share the load.


1. Make a list of all the regular chores.

FullSizeRender-20Three ways you can do this: (1) Sit down with your spouse and make a list of all the household chores you can think of, (2) Write a list up while you’re on your own, then go over it with your spouse to see what you’re forgetting, or (3) Each make a list and combine the two.

Either way, it should be an all-inclusive list of the tasks you want to get done regularly (OK, so I don’t put cleaning the baseboards or dusting the fans on mine – I just write “dust” – it’s still all-inclusive and less overwhelming).

We have anything from emptying the trash to meal planning and yard work on ours.

2. Go through the list and claim which you’re willing to do…

FullSizeRender-19…or claim what you don’t want your spouse doing. I honestly do not know why, but I’m very territorial over the laundry being my responsibility. Kyle would be more than happy to do it, but I just need to. Control issues? I don’t think so, because I’m more than willing to let him clean the bathtubs 🙂

Another thing you can do during this time is mark which items are shared responsibilities. For us these are things like straightening the house, sorting mail, or keeping our bedroom clean.

3. Rate the leftovers.

FullSizeRender-22Rate the leftover chores on your own. Which chores are most important to you to get done? What are more important to your spouse? Practically, this is going to help you figure out how to divvy up the chores no one wants to do but passionately needs done. Real talk, this will make that pet peeve of yours actually get checked off the list.

We went with a 1-10 scale, but you can do a 1-3 or a 1-5 if it floats your boat. 1 meaning, “I could care less that the socks get picked up off the floor,” and 10 meaning, “If my bathroom isn’t cleaned at least every other day I will go to the gym locker room just to brush my teeth.”

4. Split the rest based on who wants it done most.

Take your rated list of leftovers and give the chores your spouse rated as a 10 to them, and your 10’s go to you, etc. You can split it evenly or just give the highest numbers to the people who rated high regardless of whether he gets 5 more and she gets 10 more.

The reasoning for this is that assigning the chore to the person who cares about it most means it is more likely to get done than if the person who could care less is responsible for it.

Again, this rating system is only for the leftovers. If I rank a 10 on cleaning the bathroom, but Kyle already said he was more willing to do that than me, then it’s his. So you start with what you’re willing to do, then with what’s most important to you.

5. Determine how often each chore needs to be done.

FullSizeRender-21Next take your list, and mark whether this particular chore needs to be done daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or as needed. Some people add yearly or skip bi-weekly and rotate the chores into the monthly spots. But we wanted it to be simple and concise, so this is the breakdown that has worked best for us (we’re already Type-A enough without going there).

As we did this, we realized some broad chores needed to be broken down slightly. For instance, we use some rooms more than others, so we broke down vacuuming to be specific to each room – our living room gets vacuumed more than or guest bedroom for example. Also, things like straightening the house we made a separate category for: “twice weekly” – just because we knew it needed to be done more than once a week or it would get out of hand, but we wanted to be realistic knowing it wouldn’t get done every single day. You can do your own break down however fits you and your lifestyle best.

Some will also encourage laying out your breakdown to have specific tasks per day. I tried this when I was staying home, and even then it was a bit overwhelming. Eventually I would feel I had gotten so behind I didn’t want to catch up on anything.

This time, especially with adding Kyle in, we wanted to make it more flexible, so we can do all our weekly stuff in one day if we want instead of doing extras every day. Now, we only have to do the basic necessities daily unless we have time or feel like doing more.

6. Print and post. 

After the list was written out, divvied up, and broken down, I made up a simple cart on my computer, printed it, and posted it on the fridge. Kyle and I can check in and see if we have any boxes that need checked or if we’ve worked ahead on our off days. This serves as a reminder, and also helps with accountability since it’s up for the both of us to see. Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 12.42.29 PM

7. Check in and tweak next month.

Stick to it for a month and note what worked, what didn’t, whether a chore needs to be done more or less often, and which chores should probably be done by you or your spouse instead. Tweak your chart and print off a fresh one. With this as a built-in part of the system, you can keep tweaking until you’re comfortable or as seasons of life change.


Speaking of life seasons, here’s our pre-kids version of our Household Tasks List, because we’re in that odd season of married without kids that almost no one is in at the same time. I’ve also made a Household Tasks List Blank to print and fill out yourself!Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 12.36.19 PM


Other tips

We have some unspoken/unwritten codes we generally stick to.

  • The last one out of bed makes the bed: Because most mornings Kyle is walking out the door when I’m getting out of bed.
  • Whoever doesn’t cook washes the dishes: This helps split the burden of evening tasks.
  • Share the cooking: I generally do the cooking because I’m the one who is in charge of meal planning and shopping, so it makes sense. I also get home later than Kyle three nights out of the week and Monday, as soon as I get home we driving to counseling. So Kyle makes dinner Mondays, I crockpot something Tuesdays, and we eat out Wednesdays. I plan/prep the other nights.
  • Packed lunches: We pack lunches once a week so it’s one less thing we have to do daily. Especially since most nights we only have a couple hours before bed.
  • Meal prepping: This helps to free up evenings, but it’s a trade off with the weekends to have a day of meal prep.
  • Bills on auto-pay: That’s one task off the list every month.
  • Accountability: Add things you want to do, but need a reminder or accountability to actually do them. For us, these are things like going over the calendar, budgeting together, and sorting mail to avoid paper stacks.

What do you guys do that makes sharing the load easier?

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