The Great Divide: Tackling Household Chores without Tackling Each Other

I have touched on this topic before, but decided to revise and post this week on as well, as it is information that has continually been helpful for our family.  For those of you who are fairly recent readers, I hope you find it helpful as well! :-)

Does your husband have a “voice” he uses when he impersonates something you’ve said?  You know the voice- it’s nasal and sounds petty and ridiculous?  We call it the “naggy wife voice” in our house.  Are you sick to death of hearing the voice?  Is your husband sick of the nagging? (Which is SO not nagging, you shouldn’t HAVE to “remind” 564 times, right?)  Or maybe you’re the one being nagged and you have a nag voice for him.  Either way, nagging is not the greatest form of marital communication, and I think husbands and wives can find agreement there.

The biggest source of nagging in our home (and likely thousands of others) was the division of labor when it comes to household tasks.  Some families have based their labor division on older ideas “a woman’s domain is in the home, a man deals with the yard and trash.”  Households with two working parents often have the idea that the chores will be shared evenly, though, it’s rare one partner doesn’t feel the brunt of the burden.  I’ve heard of families who essentially adopted the chores their own same gendered parent managed when they were growing up, however when their spouse’s family and theirs don’t overlap well, they find conflict.
In these difficult economic times, I’m going to just go out on a limb and say there are enough things causing conflict for families these days, and it is time for chores to stop being one of them, therefore, I am going to share with you the system we’ve created in our house to tackle the division of labor once and for all (and squelch that awful nag voice).

Step One:  With your spouse, create a list of every chore that needs to be done and how often it needs to be dealt with. It may help to think about chores based on frequency first.  What are the things we’d like done daily? What things can be done once weekly?  What are the things we do monthly as a deep cleaning task?  What tasks are seasonal?  This step is time consuming, but it will be worth it to get a thorough list.

Step Two:  Divide the tasks. Easier said than done I know.  When dividing tasks, it may be easier to start by asking yourself (and your spouse) what chores you mind the least (or even enjoy?) and volunteer responsibility for those tasks first.  Then, determine which tasks you despise most and see if your spouse feels the same way.  If they don’t mind the chore as much as you do, perhaps that could become one of their tasks.  If you both hate a chore, flip a coin and move on.  Continue taking tasks (or assigning to children if appropriate) until all tasks are assigned to someone.  (If your children are old enough, consider doing this step in a family meeting setting and allow them to volunteer for chores or have a say in which chores they are assigned)

Step Three:  Schedule the tasks. Using a simple word processing program, create a basic chart with a column for each person and a row for each weekday.  Think about your typical week and how much time you can realistically devote to chores on any given day.  If Mondays are hectic and the family isn’t usually home until later in the evening after being gone all day, don’t schedule many chores for the evening, it’s unrealistic.  Let each person decide which days they want to do their specific chores, as long as they get done with the necessary frequency- they can do it when they want to.  (For control freaks like me- you’ve GOT to let this go, trust me!)  Put a check box next to each task and agree to checking off your chores as you complete them.   You may want to consider leaving a blank line on the day of the week you have the most spare time (Saturdays for us) and select a weekly “project” or rare task you’d like to tackle (since it likely doesn’t have a place on your weekly schedule, but it’s still important).  Some examples might be cleaning out the garage, organizing a closet, painting a room, etc.

Step Four:  Leave room for flexibility, but with accountability. On the bottom of the document, we included the line “if you can not do a chore on it’s scheduled day, draw an arrow moving the chore to the day you will complete it within the week”.  Having a checklist that is planned out and scheduled, along with a way to make changes as needed without leaving your spouse feeling like he/she is expected to pick up slack greatly eliminates the need to nag!  That is the beauty of this system!

Step Five: Hang your weekly chart on the fridge. Reprint a fresh sheet weekly.  Re-evaluate the chore division monthly or quarterly as needed.  Enjoy a clean, well maintained and (relatively) nag free home!

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