This post may contain affiliate links.
UPDATE: Only days after writing this post, I found out I was pregnant and boy did that change our division of labor!
Over the weekend I went CRAZY on organization, and today I want to talk about division of labor (aka chores) in a no-kid household.
I define chores as “anything required to keep a household going,” which includes (but is not limited to): vacuuming, laundry, cooking, doing dishes, putting dishes away, making the bed, making a budget, tracking expenditures, paying bills, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the toilet, meal planning, etc. etc.
As you might know, I work from home as a freelance writer and virtual assistant, and my husband is in graduate school. That means we work where we live — which is a huge blessing — but comes with it’s drawbacks.
One of those drawbacks is keeping a one-bedroom apartment organized when you are literally ALWAYS home. Talk about “why clean when it’ll look like this again in 5 minutes”?
Division of Labor
And one of our other challenges is pretty universal: Who does which chores?
I want to start by saying this is — and should be — different for every couple and in every stage of life. Right now Casey and I’s “work outside the home to work at home” ratio is pretty equal. This is a first for us!
When I was finishing college (yep, I got married before my senior year), we’d both be OUT of the house a lot. I studied on campus, he worked on campus, and when we got home I had more studying to do (don’t miss those days!).
Then for three months this summer I commuted 1.5 hours a day and worked full-time, while Casey worked full-time closer to home. Our chore division had to change with our circumstances, but when we made our big Scotland move, we stayed stuck in our old ways.
And to be honest, our old habits weren’t working for our new living arrangement.
I know I’ve been married all of 14.5 months — so what do I know — but I think couples make a HUGE mistake when they don’t sit down and divvy out chores. Seriously!
Nothing creates resentment like assuming your spouse is all over the dishes when you turn in for the night, only to wake up to a sink filled with dirty dishes! Instead of grumbling to your friends that your partner is the worst, talk to your spouse about how to fairly divide household labor 🙂
How We Do It
So here’s how it works in the McKee Home…
- Cooking most meals: Casey is a great helper when it comes to food prep (and he does cook at least once a week), but for the most part I like to be in charge of what we eat.
- Cleaning the counters: I try and wipe down crumbs from cooking since Casey does the dishes.
- Vacuuming: I just added this to my weekly routine. To be honest, this (next to dusting) was our most neglected chore!
- Making Budget/Tracking Expenditures: Neither Casey or I are any good at math, but I’m pretty type A, so this naturally fell into my lap.
- Meal Planning: Again with the type A. Plus since I cook, it makes sense for me to plan what I’ll be whipping up.
- “Big” weekly grocery shop: Confessions — I shop online! Yep, it’s just £1 to get my entire grocery list delivered to my door from Sainsbury’s if I pick the right time slots. Since we don’t have a car (and I HATE grocery shopping) this is the best luxury of my life!
- Cleaning the bathroom: Someone’s gotta do it!
- Taking the laundry out of the dryer: This is a new chore for me. For the past 14.5 months Casey has been almost 100% in charge of laundry and I have entirely neglected this chore. I am trying to turn a new leaf!
- Doing most of the dishes: Our house rule is whoever cooks doesn’t have to do dishes (hehe), so Casey does the majority of the dish-washing in this house.
- Making the bed: Other rule? Last one out of bed makes it! (As you can see, these house rules work in my favor, haha!)
- Paying the bills: We try to keep most bills on auto-pay (makes us less likely to forget!), but Casey takes care of all the bills we have to pay manually.
- Making unpleasant phone calls: Poor Casey! Every time there’s a phone call to the electric company, phone company, university or just about anyone on earth, he makes it because I usually “can’t handle it.” I don’t like uncomfortable conversations (like asking for refunds), and he always comes to my rescue.
- Putting in the laundry (and reminding me, of course, to take it out): Like I said, Casey is THE BEST with laundry. If it weren’t for him, I’d still be washing my clothes every two to three weeks (I’m not kidding..I have enough underwear to manage it!).
- Taking out the trash: Someone’s gotta do it, and I very much don’t want to 🙂
- Endless random grocery store errands: You’d think that meal planning would mean we never forget or run out of something, but alas, it happens every week. Since Casey leaves the house more often to go to class, I’m endlessly begging him to pick up milk or toilet paper.
Now, Casey and I don’t have a yard, we live in a rental which means no “fixing-up,” we don’t have kids, we both work/study full-time, etc. — and as those things change, they will undoubtedly change our future division of labor. But for now, this works for us!
But How Do You Decide Who Does What?
I think this is one of the hardest decisions you have to make as a couple, largely because how you were raised has a huge effect on what you think you should or shouldn’t have to do.
If you were raised by a single parent, you might not think about divvying up chores. If you came from a “traditional” home where the man worked and the woman kept a household, you might be shocked that your wife doesn’t know how to cook — and doesn’t want to learn! If your parents were counter-cultural, you might not understand why your husband insists on taking out the trash and doing home repairs.
But guess what?
You can’t base your division of labor off of your parents’
Why not? Because you aren’t your parents! And you definitely aren’t both sets of parents/guardians wrapped into one.
Think about it: Even though Casey and I both came from fairly “traditional,” Christian homes, our two sets of parents had different jobs that produced different lifestyles. My dad was a local politician who pumped gas at his gas station in the morning and had an irregular schedule. Casey’s dad was a sales representative who worked 9 to 5. My mom worked two days a week as a dental hygienist and part-time as a school teacher, and Casey’s mom worked as a full-time school teacher.
That just doesn’t translate to a master’s student and a freelancer. We had to pick a division of labor that worked for us.
Some Questions to Ask
So if you are trying to create your household’s division of labor, here are some questions to ask:
- Who is home more often?
- Who is away more often?
- What chores do each of you despise?
- Which ones do you not mind as much?
- Do you have any you actually enjoy?
- Who is better at math?
- Who is the better cook?
- Who is more organized?
- Who is more type A?
- Is there a non-negotiable, must-get-done chore in your opinion (like making the bed)?
- What chores are optional, or can be done less often (dusting….)?
See where I’m going? Although there are chores like taking out the trash that will almost always be gross, you might find that you and your spouse can swap “most hated” responsibilities. If one of you is insistent on vacuuming daily, then that person should vacuum. If one of you doesn’t mind laundry and the other hates it, why not take that chore off the list?
Ultimately, you want a division of labor that splits responsibilities evenly and leaves each spouse feeling respected.
Remember: It’s 100 Percent
My mom used to tell me that marriages aren’t 50/50, they are 100/100. Even though you have a division of labor — maybe even a nifty chore chart — doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible.
Did your husband have a bad day? Take out the trash. Did your wife get home late? Cook dinner. And do it without expecting the other person to return the favor.
Talking about a division of labor helps communicate your expectations of your spouse, but it should never replace some good ole sacrificial love 🙂
So tell me: How does your household divide labor?