When two or more people move in together, either as significant others or roommates, it's important to establish a vision for what your home will be like, and how it will get that way. Here's a housework quiz for you to each answer separately— and then discuss together...
Answer each question on your own, and then compare notes:
- In an ideal world, how often would the towels be washed? What would you settle for?
- In an ideal world, how often would the sheets be changed? What would you settle for?
- In an ideal world, how often would the bed be made? What would you settle for?
- In an ideal world, how often would the floors be swept and/or washed? What would you settle for?
- In an ideal world, how often would the fridge be cleaned out? What would you settle for?
- In an ideal world, how often would the bathroom be cleaned? What would you settle for?
- In an ideal world, how often would the trash/recycling/compost be emptied? What would you settle for?
- In an ideal world, how short would the grass be/how weed-free would the garden be? What would you settle for?
- Do you believe in "I cook, you clean"? If so, what happens if the cook decides to tackle all sorts of ambitious kitchen-ruining recipes well beyond what's needed for regular meals?
- What level of busyness warrants hiring a housekeeper, in your opinion? How much money would you need to be making, and how much would you be willing to spend?
- What's your ideal level of cleanliness/attractiveness you'd like your home to have when company comes? What's the minimum level you'd be comfortable with?
- How much (if any) notice should one person give the other(s) if they're bringing company home?
- What things embarrass you/drive you crazy about a home? How much time/money are you willing to spend to remedy them?
- What do you consider a fair way to divide housekeeping duties? For example, if one person works 30hr/week and the other works 50hr/week, will the first person do all of the housework? Or will you (attempt) to divide it equally regardless of outside commitments (work, school, etc)? Or do you believe in "do your own laundry, wash your own dishes, every man for himself"? If so, who handles chores like floor-washing?
- When it comes to dividing the time spent on housework, what counts? Grocery shopping, planting flowers, framing art, trips to Home Depot, paying bills, and/or baking?
- How much time are each of you willing to spend on not-absolutely-necessary home improvement projects? Evenings and/or weekends? Do you believe in keeping some free-time free?
The point of most of these questions is to establish a compromise that both parties can feel comfortable with. For example, if you'd like the sheets washed twice/week, and your partner would do them every other week, perhaps you'll both be satisfied if they're washed once/week. And if not, are you willing to do the extra laundry, or would you expect your partner to split it with you evenly?
My assumption is that once all household chores are addressed, it will all shake out rather evenly: one partner cares more about a clean bathroom and lack of clutter, the other cares more about clean sheets, and a spotless kitchen.
In my own current live-in relationship, expressing these priorities has worked out pretty well. "We both like the towels washed twice/week? Great. You care deeply about the lawn and I don't even notice it and you're willing to do all the mowing? Great. I like to grocery shop and plan meals so I'll do that? Great."
There have, of course, been situations in the past where things did not work out nearly so well— please share your success stories and failures in the comments!