Equal Cleaning For All: Tips For Splitting Chores With Roommates

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

In my last apartment, cleaning became a big issue. I lived with three other people, and it took us almost two years to actually sit down and determine how to keep our apartment clean. Here are some things I learned from that experience:

1. Truthfully define your definition of clean early on.
Do you expect the house to be tidied daily, or is a thorough clean weekly, or even monthly, satisfactory? Setting expectations early on can help reduce conflicts down the road.

2. Determine what the household chores are and agree on a cleaning schedule.
Ask questions like: What needs to be done daily, weekly, monthly? How will you split the light cleaning (vacuuming, dishes) and the deep cleaning (refrigerator, windows)? A weekly schedule worked for us. We broke down what the expectations were in each of the common rooms, and each person was responsible for completing those tasks during their assigned week. I’ve known households that started with what people didn’t mind doing, and then they split up what was left; if you can’t stand the thought of scrubbing the bathroom, but you enjoy doing dishes, you might be able to negotiate a deal. For deep cleaning, I’ve found it’s more manageable (and fun) when you set aside a day to tackle the big jobs together.

3. Determine how you are going to keep each other accountable.
We kept a calendar in the kitchen as a visible reminder of whose turn it was to clean, which I found was also a good way to passively enforce the schedule. For some people a more detailed schedule like this one works better.

4. Check in and discuss problems as they arise.
Call out problems as you see them, or schedule weekly/monthly meetings so you can talk about what’s working and not working before they become a big deal. That said, I found you need to have realistic expectations; you might have to take on some of the tasks that you find important, but aren’t necessarily important to the rest of the house.

What have you found to be helpful when dividing household chores with roommates? Share your tips below!

Re-edited from a post originally published on 3.22.12 – AB