Dividing Household Chores

Updated on August 16, 2010
K.G. asks from Oregon City, OR
18 answers

How do people divide up chores between themselves and their spouse? (Our daughter is only 2, so picking up toys is about her only chore). Until very recently I have worked a 40 hour work week, while my husband works only every 3rd day. The division has been:

grocery shopping/meal planning/cooking
bedtime for our daughter
tending to the garden
cleaning bathrooms
cleaning daughter's room and playroom
planning entertainment or get-aways

cleaning up after dinner
naptime for our daughter
tending to the yard or other outdoor areas
cleaning floors
taking out the garbage

Kitchen cleaning is mostly shared, and so is cleaning our bedroom.

My husband is CONSTANTLY complaining that I don't keep things as clean as he would like. Starting in a few weeks, I'm switching to a part-time job that will have me working just 2 days a week. I'm certain that he is going to expect me to do just about everything, and I would like to have a proposal ready for him about how we should divide things up. I think if we have something more clear, like "you are responsible for X, and I'm responsible for Y", then maybe he'll stop the nagging. I would love to hear people's suggestions about how they divide up chores in their house.

Thank you.

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answers from Portland on

I didn't think it was possible, but you have made me appreciate my messy, but appreciative husband. He's like another kid to pick up after, but he never tells me how to do things and only wants me to relax more and clean less. A little more balance would be lovely, and he's working on that. We don't divide up chores. I have the routine of what gets done daily and weekly (flylady.com) and he jumps in here and there and cooks dinner and cleans dishes. The rest of the house is usually mine as far as cleaning. Some days I'm able to keep up...as long as I stick with my routines. And the days that I can't, he pitches in and picks up toys and clothes, etc. We both are realizing that a clean house makes us less stressed, so he's working to keep things picked up with me.

As a work at home mom, it seems that the person who is home more ends up doing more of the work. The key is to try to do a little at a time and not end up trying to do it at night, when you are exhausted.

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answers from Boston on

My boys (3 and 8): clear their dishes, make their beds, dust and vacuum their room, keep the playroom clean

Hubby: takes out the trash, car repairs, yard work (other then weeding my garden)

Me: EVERYTHING ELSE but I stay home. He will make dinner if I have had a rough day.

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answers from Seattle on

Dividing chores is hard... but there has to be a standing rule: If you don't like the way it's cleaned, then YOU clean it. My husband hasn't done laundry EVER (maybe a load every three months or so), and he learned over the first few years that if he wanted his button up shirts color-coded, buttoned up, facing the same way, (and the list goes on) he'd have to do it himself.

People have different standards about what constitutes clean. When my husband cleans up the kitchen, or a bathroom, and it's not clean enough for me (or vice versa) complaining is not the answer. Instead, I just take out my cleaning toothbrush and do the rest.

I am glad he's doing some... but he has to understand that the griping at you only makes you resent the housework. After 17 years of marriage, both of us have learned to work with honey more than vinegar... and the house is actually cleaner because of it. The amount of energy used to gripe could just get the job done better.

As to the switch, I'd suggest leaving it as it is... but tell him if he could clarify where he believes the house isn't clean enough, that would be great. That would help avoid a confrontation, put you both on the same page, and yet it will also prevent him from complaining in the future.

I hope you find a great positive solution! Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

It's hard to call. We all live our adult lives in an area of shared responsibilities. If you feel like you are doing too much, then you should ask for help. This question is less about "who does more" than "what is fair". Only you and your DH can decide that. That requires a direct line of communication. Get that, and your problems will be solved.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I would never expect my husband to clean. All I ask from him is...pick up after himself. Then again, I am a housewife....yes, I said it...a housewife. I often tell him, "if I get a job, you have to clean..." I am a happy SAHM, that has a husband who does EVERYTHING for me!!! I pay all the bills...see over the savings...clean. Other than that, he "works" to provide a paycheck and protects our family. I think you have to have a happy medium.
The sole reason WHY I dont want him to clean? He will not do it to my satisfaction. I learned long ago, dont complain...or do it yourself!!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest that the first thing the two of you need to do is write down a description of what is considered "clean enough." Then the two of you can go over the descriptions and compromise or he can do the chores that require things to be more clean than they are when you do them.

I lived briefly with one of my brothers. I didn't pay rent but took over the cleaning. He complained that I didn't get the house clean enough. My mother had visited him and his now ex-wife several times and when she came for a visit I asked her to compare her cleaning and mine. My mother laughed and said the house was much cleaner when the ex lived there. My mother had also visited often when I had my own apartment. She told me that I was a very good housekeeper but I wasn't perfect; so don't worry or do anything different. lol

I did move out in a couple of months because I wanted my own place in which I could do what I wanted. This trying to please someone else while also feeling beholden to him just did not work for me.

However, you and your husband are partners and should be equal. I suggest that housecleaning chores are one of those subjects you have to discuss until the two of you work out a compromise that is satisfactory for both of you. I couldn't do that with my brother. He figured I owed him. I also felt somewhat that way, even tho I worked a full week with overtime.

Housework was not and still is not a high priority. In fact the older I get the lower on the priority list it goes. There is only so much time and there are a whole lot more things that are more important than a spotless house. Say spending time with that little one. She'll grow up so fast! I'm glad I have grandchildren now and wish I'd had as much time with my daughter as I do with them.

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answers from Portland on

Well K. I don't know if this will work for you but after me working 40 hours, doing ALL the housework and my husband complaining that the house wasn't clean I quit. Yes, quit - went on Strike.

I told him that if I couldn't do it right then he should just do it. That meant everything but the laundry - I didn't trust him on that because my clothes were at stake.

It took him a while of me not doing anything and him not doing anything (at least we picked up after ourselves so that house never got that bad) for him to realize that I was not going to do something.

We now share the household chores and really have a better marriage for it. The kids were in their teens when this occurred. We ate out for a while because my husband wouldn't cook or clean dishes but hey - he made the most money and when we ran out of it by the end of the month we didn't eat out.

You need to find an acceptable way of communicating and working out the problem with him. But if he is going to continue to complain - go on strike.


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answers from Los Angeles on

In our house it seems like chores go in 4 phases.
Phase 1: certain chores are automatically one persons responsibility. Like he always empties the trash, and I always do laundry. I always mail off certain bills, while he calls and pays over the phone for others. He always mows the lawn, and I clean the bathroom.
Phase 2: This or that chores (would you rather do this while I do that or vice versa).
Phase 3: I need your help chores! This is when one of us needs help with a regular chore we are usually responsible for.
Phase 4: Take turn chores. This happens when one of us gets to it before the other.
Like our 18 month old was covered, head to toe, in spaghetti sauce tonight after dinner. So it was a this or that situation. "Do you want to put her in the bath and dress her, or do you want to clean up after dinner?" I do have to say though, I have the bulk of chores because I am a stay at home mom. But even though he works very long hours he helps a lot! Don't be afraid to ask for help either. Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have found that cleaning as you go helps keep your house so much cleaner. For example, wash the dishes and pots that you used for prep and wipe the counters while the food is cooking, clean up all messes when they happen, wipe down the shower with your towel after you bath, keep wipes on back of toilet and wipe under the seat and around the toilet when you use the restroom, don't wear shoes in the house, use a hand vaccum to clean up crumbs after meals, use the washcloth you used for bathing to wipe up the vanity area in your bathroom after you get ready in the morning, etc These little things add up and can make a big difference in the amount of time you spend cleaning.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

One time my husband commented on why the house wasn't straightened up after I babysat 2 kids as well as having my own kids in the house all day and cooking, checking homework, and bathing them and putting them to sleep....I calmly went and got the phone book and turned to "cleaning services". I said, "Pick one and I'll them in the morning." Not only did he never "comment" again, he started to help! He does dishes, laundry, and outside/yard work/does the grilling/cleans the pool. He will occasionally vacuum. My kids(who are older now) fold their laundry and put it away, dust their furniture, take turns making family breakfast and setting/clearing the table, they walk and feed the dog, and of course, clean up after playing.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

Some people are just tidier and cleaner and quicker than others. You are you and he is himself. Start talking so you aren't fighting later on. He's a man with the expectations of men a generation or two back. He needs to join the 21st century.
You get the toilets and he never cleans them. I fought that one out many years ago by letting it stand for 6 weeks until my husband told me it was dirty. So I gave him what to clean it with. Yeah he didn't talk to me for a week but after that he knew everything is shared. Gruntwork and glamour work.
I was working three nights a week at a clinic and he had a 40 hour job but that did not give him the right to leave all the jobs he considered beneath him to me.

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answers from Topeka on

I guess I never have understood this "yours and mine" mindset when it comes to the house. It is OUR house..why can't we just do something when we see it needs to be done? Our lives have transitioned over the past 40 years as we moved from a one income family ( him) to a 2 income family, and now he is retired and I am still working. As the situations changed, the way we did things changed. I am trying to envision what type of work your husband does that only requires him to be there every 3rd day (A fireman maybe??) but if he is home 2 days out of three then I would say he should be handling a majority of the housework. BUT when you switch to a part time job then it should be more of an even distribution. Why don't the two of you sit down and have a calm, loving discussion about what each of you have as far as expectations and how you would like to see things done.
I agree with Marda...housework can't be the center of your lives..there are so many more vital and fun things to be concerned with!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I think it depends on how much each is actually working... I work 2-5 days a week, on the days I don't work I don't mind doing just about everything... but on the days I do work I expect him to pitch in and do his share. Some days I work and he doesn't, so then he gets to clean the house. Of course, we clean up after ourselves as we go, so I can clean the whole place top to bottom in the course of 3 hours...(which gets spread out over the day while taking care of our daughter.) There are a few things though that are "his" chore and "my" chore just because we hate them! (ex,I hate taking out the garbage so that's his, and he hates the bathroom so I take care of it.) Compromise is key. He understands that if he comes home and the house isn't clean, chances are I was busy with the baby. Or maybe I just needed a lazy day. Then we just let it slide and pick up the slack tomorrow. :)

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answers from Denver on

If your husband only works every 3rd day and you will only be working 2 days a week, then, unless my math sucks, you'll be working the same amount of time. I wouldn't change anything.

It looks like you already do more than he does. I'm not sure what you guys do for a living, or what your money situation looks like- but have you considered getting a cleaning lady to do the dirty work? Or maybe swapping chores with him so he can experience the kind of work you do? Or, even having a rotating chore board.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

No matter what you do, women will ALWAYS be required to do more. Be happy he even helps at all and if you want him doing more, stroke his ego and tell him how great the little he is doing is, and he might surprise you. Not only that men don't usually do it the way women likes to see it, they do it their way, so if you don't mind some crazy way of stuff getting done, do it yourself. However, I would not even let it bother you about him complaining about everything getting done - give him a list of why it cannot be done - you have not included a whole lot of "intangible chores", that he as a man cannot possibly do. If he wants you to do the ones he "thinks" are chores, tell him get a full time job where he works all week and then you might consider...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't think the problem is dividing up chores. I think the problem is he doesn't think you clean up to "his" standards.

Next time he complains, hand him the rag and the cleaner and don't say a word.

If he complains again, let him know that there are wonderful cleaning services available, would he like to help you select one?

My husband is much neater than I. He's learned to love me the way I am, and I have made an effort to be more neat. I think that is compromise you are looking for.

As for a good system, we use the "bin system." Each one of us has a folding bin. When one person is cleaning up, they put the other person's belongings in the bin and then then the bin goes on the bed (or their side of the bed). That person is responsible for putting away their stuff (that goes for my daughter too).

The house looks much neater once it's been picked up and the other person doesn't have to wait for the other to pick up their stuff.

We have some excellent flylady.net tools that make cleaning easier. I recommend her Rags In A Bag (they make cleaning the bathroom a snap!) We use the flylady.net system, especially her Swish-n-swipe which means you take 1 minute to wipe down the bathroom when you're done using it every day. Our bathroom never needs cleaning, it's always clean. I wipe down the shower when I'm in it, once a week. It takes one minute.

Doing a little every day keeps our house cleaner. I hope that helps you! Check out flylady.net and have your husband do it too. You'll find that cleaning is easier than you think, and he can learn to accept that anything you do is a blessing to the family.

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answers from Portland on

My answer may not be what you are looking for but it has saved us all these type of squabbles for the past 8 years... Hire a maid to come in and clean thoroughly every other week. That way only the "easy" stuff needs to be maintained on a daily basis and it is easy to divide the nondeep cleaning type of chores. We spend $150 per month and it is the best investment we have made!!!!



answers from Portland on

What it comes down to in my mind is that everyone has the same amount of time to themselves. You could see if you can work out a time management schedule so that everything is getting done (regardless of how it's divided) and also no one is getting more down-time, except your daughter. Though at age 2, helping mama and daddy is just as fun as anything else.

Before kids, what we did that worked was that we each spent 30 minutes every evening doing anything related to housekeeping.

After kids it has not worked out so well. To be perfectly frank, it is one of the reasons we are now separated. I work full time and do most of the housework, he works part time and does school part time. He claimed to be too busy to do any house or yardwork, and never did it unless I specifically tell him to, and yet he racked up plenty of hours playing video games and I saw a constant stream of netflix running in and out of the house. The only time I get to relax is when I'm nursing the baby, and other than that she's on my hip or on the floor while I'm doing housework and the 3 yr old is begging me to play while I'm trying to get the basics done. It is easier to have him out of the house, the house stays cleaner and he's not in my face. sigh.

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