I worked out a pretty nice system for sharing chores in my flatshare recently.
Simply, instead of having rigid times in which such and such a person should do a particular chore, we have a piece of paper on the fridge.
Whenever one of us does a chore, we write down what we did.
That’s it, basically.
The beauty of this is that it appeals to our sense of community rather than resorting to guilt or obligation. No one is obliged to do anything, but if they consistently do much less than other people, it will show up on the piece of paper. Then, if necessary, we can have a talk about it.
But in fact that’s not even the most important part. I think having a talk is something of a last resort – or at least a later resort – if someone is chronically cleaning-phobic. Actually, so far this hasn’t had to happen. Instead, the piece of paper has served the purpose of helping people self-assess whether they’ve done enough. We just leave it to them, without really making any judgements ourselves.
Sometimes when the house is dirty I’ll say to people, “Hey, the kitchen and the bathroom are dirty, how about we split the work, I’ll do the kitchen you do the bathroom?” Stuff like that. I never want to say to anyone that they are obliged to do anything. Indeed, if someone says they are too tired or busy, then I really won’t have a problem with it.
I’ve noticed it’s taken me a bit of work to learn to trust. Sometimes I’ll leave off cleaning because I feel like I’ve done too much recently, and will eventually get annoyed if some dirt ends up lying around for too long.
Instead of this, when I feel like I’m doing a lot more than other people, I make an effort to try and just write down what I’m doing and trust that it will balance out in the long term. In reality, it often does; people tend to go on cleaning “binges” where they’ll do loads of stuff at once, then do nothing for a few weeks. If you just look at those empty few weeks, it can look like they’re lazy, but that’s not the reality of it. You need trust and patience so that you can come to see the bigger picture.
Even so, once or twice I suggest to someone “Hey, why don’t we split this job?” or “Hey, can you clean the dishes today?, I’m tired.” The responses to such suggestions are usually positive.
I’m rather happy about this system because so far it’s never made me feel like I’m being forced to do something. It seems to be a much more natural way of working, and helps us flow with our individual energy and time resources.