1. Decide what needs to be done.
Make a comprehensive chore list of all that need to be done daily, weekly or monthly. Examples may include:
- Daily chores: Cooking dinner, dishes, after-meal cleanup (wipe off countertops and sink, etc.), take out garbage, pick up clutter around the house, quick bathroom clean-up
If you eat meals separately, you should each be responsible for cleaning up after yourself. Likewise, both people can do a quick bathroom clean-up (wipe down sink, countertop and toilet) as necessary. If you find it's not getting done, however, add it to the chore list and divide the responsibilities.
Of course, you should each be responsible for making your own bed and doing your own laundry. If you have a cat, you alone are responsible for the cat's care, including scooping litter boxes or picking up stray food from the floor. (Neither is a problem with a dog, of course!)
You should also pick up your own clutter in common areas. Again, if it doesn't get done, add it to the chore list and make one person responsible each day. (With this agreement comes permission to touch your roommates personal items and place them in one area for them to sort.)
- Weekly chores: Vacuuming, dusting common areas, cleaning out the refrigerator, taking garbage to the curb, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping (if common meals)
- Monthly chores: Scrubbing tub/shower/toilet, washing floors, cleaning coffee pot, washing windows, scrubbing refrigerator clean, shopping for household items like cleaning products, paper goods, etc.
2. Make a chore list of daily, weekly monthly tasks.
Use our chore chart or an Excel spreadsheet, pen on a whiteboard, oaktag or other paper. Download this chore chart for use month after month.
Download the following chore chart if you and your roommates will be changing tasks on a regular basis.
3. Claim your chores.
Here's where the discussion will begin and compromise will help. Decide if you want to rotate chores so that one day you do dishes, and the next day your roommate will, or if you want to designate specific chores to the same person all the time.
Go down the chore list and do the same with weekly and monthly tasks. Do you want to rotate or keep the same chores? Be flexible. If your roommate hates a specific chore, offer to take it on, at least for a while. Otherwise, there's a greater chance they just won't do it, which will lead to conflict.
4. Set dates and chore list deadlines.
Obviously, daily chores should be done as needed, or before you both turn in for the night. Set dates for weekly and monthly chores to get done, with one or two completed each day. Choose dates that fit your schedules. For instance, if your roommate has Tuesdays off, she may want to complete all her monthly chores on the first Tuesday of every month. Maybe you can only devote a lot of time to cleaning on Saturdays... make Saturday your cleaning day then.
5. What do you do if the chores aren't done?
Your parents used to ground you, dock your allowance or take away your GameBoy if you didn't do your chores. But what can you do with roommates who let weeks pass and consistently "forget" to take out the garbage?
First, have a discussion. Maybe your roommate hates the chores on her list but didn't want to speak up when you wrote the chore chart. Shuffle duties so she has tasks she can tolerate and see if the situation improves.
If you are amicable to it, the roommate who really despises doing chores could pay more rent, and you'll do his or her chores in exchange. If everyone in the house consistently fails to do chores, it may be time to chip in and hire a cleaning service. It's well worth it to avoid conflicts and fights.
Illustrations by Kena Ravel